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prefabricated modular house purpose introduction proposal process fabrication materials manufacturing transportation assembly product modular systems



Since the earliest days of mankind’s existence, the concept of housing has been the most primary concern for establishing a basis for living. The house itself serves as a place where one could feel safe and secure from the harsh external conditions of the world, and ownership of a house serves as a symbol of self-identity and taking control of one’s own independence. Considering these requirements, the house could then be seen as a basic need and requirement for human existence, placing a heavy importance on this concept. That same emphasis on housing is just as important today as it was thousands of years ago, however, today’s society is very much different than it was many years ago. The many problems we are facing in the modern world is creating a crisis for the supply of adequate housing to those in need, and it is in these times of crisis when the needs and supply of housing is extremely limited, due to the economy, the environment, and many other contributing factors.


With today’s rapidly increasing society and the increased cost of living, it does not help that the economy is facing many problems as well, causing many people to lose their homes. That basic need and right for accessible housing is being taken away simply because they can no longer afford it, or because it is limited due to overcrowding within a growing society. Even in a country like the U.S., where it is a constitutional right to create housing that is accessible to all citizens, it is still a problem faced by many Americans. The need for affordable housing to supply the growing population has become a major concern within the building construction industry, and finding a solution has proved to be very difficult during the economic crisis. The economy isn’t the only reason for an increased need for housing, and recently, it has been known that the environment is just as unforgiving as the economy. Since Katrina, the need for housing in New Orleans has become top priority amongst organizations who are trying to rebuild the city. Currently, many architecture firms are competing for the chance to design housing that would potentially be utilized in New Orleans, where sustainable housing is one of the primary concerns. Even more recently, since the earthquakes in Japan, the lives of thousands of people have been destroyed by those natural disasters. So it is easy to understand that the need for attainable housing is of utmost importance in today’s society. However, designers of modern architecture have taken up this task to explore solutions solving this supply for adequate housing for those in need. Many people are looking towards new and innovative technologies to help develop, produce, and distribute these houses quickly, efficiently, and at an affordable low cost. Solutions currently being implemented include prefabricated housing for the simple advantages of being well-designed, mass-produced, transportable, and cost-effective, and would be well worth the time to study and understand for a student pursuing a professional career in architectural design.


proposal Considering the major needs for housing in today’s society, the proposal for this project is to develop a house that could meet the needs of supplying accessible housing to those could then potentially be utilized for disaster relief, starting of this house would include only the essential needs for comfortability and allow the house to feel like a “home�, these being, a bathroom and kitchen, one or more bedrooms, and a living room or multipurpose space. The housing unit would cover no less than 600 square feet, and to the needs of the user. The house would also focus on prefabrication, in order to utilize the many advantages of

Using the need for the supply of accessible housing as a basis for design, a list of requirements was developed in order to ensure the best possible solution to the problem. Manufacturing/ Construction

-Ability to be mass-produced -Easily transported, lightweight -Quick and easy to install -Low cost -Potential to be a permanent solution

Environmental concerns

-Resistance to extreme weather conditions -Adaptable in multiple locations -Self sustaining, using passive strategies

utilized in a temperate climate zone, as a test to withstand varying degrees of temperature changes.




In order to accomplish these tasks, research and design began in the fabrication process. This included the materials which would be utilized for the house, as well as the manufacturing process that would be implemented to produce those materials. Being a prefabricated design, the research implemented in this phase is the most imporant, as it would eventually dictate the design and would determine whether or not the project successfully meets the criteria. For this specific project, many aspects of the house begin with the fabrication of materials, affecting the overall design. Beginning with the building technology creates an integrated approach towards design, where all decisions are reflected by how the house is produced. In today’s architectural industry, there is little focus applied to the fabrication of materials utilized in the designs of architects. However, this projects seeks to question the current state of architecture, and explore new possibilities for design. As it is, designers are very limited to materials and construction assemblies dictated by engineers. However, if architects were to have more control over the fabrication of materials, more freedom could be given to design, with limitless potential towards what can be accomplished.


materials In order to meet certain criteria set forth in the program of both manufacturing and construction, and environmental aspects, the material chosen for the project had to contain certain properties in order for it to be considered. Concerning environmental conditions, the material has to be able to resist specific weather conditions, such as extreme heat or cold temperatures, be able to resist water corrosion, and have the structural integrity to withstand wind loads. The structural integrity also goes into the constructional aspects, where the material had to be able to be utilized as a building. The material also had to be light weight to be able to be assembled without the use of large construction machinery. Considering those specific conditions, and after intensive research, the material chosen was Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymers, or GFRP. Specific characteristics of GFRP that make it a suitable material for this project include: -High strength-weight ratio -Resistance to chemical/outdoor weathering -Resistance to moderately high temperatures -Flexibility -UV stabilizers -Fire resistant with certain additives -Dimensional stability 5

manufacturing In researching for the fabrication process, one particular decision made was to utilize a manufacturing method not typically associated with architecture. The reasoning for this is to explore the possibilities that fabrication can have on design, and dip into these untapped resources that have yet to be developed. The opportunities and design potentials of utilizing other methods allowed for a more freedom of design and a better understanding of building technology. infeed module

resin impregnation


in-line winder

die/spreader table


control station

flying cut-off saw

pulling station

The manufacturing process researched and chosen was the pultrusion method. This utilized the fabrication of GFRP, in a process that allows for materials to be mass-produced quickly and efficiently, in an assembly line method. A majority of the building materials used in the construction of the house uses this production method, therefore allowing to minimize the need for multiple machinery to manufacture and produce materials. The individual pieces produced using the pultrusion process include the framing beams, flooring, interior walls, frames for glazing, and the interior/exterior envelope.

transportation Once a suitable location has been designated, the house has two options as to how it may be deployed. For a situation where time is not a factor, the house can be assembled on-site, with individual parts transported to the location. however, if time is a constraint, and the house is needed to be readily available once it reaches the site, the house may be assembled in parts or modules, then attached together on-site for faster deployment. Essentially, the house could be shipped by land, sea, and air, due to the light weight materials, and modular construction. Each of the pieces are sized to fit on a trailer, where it can be transported to the site. When assembled offsite, each completed modular unit is sized to fit on a trailer that is 8 feet by 20 feet. However, this compact design does not affect the overall livability, once all modules are attached, the overall dimension can be up to 20 feet by 35 feet, for a square footage of about 600 square feet. The house can also add or subtract modules for varying degrees of total square footage.


assembly On-Site Construction Foundation Construction begins with precast concrete piers placed on site in a grid formation spaced out, three for each frame. Jack posts are then attached to the precast concrete piers raising up the house. The jack posts can be adjusted to varying heights in order to account for unlevel grades. Framing Each frame consists of 10 total pieces that, once assembled, resemble the section profile of the house. These are then bolted onto the jack posts, and are designated by the number of modules to used within the house. The primary use for the frames is to carry the GFRP shells that envelope the house, and hold the glazing in place. Floors The floors are simply layed in between each of the frames, and sit atop the lower webbing of the beams. The floors contain both the floor itself, as well as the interior structure and an exterior separation from below.


assembly Interiors The partition walls and anchored furnishings such as the kitchen and bathroom unit (sink, stove, cabinets, bathroom sink, toilet, and bath tub) are then attached to the floors, following the floorplan. These are not flexible or movable, and are set to a specific plan. Glazing The is then placed in the designated space for windows, at the floor level and at the clerestory level. The windows are preassembled with the framing as well as the glass, and come as completed sets for each module. Envelope The interior/exterior shells contain two separate pieces, primarily separated by the clerestory level windows. These pieces come manufactured with the exterior envelope, the insulation, the interior structure, and the interior walls. Each piece sits atop the lower webs of the framing beams, and are then bolted in place through the GFRP.





product 12

Both off-site and on-site construction is assembled revolving around the modular concept. This modularity allows for simplicity and ease of construction, consisting of a kit of parts which the average person could assemble rather quickly. multipurpose unit

core services unit

bedroom unit

bedroom unit

Modularity also allows for user configurability. Each complete house requires a core services unit housing all services, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. The bathroom and kitchen are included within this unit. Secondary spaces such as bedrooms and multipurpose rooms are then attached to the core unit for a complete housing unit. Further configuration allows for expanding or contracting of units depending on the needs of the user, for example, a growing family can attach more bedroom units to accompany the needs for additional individual members.


floorplan support spaces

kitchen living room bathroom

entry hallway



Based on the modular concept, the floor plan could be arranged in multiple layouts. Generally, there would be the multipurpose unit with a living room and main entry, leading into the core services unit, where the kitchen area and bathroom would be located. For multiple bedrooms, there would be a secondary bedroom unit, with a wall creating a hallway which would lead into the primary bedroom unit. This unit would most likely be located on the opposite end of the entry, at the end of the hallway space. Additionally, multiple secondary bedroom units could be attached adjacent to each other, and the primary bedroom unit could even be expanded using the multipurpose unit. The possibilities and options are endless, and allow for a complete adaptability and configuration to the user’s needs. The most important space present in all units is the support space. This continuous corridor houses all the main mechanical systems for the house, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. This cavity also is utilized as storage spaces for the bedroom units and the multipurpose units.


systems As mentioned before, in the proposal, with environmental concerns, the house needed to be adaptable in multiple locations and self sustaining, using passive strategies. For this specific project, the environmental systems are situated for a temperate climate zone, in order to be tested with multiple environmental conditions. However, by adjusting the fabrication process, the house could be adapted to a specific location, and be manufactured based on the environmental conditions attached to that location. The environmental systems helped to shape the overall profile of the house, with assistance from the manufacturing process. The benefits from pultrusion allowed for complete control over the building’s shape, allowing a greater control over the environmental systems utilized for the house.

passive coolling achieved through stack ventilation

heating achieved through south facing windows accepting winter sun and rejecting summer sun

rainwater collected through framing, stored in support space

pv panels angled at 30 degrees, wiring fed through frame and floor to support space

The main shape is streamlined to allow for a great amount of wind resistance, and at the same time, facilitate the ventilative system attached to the design. The angles of the roof, facilitated by the fabrication process, are utilized in both the collection of rain water as well as the angle for solar collection through pv panels. Glazing facing only the south take full advantage of the sun’s heat and light, and are also associated with the systems.




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Prefabricated Modular House  

Form begins in the process of making.

Prefabricated Modular House  

Form begins in the process of making.

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