Prefab homes can be customized. Some companies offer environmental upgrades beyond standards such as low-VOC paint and efficient appliances.
“We can install the foundation for water collection and solar adaptability in our homes,” Hartsfield says. “Even if they don’t have the money to set up a full solar collection system, we can build their home with the infrastructure to do that down the line.”
Of course, consumers still tend to choose homes based on gut reactions, emotional connections and personal taste.
“If houses aren’t attractive, no one is going to want to build an efficient house,” says Koones. “One of the misconceptions about prefab is that they’re all modern, and not everyone likes modern. The truth is, most of the prefab being built in this country is actually traditional.”
Brooklyn, N.Y.-based New World Home, one of the builders featured in Koones’ book, builds traditionally styled prefab homes across the Northeast. Founding partners Mark Jupiter and Tyler Schmetterer built on-site homes until 2006, when they decided to produce prefab green homes for the masses.
“I love chunky timber-framed houses,” say Jupiter. “I wanted to make homes that fit in the neighborhood, that conjure good feelings and are anchored in history.”
He cites one project in which his prefab home was the first new construction in its neighborhood in 100 years. The neighbors were wary, but came around when they saw the finished home, he says.
And after building a model home in the upscale Hamptons, on Long Island, N.Y., New World Home won over the neighborhood and produced five more homes there, Jupiter says.
“Modern is hard to relate to for some people,” he says. “Our stylings are based on a rich architectural history. Aesthetically, they look like they’ve been around for 100 years, but they perform like they’re 30 years in the future.”