A Buyer’s Guide to Flat Pack Homes

Living room

Living room

You wouldn’t expect the words “flat” and “home” to appear in the same sentence, let alone the same phrase. But in a world where 3-D printers can manufacture human stem cells you never know what to expect.

Though “flat pack homes” or “kit homes” are pretty new terms, the concept is not. Flat packs are a form of prefabricated (or prefab) home, which are homes built off-site in a factory before being shipped out to the site for final assembly. They’re packed flat in panels, making it easier and cheaper to ship than modular homes that come delivered as large modules.

Contrary to what most people think, flat pack homes come in a range of different styles, dimensions and configurations. You can get anything from big build homes modeled on 18th century mansions to tiny ones that you can build yourself within four hours. As far as price goes, flat pack homes can sell for 25 percent lower than the cost of traditional construction. You can get them one size fits all or get them custom-designed right down to the minute décor details that will satisfy even the most picky home buyer.

How are flat pack homes built?

A flat pack is built mostly off-site—in some cases up to 90 percent. Once arriving at the site they’re then assembled either by a construction crew or by yourself. For final assembly, the home’s foundation and flooring is laid then walls are put up one section at a time. Cabinetry, appliances and fixtures can already be bolted onto the floor or walls to speed the assembly time.

Since they’re built in the factory on a larger scale than traditional construction they take considerably less time to assemble and they’re built using precision-building techniques that often translate to greater efficiency, quality and less waste. You can pick from a ready-made design or you can customize according to your needs. Some models allow for easy additions to be attached once built.

See this time-lapse video of a flat pack home being built:

Benefits

Quick construction time – Compared to conventional homes, flat packs can be built much quicker—we’re talking built from scratch in a matter of several weeks rather than several months. Since these homes are being built off-site, deconstruction of previous buildings, laying the foundation and other site work can be done at the same time that the home is being constructed, bringing the move-in date that much closer.

Lower cost – Many flat pack homes have a price tag of 25 percent less than conventional home construction due to their efficient factory built production that requires less labour. The Y:Cube, billed as a solution to Britain’s housing crisis for its quality and affordability, is 40 percent cheaper.

DIY – For the handyperson around the house who enjoys assembling IKEA flat-pack furniture, making your own home can pose a fun challenge. It’s also quite rewarding to move into a home that you built yourself. If the idea of driving all those screws throws you into a tizzy, not to worry, you can always hire a construction crew to put it up for you.

Less site disturbance – since up to 90 percent of construction is done in the factory, both the site and your new neighbours will get disturbed far less than if building a conventional home.

Less construction waste – The construction and demolition sector in the UK produces one-third of the country’s waste, the largest source of waste in the country, according to the UK Green Building Council. Being produced in a factory according to plans that have been used time and again means there’s more precision in their design, making the building process more efficient. Unlike construction sites that toss out a lot of materials, materials are kept in the factory for future use.

Less chance of materials getting stolen or damaged – Unlike construction materials that are kept on site and prone to theft, vandalism, rust, mold and mildew, materials are kept in a climate-controlled environment and safe from hooligans (though that entirely depends on the neighborhood!).

Sustainable choice – In addition to creating less waste and disturbing the site less, flat pack home construction also produces less greenhouse gases since workers commute to one central location to build the bulk of the home rather than continually driving out to possibly distant sites every day.

Portable – Some models, like Bauhu’s Multicube, can be disassembled easily or carried around on a crane, making them an ideal choice for students needing temporary living space.

Possible to bypass planning permission – If the home is not being used as a permanent dwelling it may be possible to get by without planning permission. This all depends on local laws so visit the Planning Portal for more details.

Who are they for?

Singles or couples – With their small size, flat pack homes are ideal for individuals living alone… or couples who like to get cozy. More spacious models, however, can be bought that are big enough for families of any size.

First-time home buyers – Since flat packs can be quite cheap it’s not a huge risk to buy one, and then if having children they can be expanded or the home can be left as a present on mom and dad’s lawn for their future grandkids to play house in.

Those who can’t afford to buy property – Some of these models are small enough to fit comfortably in people’s yards so if your family or friends are willing to share some space that’s one big expense out of the way.

People looking for extra space – If your family is growing out of your existing home, rather than moving you can just plunk one of these down in the backyard then pop one of your kids inside. Or if the house is getting a little too hectic you can use it for your very own man cave.

Do it yourselfers – For the DIY type who doesn’t have the time or skills to build their own house from scratch, a flat pack could be the way to go since they can be assembled in a few days and without having to quit your full-time job.

With economic bubbles bursting, people losing their homes and student-loan burdened young adults struggling to pay the outrageous amounts required to buy a new home,  flat pack homes make an attractive option with their small size, affordability, portability and ease of construction.

[box]by UB Hawthorn[/box]
image: Jane H (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND)
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