What is a modular home? 4 eco benefits for homeowners

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What is a modular home? 4 eco benefits for homeowners

Modular homes, or those built in a factory, are a cost-effective housing alternative with a variety of eco benefits when compared to traditional, site-built homes. Like regular homes, they also have the ability to appreciate value and are covered by regularhomeinsurance. We give you the lowdown on what a modular home is, what makes it different and the pros and cons of modular construction.

Feel free tojump ahead to the infographicto discover the many eco benefits of modular homes, or keep reading to learn more.

What is a modular home?

A modular home is a home built in parts known as "modules" by specialized workers in a factory. Each module or section is then delivered to abuildingsite and assembled by a crew. Building a modular home requires abuilding permit and must adhere to localbuildingcode and zoning regulations.

How are modular homes different?

Modular homes are set apart from site-built and mobile homes because they are built in a factory, but they require a permanent foundation.

Modular homes vs. manufactured homes

While modular homes have permanent foundations, manufactured homes are actually movable. Manufactured homes are also made in a factory, but they are designed to be towed to a location and don't need abuilding permit. Manufactured homes only need to meet building requirements designated by the Department of Housing andUrban Development (HUD) and they require separatemobile homeinsurance.

Modular homes vs. mobile homes

Mobile home is the out-dated term for a manufacturedhome, according to the HUD. They're the same as manufactured homes and share the same differences outlined above. Even though the terminology has changed, many commonly refer to movable dwellings as mobile homes.




Modular homes vs. site-built homes

Unlike site-built homes, modular houses are built inside a factory in a shorter time frame. They take a matter of weeks to build, rather than months, because they are sheltered from weather-related delays. Modular homes are sometimes subject to different guidelines than site-built homes. Most U.S. states adopt some or all the standards listed in theInternational Residential Code.

Modular homes vs. prefab

Prefab, or prefabricated housing (also called a prefab home), is a general term for any building with sections of it built in a factory and assembled later on the homesite. Modularhousing technically falls under this category.

What you need to know about modular homes

Let's discuss how these key differences impact the assembly, cost and longevity of a modular home.





Amodular homeis constructed inside of afactoryin parts, so it needs to get transported to its permanent foundation. Once each section of thehomehas arrived, cranes assemble the parts. After setting to a permanent foundation (also called apermanent chassis),modularhomes aren't meant to move. This assembly process goes much faster than a completely site-builthome. This is directly opposite of theconstructionprocessto 'stick homes' — the term for traditionallybuilt homes, with the assembly of thepermanent structureoccurring right on the site



On average, modular homes cost$50 to $100per square foot for the unit only, making them cheaper than other real estate devel. They cost closer to $80 to $160 per square foot when you include fees for full installation. There's a lot of room for savings when compared to the national average for site-built homes, which is$163per square foot. A conventional mortgage helps finance the cost.


Longevity and durability

Modular constructions are quite resilient and aregenerally stronger than site-built constructions. They're manufactured in controlled settings and built to endure rough shipping and handling. Constructioncompanies also study the environment of the build site to ensure that the home can withstand elements likestrong windsorheavy snowfall. These homes can last generations.

Pros of modular homes

There are many pros to choosing a modular home construction. They are high-quality, customizable constructions that are more efficient and cost-effective than site-built homes.




High-quality construction

Modularhomes use the same quality materials as site-built homeslike wood, steel and concrete. They are even better engineered for energy efficiency than traditional homes and have better air quality because the materials aren't exposed to moisture duringconstruction. Amodular home builderis concerned with quality, as well as longevity.

Quicker completion time

With60-90%of construction done in a factory-controlled setting, modular homes are completed30-50%faster than their conventional real estate counterparts. Construction can happen in a matter of weeks, whereas it takes months to build traditional homes.


As a result of streamlined modular construction and the use of bulk building materials, modular homes cost less to build - about10-35%less than site-built homes - and are an affordable housing alternative.


Another pro of modular homes is that the interiors and exteriors are customizable. In fact, modular construction isn't started until the homeowner decides on the design. Once completed, you wouldn't know it was different from a site-built home. They can also be tailored foraccessible livingand can include options for an open floor plan, convenient counter heights and spacious bathrooms.

Cons of modular homes

Despite all their benefits, modular homes do come with a few cons, like snowballing costs, dated interior design and the need for land.




Need to buy land

Unless you are purchasing a pre-existingmodular home, you will need to buy land. The property also needs to meet zoning requirements and followHUD codefor ahome. When calculating expected savings with amodular hometo secure aconstructionloan, factor in the cost of land for an accurate estimate.

Costs can snowball

Once you purchase land, extra costs can balloon from there. Paying professionals to lay foundations and add plumbing, sewage, gas and electrical to yourmodular constructioncan get pricey. Extra customization and the size of yourmodular homealso contribute to costs, so it's wise to factor these into your budget as well.

Dated interiors 

Althoughmodernmodularhomeshave more updated interior design now, if you purchase a pre-existing or oldermodular home, you may receive outdated cosmetic features. You aren't stuck with these forever though! Renovating cosmetic interiors in a modernmodular homeis similar to a normalhome. This is because the structure of thehomeis still sound.

Eco benefits of modular homes and construction

Modular homes reduce a lot of the environmental impact associated with traditionalhome construction. They surpass conventional homes in energy efficiency, waste management, emission production, material transportation and are adaptable to their environment.

Modular homes are generally consideredgreen buildings, but not every modular home qualifies as one. Constructioncompanies aren't required to use green designs. Do some research to make sure that the company you choose uses sustainable materials and practices if that is important to you.




1. More energy efficient

Modular homecompaniesgenerally have their own engineering department that uses computer software to design thehomefor energy efficiency. Additionally, less energy is expended in thebuildingand transportation processes because the majority ofconstructionoccurs in afactory.

2. Less waste

Another big eco-benefit is better waste management duringmodular construction.Modularhomes have carefully engineered designs that use less materials than regular homes. Thefactorysettingalso allows for carefully controlled processes regarding material sourcing and waste. Some examples of these processes include less packaging during transport, reusable frameworks and waste materials diverted from landfill to otherbuildinguses.


3. Fewer emissions

Compared to conventional construction, modular construction producessignificantly less greenhouse gas emissions. More efficient construction practices within a factory and less transportation to and from a build site all contribute to decreased emissions.

4. Sustainable features

If you have done your research and selected abuilding company with green construction and design practices, you can create the eco-friendly home of your dreams. You can choosesustainable building materials, like bamboo, for the interiors and eco features, like low-flow appliances, for your home.


Modular homes are an efficient and affordable alternative for those looking to build or buy their own home. As permanent, factory-made dwellings, these homes are set apart from mobile/manufactured homes and traditional site-built homes. They are eco-friendly, customizable, cost-effective, high-quality housing constructions and these benefits well outweigh the cons.

If you're worried about not going the conventional home route, don't be. You can still get the same living experience as a site-built home and even a few of the other experiences including financing it with a regular mortgage and covering it with your typicalhomeinsurance policy. Take charge of your homeownership journey and choose the type of home that is best for you!

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