I disagree with the analogy in Michelle Kaufmann’s statement, “building a house on site is like having your car built in your driveway. It’s not efficient!” Makes a pithy slogan, but I think it’s misguided.

This is in advance of a forthcoming debate between Kaufmann and Chad Ludeman to be held on Treehugger tomorrow (3:30 ET May 26; rescheduled from a week earlier).

Efficiency may or may not be served by prefabrication, but site specificity and orientation doesn’t matter for a car and is all too easily forgotten when you are doing prefabricated buildings. A car doesn’t have a north side or a south side; a car is mobile, and is a fundamentally mass-produced object. Architects, designers and homebuilders have all been trying to figure out the “house as car” model since the early 1900s. There have been lots of attempts at this, from mobile homes to Fuller’s Dymaxion house, but I don’t think anyone has ever solved it.

Of course, on the other hand, it’s not very practical to imagine that all housing is going to be crafted with site specificity. Fundamentally, I think that, as with many debates, neither perspective is completely right or wrong. There’s a lot that prefabrication has to offer. But I disagree with the absolutism of the premise, “Be It resolved that Prefabrication is a greener way to build.” Some degree of mass-production could be useful, but prefabrication could be as badly done as any other process.

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