Prefabrication and modular production of housing is one of the oldest “new topics” in architectural discourse. Prefabrication in North America has been underway continuously since the 17th century. It flourishes in economic booms in remote locations, and as an interim solution to disaster relief, but unlike the giants of the automotive industry, innovators in residential prefabrication seldom succeed, or endure. This research is about using the historical record to understand the characteristics of failed and successful residential prefabrication systems. A literature search was undertaken to identify the key professional publications and governmental programs impacting the topic. Professional Journals, Federal reports, and books published by prefabrication advocates were examined for the answer to “What happened to housing prefabrication as a mode of residential construction innovation?” It was discovered that proprietary package systems or kits employing non-wood-based materials and connectors required sophisticated industrial tooling, management and production/shipping methods that cannot be successfully amortized in the competitive residential construction market. Perhaps the most important discovery was that compatibility and extensibility within the residential building culture are the key indicators of longevity/success in the marketplace.
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