The History & Evolution of Modular Homes

Today, home building technology has given us several different ways to create a new home. From traditional stick-built homes which are constructed on-site from the foundation up, to manufactured homes which are fully constructed in a factory and then transported onto your land. Modern home ownership offers buyers several options to fit their needs and budget.

Modern technology and advanced construction techniques have given homeowners the ability to create their dream home in places where traditional techniques might be difficult or overly expensive, for example on an island, or in a difficult to reach remote area.

Let’s look at the history of modular homes from the 1940s until today.

One alternative method of home construction that has been around for over one hundred years is modular home construction. Modular homes are constructed to the same code as site-built homes with requirements set forth by state and local government but are manufactured in a controlled environment. Popularity of modular home construction first gained popularity in the early 20th century and growth hasn’t slowed since! Between 1910 and 1940, Sears Roebuck and Co. sold over 500,000 prefabricated homes. In fact, you could open your Sears catalog and choose from a variety of modular homes right from its pages!


The Post World War II Building Boom

Modular home construction first exploded and greatly evolved at the end of World War II. As veterans began returning home after the war, they came back to America to start their families and looking to embrace the American Dream of homeownership.

Home demand was so great that traditional home builders couldn’t keep up with the ever-increasing need for new homes. This led people to look for more efficient solutions and lower-cost alternatives to traditional construction. Modular homes met both needs, which led to the opening of the first Baird sales centers in 1947! In fact, modular homes were so well constructed that many built in the 1950s are still being used today, however, these early modular buildings were much less sophisticated than those available today.

The Evolution of Modular Construction

The last twenty years or so have seen tremendous evolution in modular home construction. Overhead cranes that have a lift capacity of 100 tons or more have allowed for the construction of larger home modules which can then be shipped cross-country. The only limitation is the size of each individual module due to the width of the road from the factory to the building site. Today, typical modular homes consist of anywhere from 2 to 6 modules.

As the size of homes has increased since the 1980s, the customization options for modular construction have kept pace. Models ranging from 500 to 2400 square feet are now available with a variety of cosmetic options fit to the modern design. With a plethora of options available to choose from, you can create your dream home from floor joist to ceiling fans! Today, you can work with an architect to order a custom-designed building specifically designed to meet your unique needs. The architect’s plans are built using modular techniques and the final building is assembled on site.

Modular construction is also commonly used in commercial construction as well as residential. In New York City, Marriott is currently under construction with the world’s tallest modular hotel in the world. It’s planned to be 90 stories tall and the 360-foot-tall-tower’s 168 guest rooms are being prefabricated in Poland and will be shipped to New York for construction. Each module will be delivered completely outfitted, including beds, sheets, pillows, flooring, and toiletries and the building will then be fully assembled in just 90 days! This rapid construction is one of the biggest benefits of modular construction.

Modular homes offer homeowners several benefits. They’re often more affordable than site-built homes as their shorter build time will save money on construction costs. Unlike a traditionally built home which requires inspections throughout the construction process, modular home inspections are typically done in the factory before they ship, with a final on-site inspection to assure that all finish work was safely completed to code. Modular homes are also much more energy-efficient which means lower monthly energy costs.

Today, modular home construction is a viable alternative to traditional stick construction in terms of price, style, and amenities.