In PREFAB, author Allison Arieff presents an interesting overview of "prefabricated" buildings, past, present, and future. Yet, I would not recommend this book to average modular home consumers, as many of the projects described in PREFAB are highly customized, somewhat eccentric, and generally impractical for those looking to save time and money by utilizing prefab construction as opposed to regular, stick-built construction. Some of the buildings aren't even single-family dwellings, but apartment buildings. Nonetheless, PREFAB is a helpful resource for those who'd like to learn more about the history of prefabricated buildings, as well as the current state of affairs, and in which unusual directions the industry will be headed in the future.
Arieff begins PREFAB with a lengthy (29-page) discussion of the history of prefabricated homes, starting with panelized wood homes in England and the US in 1624, through the American mobile home boom after WWII, and ending with the current state of the industry. The next three sections of the book are devoted to various modern prefab projects. The first, titled "Production," presents "a diverse group of well-designed houses and multi-family dwellings that are either in production, or poised to be." Of the three groups, "Production" is perhaps most relevant to the average consumer; it illustrates the sheer diversity of prefab homes that are available around the world. It also reflects how beautiful prefab homes can be, both inside and out. Next up is "Custom," an eclectic mix of "unique homes by architects less interested in the mass production of houses than in the aesthetic, environmental, and economic benefits of prefabrication." The buildings in this section are stunning - the Penthouse at Albert Court, which sells for $4 to $5 million, is my favorite. Finally, "Concept" features the strangest buildings of the bunch. According the Arieff, the concept buildings represent "a diverse array of virtual and conceptual prefab projects that employ everything from websites to neoprene in order to create the next generation of prefabricated housing." Experimental to the extreme, these plans seem geared towards architects, artists, and other design/construction professionals.
For the beginner, PREFAB is an interesting and engaging introduction to the history of prefabricated housing. As my knowledge of construction and architecture is limited, I can't say whether students or professionals will find PREFAB especially enlightening. I found the author's writing to be crisp and captivating, and I thought there was a good balance of pictures and text. I would definitely recommend PREFAB to newbies who would like to know more about prefab housing; yet, I would direct those looking for a consumer or how-to guide to go elsewhere. Overall, an interesting read, but probably not for everyone (for example, I can see how pros might want additional pictures, larger graphics, and more detailed floor/elevation plans, especially given the book's high price tag).