Affordable Housing: Modular and Panelized


Modular - Panelized


        Buy Now, Build Later


Not as much centralized factory built modulars, but decentralized DIY / small shop fabricated panels.

In many a third world country inflation eats savings. In the US mortgage interest is the BIGGEST cost in house ownership (I'll verify later, but I know interest will equal cost of building, which in your life time will exceed the OM costs).   While inflation in the US isn't bad, salary erosion has much the same effect. 

People in third world countries BUY material and stock pile it.  When they have 'banked' enough material, they build a small house.  They repeat the process for a few decades until  done. 


In the US  we will need to go one step further.  We need to add value to stockpiled materials, to turn our labor into home equity to replace our vanishing wages.  DIY panelization and modular construction allows people to trade time for money and skill level. 


Panelized Construction and Modular Construction works hand in hand with  Growing Your Own Home

In the US  we will need to go one step further.  We need to add value to stockpiled materials, to turn our labor into home equity to replace our vanishing wages.  DIY panelized and modular construction allows people to trade time for money and skill level.  Can't swing a 16 oz hammer all day.  Then 2 hr a day, or you start holes with a drill, whatever work around you need.  A child of 10, probably even 6 could help with this work, ti's that easy.    When you have enough assembled for your build, you buy a building lot, slap up the panels to make a small house in a few days, hire out the site and MEP work you can't do.   Depending on what you saved in the admittedly years fabricating panels, you might avoid a mortgage alltogether.  

Another way would be for organizations to form "clubs" that pool labor and expertise, ala Habitat, so panelized construction dosen't take years for each unit, instead you work a weekend a month for years on others projects until your turn comes.  


For that matter, panelized construction if not modularization are easily roboticized, and it's a high bulk product not easily "off shored" economically.  Win - Win for America.  A Home Depot or Lowes could start a whole line based on building panels modules .  Even a local lumber yard could do this, using lower paid local help as they might well have available in many parts of America now a days.  People will pretty much work for health insurance and just enough to live on.   



No time - No Money -- No problem


We all have day jobs, lots have night jobs, the wife works, the kids will be working soon too (just look at England, 27% of workers now part time, and mom, pop, and one or more kids work in each household - or some combo of those stats, frightening no matter how you look at it.).  Do you have just one day a week you could devote to the effort?  Even an hour or two a day would do.  You would slowly but surely build up a stock of building panels that could be slapped up to form a shell in a day or two.

Can't save up enough money to buy an addition?  You might well be able to buy a trickle of needed supplies, and might well be able to 'buy on sale', or buy salvaged materials - which are available eposodically.

NO MONEY -  Well, very little money, you'll always need to buy something.   Try asking at job sites.  If you haul away their partially used studs, plywoord, etc, the GC saves money, haul away enough and they might buy you a beer.  You can try your local salvage center / disposal site, etc. too.  If you see a building being demolished, stop, ask.  If you see a building that should be demolished, ask the owner if you can do it for free, my guess is anyone holding a building in that shape would relish a free demo.


Materials:  1/2 inch plywood, 2 x 4's, ice and water shield, shingles, drills, bits, lots of bits, screws, lots of screws, and I prefer molly bolts, but any bolt would work if done right, some prefab windows and doors, some wiremold product for the power, some mini sinks, toilets, lavs and showers.  Ta da!

Learn on the job


Does the thought of building a house scare the crap out.  Odds are it should.  Tackle building components "off line", off site, in off time, in a garage, a shed, a tent, and you can make those mistakes and not risk your investment in time and money.  You just take it apart and put it back together until it works.  Wow!  That takes the pressure of not having the shower working Monday morning off your shoulders. 


Panels also lets the family, friends, anyone help out.  It's ad hoc, distributed over time, and non - linear.  Delays in "production" from one person has no effect really.  You won't be waiting for Fred to finally show up so you can close the roof before it rains.  Well, true some work especially in site assembly will need help, and run those annoying risks, but they'll be far, far fewer, and the consequences far, far less, and the stress, far, far less, ahhhhhhhhhhh, that feels better just thinking about less stress.


Hard to believe.  Any job can be broken down into tasks, and simple to follow direction written.  Then, there's the internet and U-Tube, which between them have hundreds of videos of every element in construction for you to learn and follow.  More than enough to help you.


Lets go into the future, that future that never seems to get here, but, someday, it will, in that future, where virtual reality glasses could display schematics of the entire task, for you to follow, litterally lifting 2 x 4's and pieces of plumbing to match the video, pausing while you look for that size screw, and then rolling on.  It's just too simple.  The same tech could video everything for building officials to spot check to ensure you're building to code.  It's really that simple. 


Emergency Housing -

    A Distributed App.


    By the People, For the People......


This began in my mind as an Emergency Housing response after Katrina.  Those horribly small, VOC heavy, storm adverse trailers, that would be thrown away after a couple of years made me sick.  There were also hundreds of thousands who wanted to help, but were turned away and turned off by the horribly slow, rigid, and horribly ineffective government rules on what could be done.  Most of these modules can be built by anyone, really, kids and little old ladies.  It just takes a few more and a little longer.  Donated materials would be more accessible since it's cheap and easily available.  It can be loaded in a panel truck, unloaded, bolted down, before any "officials" could make up rules to stop you.  Once the folks who lost their home are in, even the hide bound beaurocrats would have to relent and go elsewhere to peddle their paperwork.  Especially if you bring along some cameras and offer to video tape the officials antics for the news, or U-Tube