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August 8, 2018 — Back in 1913, Henry Ford came to the realization that the most effective way of building an automobile was the production line. Since then, pretty much anything and everything we buy that has multiple parts comes off a production line. And what do we own that has more parts than anything else? Our homes.

The idea of building houses on a production line, or “prefabricated homes,” as they are known, is not new. What is new is the advancement and perfection of this fabrication process. Up until recently, prefabricated homes have generally been smaller, modular and not fit for places like Miami-Dade that is under the ever-looming threat of hurricanes.

Today, companies such as Dutch manufacturer Cubbico have created a line of flat-packed homes rated to withstand hurricane winds gusting up to 180 miles per hour, giving them nearly as much strength as traditionally built houses. The firm recently expanded operations and opened an office in Miami to market its durable prefab homes as a way of demonstrating their viability in a market where hurricane-force winds are consistent threats and building codes are stricter than almost anywhere else in the U.S.

A standard model Cubicco home is far and above what one might expect from a prefabricated house. Stylish and modern in appearance, each home is also designed to be energy efficient. Packages include options for solar water heaters and photovoltaic panels to make use of Florida’s abundant sunshine and reduce reliance on grid power. Cubicco homes also include rainwater collection systems for landscaping (or for filtration and use inside the home) and vertical gardens (that can be irrigated using repurposed rainwater). Each home makes use of renewable building materials throughout, including a sustainably-harvested wood exterior and cork.

The benefits of prefabrication are not only that they are more economical; they are fast becoming a serious option for modern architectural homes. Prefab homes are constructed in huge warehouses and can be typically completed in 1/3 of the time it takes to build a house onsite. Just as with a traditional house, concrete slabs are poured and cranes move huge pieces on tracks from station to station. Walls are constructed, electrical installed, pipes are plumbed, and sheet rock applied – all topped off with a roof.

When people think of modular houses, most envision mobile homes or possibly the portable classrooms that get trucked into overcrowded schools literally over night. Also leading to this perception of lower quality houses is likely because of the history of prefab homes. From 1908 – 1940, people could actually buy a house right out of the Sears catalog. Much like Amazon is today, everything anyone could ever want could be purchased from the Sears catalogue – including houses. The Sears method was closer to that of Cubbico, where the houses are flat packed, shipped and assembled onsite. Builders such as Evolution Building Systems actually produce full rooms, or boxes, in its Texas warehouse and truck them to the final location and pieces them together.

Even though these prefabricated homes allow for more precise quality control and the security of warehouses and indoor construction allows for the use of use higher-end materials, is this the wave of the future in Miami?  As we reported on earlier this year, people are starting to have different expectations for the homes of the future rather than strictly square footage. For many, the days of “Home is where the heart is,” just doesn’t ring true.

As technology continues to advance at a breath-taking pace, AI is rumored to be coming for our jobs and many people’s concept of the American Dream more closely resembles living in an Airbnb tree house in Bali rather than a white picket fence and sprawling lawn. Some are even giving up the idea of private homes all together as they opt for co-living arrangements. Whether the homes of the future are pod style technology hubs, quaint cottages on four-wheels, or simply  space we share, the basic requirements of food, water and shelter will always remain the same. While the future of housing and lifestyles are impossible to predict, one can likely speculate that suburban McMansions and luxury water view condos aren’t things that most Americans will be willing to give up anytime soon.

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