Prefab Houses: The Scandinavian Pioneers

The popularity of prefab houses is ever rising in the 21st century as people seek to build homes that are more environmentally friendly and also better prepared for the harsh elements that are particularly prevalent in winter.

When it comes to this kind of design and architecture, the Scandinavians have it just right. They keep it simple and easy, unlike other European countries that have tried to tinker with the methods and failed. 

Their history dates back further than you’d think

What may surprise many is just how far back the history of prefabricated housing goes. It isn’t a modern, 20th century innovation that just happened to take off, but rather something that was invented and pioneered by a gentleman called Frederick Blom way back in 1781 in Sweden.

Blom was an architect and a Colonel in the Corps of Naval Engineers. His experience in the military taught him about the need to have accommodation that could be built strongly and made to last but also have the ability to be taken down and moved. He envisioned that a house for a family could also become a series of walls or constructions that could be built quickly and strongly and moved or rebuilt if occasion demanded.

However, instead of purely keeping this notion for military purposes, he began to expand and develop it further for civilians. At first, he designed and made houses for the upwardly mobile members of society, offering them prefabricated walls with doors and window openings built into them and solved the problem of how they would be joined together by using strong iron ties to keep the buildings safe and secure.

These buildings were of course, manufactured from the one material that was in abundance in these climes, wood. Trees had the advantage of being a renewable resource, readily available and in many cases easy to saw and cut into manageable plank sizes to make the designs that Blom created.

Over the next sixty years, a relatively small scale production began with some one hundred and forty of these houses being designed and built and it was something that steadily appeared to catch the attention of people throughout the many Scandinavian countries through the next century. 

Industrialisation takes hold

Of course, during the 1800s the main change that occurred was the mass industrialisation of many different occupations. Inventions such as mechanised sawmills meant that parts for these houses could be produced in a far quicker and much more efficient way. It also meant that because they could be built faster, more could be produced and it was during this century that an small export business began to emerge, with the component parts of these buildings being shipped to places like Canada and North America too.

As trade between the countries took off, it was recognised that there was a need for them to be marketed better and so catalogues were produced that made it possible for people to pick designs for their own individual home.

Into the 20th century

The 20th century threw up two of the world’s deadliest conflicts with World War One from 1914-1918 and World War Two from 1939-1945. These two events led to housing shortages Europe wide and a demand for utilitarian homes that could be built and moved into very quickly as the need arose.

These residences became much more uniform than before, with less scope for personal design choice as was seen in the original buildings created by Blom. Here, the need was simply for good homes that were safe, sturdy and cheap to produce.

As the 20th century moved on, the trend for prefab houses altered yet again and moved more towards a designer aesthetic. Some designers decided to experiment with how the insides of the prefabs were constructed, for instance making moves to conceal pipes and plumbing or constructing buildings that had no need for “ugly” radiators, having a source of heat that was supplied having a heated cavity in the attic which would warm the house through from the ceilings downwards.

The shift also changed from houses being made solely from wood, to other materials too. In some cases, corrugated metal sheeting would be used and in particular in countries like the UK, moulded concrete slabs would be used to create housing on a mass scale.

Insuring Prefabs

If this is an idea that’s inspired you to think about perhaps building your own prefab house, then it’s important to remember the following. Although the building itself will be relatively easy to do, you still need to adhere to proper building regulations with regards to finding an appropriate site. Also make sure that not only the house itself is properly insured, but that you have the right sort of building contents insurance for your new home too. There are quite a few specialist companies that deal with insuring these types of buildings, who can guide you in the right direction making sure you and your new home are safe should the worst happen.

1 Comment
  • symonds

    April 24, 2013 at 1:45 pm Reply

    How exciting your site! I Always loved Architecture, Interior Design since childhood. I love to look at homes and create ideas for them. I really liked the prefab house plans. Did you do the interior designing in those specific homes, if so I’m impressed! Beautiful…!

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