Pre-Fab is Dead. Long Live the Precision-Manufactured Home

This morning at work, I opened my precision manufactured computer, which was sitting on precision manufactured desk. I checked my precision manufactured phone, and I planned to drive my precision-manufactured car to my precision manufactured home at the end of the day.

Except for the manufactured home, you probably wouldn’t hesitate to purchase the items listed above, because you know they are made in a controlled manufacturing environment.

In fact, you are probably more likely to buy precision manufactured products, because their quality and consistency are assured.


The reason for your aversion to the manufactured home is simple:

It’s an association with the past. When someone says they live in a manufactured house, you may think of poor-quality H.U.D. homes, or the homes in trailer parks, or FEMA trailers: Sub-standard products, built with flimsy materials, and even flimsier designs and workmanship.

You may be surprised to learn that much of the structural framing in America’s highest-quality homes has been pre-fabricated, a.k.a. precision-manufactured. Indeed, the structural requirements and tight tolerances required for today’s high-quality homes are really difficult to achieve if you are building on home on site, piecing it together from stacks of lumber.


Why? Well, for starters, you can’t control the conditions on site, and labor quality is likely to be inconsistent from jobsite to jobsite. Additionally, you can’t control the quality of the product. A blue print is offered as guidance for the structure, but there’s a wide chasm to cross before a blue print is actually built. You also can’t control the weather, either, which can interrupt important processes mid-stream. You can’t even control what gets to the jobsite. Lumber and connectors could be missing, leaving crews to improvise in the field.


The ideal solution for home building would be to build only the items on site that have to be built on site, such as the foundation. The rest of the house could be built in the controlled setting of a factory. If you manufacturer the components in controlled factory settings, then you get the same consistency and high quality in your home that you get from other factory processes. In factory settings, the components are always built under controlled conditions, by a well-trained factory-based workforce that isn’t scrambling around in the dirt, looking for missing parts or improvising when things don’t seem to fit.


Today, 75% of homes built in North America contain at least one type of factory-built component. These components are typically used in the roof (roof trusses) the floors (floor trusses) and the walls (wall panels). Modern CAD software even allows for highly customized components to be used, so even high-end custom homes usually contain precision manufactured components. As these truss and wall components are created, they are numbered and arranged in a sequence for shipping. The components arrive onsite, where the house is not so much built or framed but assembled. In fact, the workers on site just need to know how to work through assembly sequences, because the house – highly engineered by structural CAD software and digitally pre-built in the factory – fits perfectly together, with no part of pieces left over.


So, the next time you hear the term pre-fabricated used to describe a component in a think precision-manufactured instead. The term precision manufactured truly indicates a high level of attention to detail and craftsmanship, as well as the controlled settings of modern factory floors, driven by the advanced CAD software that drives precision saws and assembly equipment. There’s no waste, no guesswork by the framers, and no rain or snow to muck up the works.


(Image: a view inside a Component Manufacturer’s Shop)