Prefabrication is the production of housing or housing components using factory mechanization. The factory setting enhances affordability through a combination of quantity purchasing of materials, mass production assembly techniques and the use of less skilled labour. Prefabrication may take three forms: prefabricated components, modular housing and manufactured housing.
The prefabrication of housing components, such as windows, doors and cabinets, has long been a mainstay of the construction industry, keeping costs down by reducing on-site, high cost labour. Continuing development in this facet of prefabrication provides a growing range of construction products that may further reduce construction costs.
Modular housing involves the prefabrication of sections of housing that are then assembled on the site, thereby significantly reducing on-site labour costs.
The ultimate in prefabrication is manufactured housing, which has been growing in popularity in Canada because of its affordability, especially in the Maritimes and high growth areas in Western Canada. In addition to providing significant savings in time, prefabrication has been shown to be an environmentally friendly way of building. One recent study concluded that the choice of factory construction had resulted in time savings of 55 per cent, and a 43 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions, in comparison with on-site construction. Conventional construction would have taken 14.3 months and created 98.9 tonnes of CO2 emissions, while factory construction took only 6.3 months and resulted in 56.3 tonnes of CO2.