This smaller prefab dwelling sits down the hill from the main house, complementing its style and offering a private living space for guests.

Read an interview with Kaveh Khatibloo, co-CEO of Stillwater Dwellings

Prefab homes are increasingly popular in the eco-friendly housing market.

By Becca Blond
Photos by Stillwater Dwellings

When it came time to purchase their first “new” home, Richard and Vicky Nunamaker of Cedaredge, Colo., decided to go the prefab route. It’s a growing trend among homebuyers, for a number of reasons.

This home’s natural interior finishes warm up its modern style and complement the natural landscape. This prefab started with a standard design, but was customized inside and out to meet the homeowner’s taste.(photo by Stillwater Dwellings)

The Nunamakers’ goal for their prefab home (aka “modular” home) was to bring the outdoors in by having huge windows and sliding glass doors on both the south and north ends of their home, located on the Western Slope.

“We went from a 1919 Arts and Crafts home to a prefab because we liked the contemporary design that perfectly fit with our lifestyle,” Richard says. “Stillwater Dwellings was able to provide exactly what we were looking for in a modular home. We appreciated their craftsmanship and high-quality materials, and the unique architectural features, like the butterfly roof.”

This prefab was designed for a strong indoor/outdoor connection. The 24-foot-long wall of sliding glass doors opens to the pool and allows natural light to filter in and warm the great room. (photo by Stillwater Dwellings)

A staple in the early 1900s when companies like Sears and Roebuck sold made-to-assemble houses via catalogs, today’s prefab homes have come a long way from simply ordering a house that you assemble on-site. In today’s market, the prefab modular home is very much a part of the eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle.

A study by the National Association of Home Builders estimates that building a single 2,000-square-foot stick-built home at a job site generates 8,000 pounds of waste material, mostly wood, cardboard and drywall—almost all of which ends up in landfills.

In this prefab, floor-to-ceiling windows and doors let in lots of afternoon light and expansive views. The flow of light through a home is an important consideration when determining a prefab’s orientation and design. (photo by Stillwater Dwellings)

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that construction waste accounts for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s solid waste.

By comparison, the waste from a prefab manufacturing facility is much less. In a traditional construction site, all waste gets chucked into the same dumpster. At a prefab factory, homes are constructed off-site and specific-use dumpsters along the production line allow workers to sort, reuse and repurpose items. “A big reason for choosing prefab was the tremendous reduction in waste,” Richard says. “Upon completion, the leftover materials fit in the back of a pickup truck.”

This two-story prefab features specially designed “eyebrow” windows that bathe the main living space in natural light. The signature 10-foot roof overhang is supported by large cedar beams reminiscent of midcentury style. (photo by Stillwater Dwellings)

Prefab homes also tend to be highly energy efficient, and since they’re built off-site in a controlled indoor environment, prefabs offer faster construction, no weather delays and precision machining, plus plentiful designs. “That was what sold us,” Richard says, “the design, and the ability to easily make design modifications.”

But these advantages don’t mean prefabs are cheaper than traditional homes. Square-footage prices can be comparable to, or even surpass, stick-built homes. Yet, cheaper prefabs are available if you’re willing to shave off square footage. The housing market is exploding with prefab manufacturers, so you can find designs to fit most budgets. Additional price tags include owning the land to put the prefab on and building a foundation for the home.

Still, more buyers are taking a look at this option, and for good reasons.

Read an interview with Kaveh Khatibloo, co-CEO of Stillwater Dwellings