Our top picks: 25 Best Prefab Homes
For the ultimate eco home, it’s hard to beat the cost, convenience and style of a prefab home.
Prefab homes are a great antidote to the delays, inefficiencies and cost blowouts of a traditional home build, as they are built in a factory and are then able to be quickly assembled on site.
While modular or prefab homes have a reputation for being “cheap and nasty”, the 21st century has seen huge improvements in design, with eco friendly outcomes such as air tight construction and minimising construction waste.
While the prefabs of old offered limited ‘off the plan’ designs, custom design is now available, ranging from tiny homes and cabins through to multi-storey residences. Many home renovators are opting for prefab extensions to minimise time and cost.
Prefab homes are sometimes built in modules complete with plumbing, electrical and fittings, which are joined onsite to other modules. Other options involve prefabricated panels or walls that are then transferred to the site and assembled.
Australia has been late to the party with building prefab homes, with modular and prefab construction equating to only 3% of our construction industry whereas European countries such as Sweden use prefabricated components in 84% of their houses.
Our top 25 faves below show that prefab is not only practical and versatile but can offer some major sex appeal.
1. Little City prefab home by Arkit
Little City is a two bedroom, two bathroom modular home built entirely off-site before being craned into its location (formerly a driveway!) and taking only two weeks of site works to complete the building and services connections.
Sustainable features: highly insulated wall, floor and roof elements, western red cedar cladding utilising offcut short lengths, recycled timber decking material, low/ no VOC finishes, double glazing and FSC and SCI certified timbers.
2. Mako prefab by Jaw Architects
One of my favourite ever prefab homes, this Mako design by Jaw Architects was built in 2015 near Hobart, Tasmania. The modular design was chosen by the owners for its environmental advantages, as well as a cost effective, quality and on budget outcome which capitalised on the beautiful bush block with uninterrupted water views.
3. Karangahake prefab home by Make Architects
This farmland prefab home won the New Zealand Institute of Architects Waikato Small Project Architecture Award in 2021. Made from prefabricated floors, walls and roofs the home was assembled on-site within just four days.
Sustainability was core to the design, with the usually arduous and inefficient traditional build cast aside in favour of off-site prefabricated construction, carefully selected materials and finishes, weathertight linings, and smart efficient ventilation systems.
Photography by David Straight
4. Axiom Desert prefab house by Turkel
This light and breezy home showcases the use of prefab for a mid sized house (2080sqft / 193sqm). The structural shell (wall panels, roof and floor structure, laminated beams, and sheathing) was built off-site using airtight sustainably sourced materials.
Unlike conventional construction, a builder can prepare the foundations while the prefab package is being manufactured in the factory.
5. Lagos prefab concrete home by Mapa Architects
This home in Uraguay was designed by Mapa Architects and built using six prefabricated concrete slabs resting on two concrete walls, all of which were built in a factory and transported to site.
Concrete when made from sustainable elements such as recycled flyash is a better alternative to traditionally made concrete and is a durable, lifelong product requiring little or no maintenance and providing excellent thermal mass.
6. Red Hill prefab home by Prebuilt
This striking black and timber home by prefab specialists Prebuilt was designed in collaboration with architects Pleysier Perkins. The exterior is clad in charcoal stained Silvertop Ash to recede into the natural bushland setting. The design follows the line of the natural contours with careful cutting and retaining allowed the modules to be placed low to avoid the necessity for handrails and balustrades.
Photography by Michael Kai
7. ‘Eco Balanced’ prefab homes by Ecoliv
This multi award-winning eco home was prefabricated by EcoLiv in two modules which were combined to create a small footprint of about 70 sqm.
Sustainable features: solar power, water tanks, solar hot water, solar passive design, light weight locally and ethically sourced materials, high levels of insulation, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, low VOC paints, 900mm overhanging eaves for sun/wind protection, cross-ventilation.
8. Sydney prefab home by Modscape
This prefab in beachside Tamarama in Sydney was designed to accomodate a family and required five bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Designed to capture sunlight in winter and minimise heat in the summer months, moveable timber battened screens allow sunlight control and also soften the exterior of the house. Highlight windows and skylights have also been used to maximise light and natural cross ventilation.
9. Off grid prefab home by Chrofi Architects
The ‘Courtyard House’ is an understated off grid prefab home which resembles a timber shipping container.
Built by Fabprefab, the lightweight 127sqm structure minimises its footprint and was designed with a seamless flow between indoors and out, as well as an abundance of natural light.
Photography by Clinton Weaver.
10. Meridian prefab home by First Light Studio
This award-winning prefab home was designed by a group of architecture students as their entry into a design competition held by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The home was constructed in a warehouse then transported and initially assembled in Wellington for public display, then disassembled and shipped to Washington DC where it was reassembled for the competition where it went on to win equal first place in both Hot Water and Energy Balance and second place for Architecture.
The concept was a classic kiwi bach – a New Zealand holiday home – where New Zealanders retreat to ‘get away from it all’.
11. Passive prefab home by Valley Workshop
The only prefab on our list with ‘passive house’ credentials, this home in South Hobart in Tasmania has been designed to capitalise on magnificent views of the Derwent River.
Passive/Sustainable features: hyper-insulated floor panels, wall panels with condensation control membranes, highly insulated roof panels, low VOC finishes, externally clad in bushfire resistant Colorbond custom orb and Hardies cement sheet, 7kW solar PV system, north facing for solar gain, cross ventilation, double glazed windows.
12 Byron Bay prefab home by Prebuilt
This is a family-sized beachside prefab by Prebuilt which was clad in silvertop ash and zinc and designed to patina over time. The main objective of the build was to capitalise on the spectacular views while gaining privacy from a large neighbouring building which was solved through the addition of a series of blade walls to the bedrooms which created privacy and allowed natural cooling from sea breezes.
13. Habitat prefab by Nook Homes
The Habitat prefab is a three bedroom home with striking shiplap cedar cladding, designed by New Zealand company Nook Homes, who offer turn-key prefab packages with “off the plan” designs that can be customised to suit their clients requirements.
Prefab “nooks” can be transported anywhere in New Zealand.
14. The Make Remake prefab by Arkit
This prefab by Arkit has been clad in a striking chevron pattern using fibre cement and tonal greys to echo the local blackwood and manna gum trees.
After losing their prior Arkit prefab in a bushfire the owners remained steadfast that their new home was to be as sustainable as the original.
Sustainable features: plantation harvested hoop pine plywood interior lining, 95% recycled composite plasterboard, very high insulation levels and thermally broken double-glazed doors and windows.
15. Manyana prefab beach house by Mode Homes
The Manyana is one of Mode Homes 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom prefab homes available from a variety of different designs.
Specialising in energy efficient modular homes and led by architect, Matthew Dynan, Mode Homes also offers bespoke custom designed prefab homes that suit the land, context and personality of clients.
All Mode Homes are built with steel frames in a factory and assembled on site.
16. Phoenix Haus passive prefab house
Phoenix Haus has developed its ‘Alpha System‘ certified by the Passive House Institute (PHI) in Germany, which is passive house design using lightweight wood frames, insulated with cellulose and exterior wood fibre board. Homestead 19 (H19) is pictured, which is 1900 square feet (176 sqm) and has super-insulated roof and wall panels, triple-glazed exterior doors and windows, a solar system and a heat pump.
Photography by Kylie Fitts
17. Dimension X prefab homes
Dimension X is a soon to be launched home building company which will offer planet-friendly prefabs at the click of a mouse.
The company is the brainchild of entrepreneur Oscar Martin who joined forces with architect Peter Stutchbury after seeing a gap in the prefab market for Australian made prefabs that were energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing like the ones in Japan and Scandinavia.
Photography by Alejo De Achaval
18. Premaydena off grid prefab by Misho Architects
Inspired by Japanese teahouses and shoji paper screens, this off grid home in a rural area south east of Hobart in Tasmania was designed by Misho architects as a box within a box. The outer box can be opened and closed to allow views, sun and to control prevailing wind. Sustainable features: passive solar design, local plantation-grown timber, highly insulated, double-glazed windows, solar system, rainwater tanks, grey/black water system
Photography by Peter Whyte
19. Somers beachside prefab by Modscape
This striking 3 bedroom home in Somers, on the Mornington Peninsular south of Melbourne, is the latest custom design by Modscape, a specialist prefab company that combines custom made modules to create each of its prefab homes. Colorbond roofing, blackbutt timber and VMZINC ‘Quartz-Zinc’ cladding, were chosen to complement (and withstand) the coastal environment.
20. Tahoe custom prefab home by Method Homes
Specialist prefab builder Method Homes services the western U.S. states and Canada with both custom and pre-designed options.
This custom designed modular home in Tahoe shows the versatility available in prefab homes – they don’t need to be straight boxes.
21. Somers prefab by Fairweather Homes
The Somers prefab is a 3 bedroom passive solar home built by Fairweather Homes, a small Melbourne architecture practice that has specialised in prefabricated green homes for over 35 years. Locally sourced timber is its main building material they use, prefabricating full panels and wall systems and transporting them to site and assembled quickly.
22. Hawkes Bay high prefab home by Elevate Homes
This beautiful prefab bach in New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay has a small footprint of 150m2 but packs a punch for its small size with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 2 living areas. The bach with sustainable interior design was transported from the factory over an hour away and was chosen by the owners for the flexibility in a remote location.
As with many prefab designers, Elevate was born from fact that there were limited options on the market for design-led, high end prefabricated houses. They certainly seemed to have solved the problem.
23. Courtyard retreat prefab home by Arkit
This large 3 bedroom western red cedar prefab home has a beautiful central courtyard garden which is visible from most rooms.
The home was built offsite in 14 weeks achieving time, cost and quality targets that would usually be unachievable in such a tight timeframe with a traditional onsite build.