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STRUCTURAL COMPONENTS


Here’s one they made earlier


Potton MD Mark Stevenson explains how the evolution of ‘prefab’ or ‘flatpack’ methods of self-building means the the assumption they prevent customisation is an now outdated one


W


hen you think of the terms ‘flatpack’ and ‘prefab’, you might picture a certain Swedish


furniture store, and probably recall stressful afternoons spent sifting through a box looking for component parts. You may not imagine that these terms can be applied to houses, and you may be under the impression that if you do buy a ‘flatpack home,’ you’ll be required to completely assemble it yourself. Put down your hammer, because you’ll be pleased to know that self- assembly it isn’t. These homes are made using


prefabricated parts, so, technically, we’re talking about flatpack homes here. However, a home partially assembled in a factory then finished onsite can also be referred to as a prefab home, so the two terms are largely interchangeable. The phrase ‘kit home’ can also be used to describe the same thing. All these terms mean is that some proportion of the building work on the house has been done offsite in a factory. The offsite nature of flatpack home construction means that only certain types of building systems can be used, ones which lend themselves to some degree of prefabrication. Where a masonry home needs to literally be built brick by brick onsite, much of the assembly of a timber-frame or SIPs home is done offsite. This isn’t to say that your entire house will be delivered on the back of a lorry, just that parts of it – the timber frame or SIPs (structural insulated panels) which make up the walls, for example – will already be complete when they arrive. It’s easy to understand why lots of people assume you have to build a flatpack home all by yourself; after all, you would if you bought a flatpack table. But as houses are a lot more complicated and require a lot more expertise, you can let the experts do it. The term ‘self-build’ is actually rather misleading here; while it’s


jul/aug 2021


true that some self-builders do carry out all the assembly work onsite themselves, they make up a very tiny percentage of the market. The majority might decide to self manage their project, or try their hand at a bit of tiling, or even take a completely hands-off approach and appoint a project manager. All of these people would still qualify as ‘self- builders,’ because being a self-builder isn’t about how hands-on or hands-off you are; it just means you commission a


house that is not built by a developer. CUSTOMISATION


Some people might be turned off by the idea of a flatpack home because of the myth that you’d be buying something ‘off the shelf’ which isn’t personalised for you. A flatpack home might be ‘off the shelf’ to an extent, but the vast majority of companies who provide such homes offer their customers a substantial amount of customisation. In fact, buying a ready-


www.sbhonline.co.uk 45


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