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How prefab houses work?
How prefab houses work?
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How prefab houses work?

    With historic wildfires sweeping the West Coast and burning over 3.2 million acres in California alone, it is clear in

2020 that the climate change emergency is upon us. Dvele Cofounder and CEO Kurt Goodjohn's purpose is to create a new

generation of ultra-energy-efficient, self-powered prefabricated homes that will inspire society’s transition to a clean

energy future. The company not only manufactures the prefab container

s, but also has designed technology to ensure that the homes can be reproduced consistently and affordably at



    All Dvele prefab homes are completely self-powered by solar energy, thus

addressing climate change and eliminating dependency on the power grid. The homes utilize advanced materials and assembly

techniques in order to ensure that they require 84% less energy per square foot than a traditionally-built home. With such

efficiency, Dvele homes are capable of utilizing the solar array and battery backup system to make them fully grid-

independent and insulated from the inconveniences and safety risks associated with long-term power outages, not to mention

significant financial savings.


    “We've redesigned the home from the ground up,” says Goodjohn. “Our approach not only results in ultra-efficient

living environments that can generate more energy than it takes to operate, but also ensures the safety, health and wellness

of occupants.”


    Kurt Goodjohn and his brother Kris Goodjohn stumbled into the construction industry, starting off building luxury homes

using traditional, stick-built construction. Quickly, they realized how outdated, inefficient, and uninspiring these methods

were. They had seen prefab construction projects on a trip to Europe and wondered why the homes weren’t more popular in

North America. So over beers one night, they decided to found a company in the prefab industry.


    Now, Kurt Goodjohn feels he has tapped into his life purpose. “I have always been a strong advocate for the notion that

everyone should leave the world better off than they found it,” he says. “At Dvele, we are accomplishing this by disrupting

an age-old industry and bringing it into the modern age. Our company contributes to minimizing the overall environmental

impact of homes and enhances the way they function to benefit the health and wellness of occupants.”


    As a result, Goodjohn never feels that he really is “working” because he is pursuing something truly important. “There

’s absolutely nothing my brother and I would rather be doing than building this company. We passionately believe that what

we are doing will have a positive impact on the world and we have an unwavering determination to lead the change necessary in

the new home space,” he says.


    In the beginning, the greatest challenge the Goodjohns faced was getting other people to believe in the value of what

they were doing with Dvele. However, they remained determined. “Trust your gut,” Kurt Goodjohn advises other aspiring

entrepreneurs and changemakers. “When you're young, you really don't have a lot of experience, you don't know what will work

or what will fail. So, it's actually the best time to just do what you think is right and learn as you go. My brother and I

wouldn't be doing what we are doing today had we listened to all of the naysayers who told us it could never be done.”


    Prefab house construction


    Prefab houses are constructed from the inside out. They are manufactured in the following order in a couple of days or

less, with inspections following each step (the process can take longer if the buyer has customized the home):


    The floors are assembled first. There is usually a wood frame under the floor for attachment of wall panels.

    Wall panels are attached next with bolts and nails. Panels are insulated and windows cut out before the panels are


    Once the house structure is in place, the plumbing, electrical wiring and drywall (including the ceiling) are installed.

    The roof, typically constructed in another part of the factory, is set on top of the walls. In some prefabs, workers

attach the roof on-site after the rest of the house is constructed.

    Exterior and interior finishes are added, including siding, cabinets, vanities and backsplashes. The walls are also


    Once the housing units are constructed, they need to get to the owner's land. The transportation of the modules is

limited by roadways, overhangs and power lines. The builders have to scout out all these factors before delivery, but in

general each unit must be less than 16 feet wide, 60 feet long and 11 feet high. Because travel can be unpredictable, buyers

are usually on site with independent contractors to inspect the units for scrapes and cracks.


    The house has to have someplace to sit, so a foundation is required. Before the home arrives, homeowners must have the

land excavated and have a foundation in place. The foundation can be poured concrete, concrete blocks, basements or crawl



    The house arrives and is placed by crane on the foundation. Workers use heavy-duty cables to move the units, which come

together at points called marriage walls. The marriage walls tie the house together and ensure that it is level and properly

bolted together. At this point, the roof is placed if it was not factory-installed. A hinged roof, also made in the factory,

is unfolded onto the house. The entire delivery and placement of the house can usually be completed in about a day. After

that, decks, staircases and extras can be installed.


    Variables such as customization, financing and factory schedules can contribute to the process, but from choosing the

house to completion, most manufacturers give a timeframe of a few months. 


    Modern prefab houses


    Although the concept of modern prefab design has been around since the 60s, the architectural movement didn't take off

until early 2000. As technological advances like SIP panels (structural insulating that is precut and can be locked together)

were made and interest in residential architectural design blossomed, architects turned their attention to prefab houses. The

goal was to create a home that could be transported to a building site, be easily erected and look like modern architecture

-- all within a reasonable budget.


    To further stoke the flames of interest, Dwell magazine held a modern prefab invitational in 2003 to create an economical

flat pack container house that could be mass-produced.

Allison Arieff, the former editor of Dwell, had written the 2002 book Prefab, which profiled modern prefab prototypes. Nathan

Wieler and Ingrid Tung contacted Arieff with the hopes of obtaining more information about how to build a modern prefab home.

Instead, Arieff asked the couple if they'd be interested in using their land in Pittsboro, N.C., as the site for a design

competition. With an initial construction budget of $200,000, the couple agreed and soon was helping the magazine create the

criteria for the home and judging designs [source: Boston Globe].


    The Dwell invitational created an opportunity to take the modern prefab concept and make it a reality, with the goal of

introducing mass-produced prefab homes with architectural modern flair to the market. However, challenges remained. The

architectural firm Resolution: 4 Architecture delivered the design, but the project went $50,000 over budget, resulting in

the reduction of the homes footprint in order to stay within budget [source: Dwell].


    The cost of a modern prefab home remains the chief complaint today, with the average modern prefab home running about

$175 to $250 per square foot [source: BusinessWeek]. In fact, Dwell magazine is now offering modern prefab homes through

their company Empyrean. Proponents of the movement point out that although many of the products available cost as much as, if

not more than, stick-built homes, homeowners can save money in design and construction costs. Many architect-designed homes

exceed $300 per square foot, not including design fees [source: The New Yorker] . After all, you're not paying for one-

of-a-kind architecture. The architect is reselling the design, and even if modifications are needed, those costs are usually



    When it comes to mass-producing affordable modern prefab homes, Rocio Romero is one of the most recognized architects.

Romero's company, located in Perryville, Mo., creates flat-packed cubelike houses with sleek, modern exteriors. House

kits range from $23,650 to $45,255 [source: Rocio Romero]. Finishes and amenities also impact the price. Romero uses a series

of interlocking panels for ease of building construction. The company also sends a videotape along with instructions for the

general contractor or the handy homeowner who goes it alone.


    While some prefabs qualify as "traditional homes" to mortgage companies because they use some of the methods of stick-

built homes, others do not. But many new modern prefabs are being introduced to home-builders, with shipping container room included. The Swedish company, IKEA, introduced its modern

prefab home, the BoKlok, to the European market. In 2006, the Walker Art Museum presented an exhibit around modern prefab,

"Some Assembly Required: Contemporary Prefabricated Houses." And as the market demands more environment- and wallet-friendly

housing choices, the modern prefab market should continue to grow in the scope of its offerings.

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