Good things come in small packages


“Less materials are used to build a small house and less energy is used to heat and cool them. In addition, houses built in a factory are far better for the environment,” says Sherri Koones, Greenwich resident and author of Prefabulous Small Houses.—Alison Caron Design photo

Go big or go home may be a popular catchphrase, but Sherri Koones says, ‘think small, smart, and prefabulous.’ “Some people still want big houses, but there’s a growing population that wants to keep life simpler. Having a small house requires less maintenance, smaller gas and electric bills, and a cozier environment,” says Koones, Greenwich resident and author of Prefabulous Small Houses.

The fifth book in Koones’ Prefabulous book series, Prefabulous Small Houses, showcases 32 energy-efficient, sustainable small, prefab homes across the country that reveal the beauty, variety, and environmentally-positive benefits of prefabrication. The book includes 250 color photographs of each home’s interior and exterior spaces, floor plans, and the advantages of building and living in a small prefab home.

“Less materials are used to build a small house and less energy is used to heat and cool them. In addition, houses built in a factory are far better for the environment,” says Koones, prefabrication expert and member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the Sustainable Building Industry Council, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. “In the factory, materials are recycled. Wood cutoffs are used and metal and drywall are returned to the manufacturer to be recycled. Wood that cannot be used is often put out for the local neighbors to use in heating their homes.”

Photo courtesy of Barta Pictures

Today, more people are looking into prefab homes. According to Joanne Carroll, publisher of Connecticut Builder magazine, “There’s a growing interest in luxury prefab houses in Fairfield County. Today’s prefab homes allow for a great deal of customization. There are some builders who prefer factory-built homes because production is faster, and the builder can put in the foundation and then just provide electrical and plumbing connections and finishing touches once the home is set in place.”

Koones explains the difference between small and tiny houses. “Tiny houses are very small houses built on a chassis and can, in most cases, be transported from place to place. They’re generally custom-built and not built to the Universal Code. Most of them use water tanks for water and have special toilets not connected to the sewerage system,” she explains. “Small prefab homes, however, are built to local code and are attached to an electrical grid, sewer, and water system. The benefit of living in a small house is the reduced cost of heating, cooling, and maintenance.”

Today’s cutting-edge technology and innovative design allows architects and developers to create homes that resemble site-built homes in style, beauty, and function. “When prefab houses were first seen on the market they were inexpensive and very basic boxy houses. Now, most any house that can be built on site can be prefabricated as well,” says Koones. “Prefab houses are built primarily, or to a large percent, in a factory. They’re built in a protected environment where the materials stay dry and aren’t compromised by extremes in weather.” They’re constructed of modular, SIPs (structurally insulated panels), panelized, log home packages, kit packages, and hybrid systems. Small prefab homes can range in size from 352 square feet to a little over 2,000-square-feet and, appearance-wise, they’re indistinguishable from site-built homes.

Small prefab homes are also an excellent way to reduce our carbon footprint. The foreword, written by actor and environmentalist Robert Redford, reinforces the urgency of taking action to combat climate change and look toward prefabricated small homes to be part of our culture. “I consider Robert Redford the most important environmentalist we have in this country,” Koones avers. “He’s worked tirelessly over the years to preserve old buildings from being torn down and trying to preserve the land from being used improperly.”

Prefabulous Small Houses offers a wealth of inspiration. “When I speak at conferences people often ask, ‘If prefab is so wonderful why doesn’t everyone build this way?’ My answer is ‘Prefab construction is the best kept secret in this country,’” says Koones, whose last book, Prefabulous World, highlighted small prefab houses located in many countries, including Germany, France, South Africa, Japan, and more.

“In some countries prefab is the predominant way to build. The prefab technology is so well developed and sophisticated, it’s a wonder why everyone doesn’t use prefab methods,” she concludes. “I think the happiest way to build a house is by building a house that’s good for the environment, costs little to maintain, and can be built quickly. This is the ideal way to build a house for now and the future.”

Prefabulous Small Houses is available wherever books are sold and can be pre-ordered on Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites.


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