Modular Homes vs Site-Built Homes for a person with a Physical Disability?

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.
Recently I was asked what is better for someone who has a physical disability a modular home or a stick built home?  So I did some research, here are my findings...

First, there are three general classes of homes which are as follow:

Manufactured or HUD-Code homes:  These homes are often built entirely or partly in factories rather than on-site and is often called a 'mobile home'.  A mobile home is factory-built housing that is the narrow, lightweight technological descendant of the self-contained travel trailer that was designed to be towed from one location to another along public roads and hooked up for temporary use.  This sector first achieved prominence in the early 1960's. By 1976 mobile homes had come under regulation in the form of the pre-emptive federal "Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards" or "HUD-Code," and the era of modern "manufactured homes" began. Manufactured homes are required to be produced with a permanent chasis designed for over-the-road transportation.  They are usually placed at the site on non-permanent foundations (block piers) and are almost invariably one-story units.

Modular Homes: Modular housing includes factory-built homes that are delivered to the building site in largely complete form as multiple modules and placed by crane on conventional basement or crawl space foundations. Unlike HUD-Code homes, however, the design and construction of modular homes is regulated entirely by state and local building codes similar or identical to those that apply to site-built homes. Many modulars are two-story houses, and compete directly with site-built homes in terms of design and amenities. Modular homes are usually sold through small builders responsible for preparing the site and foundation as well as required finish work. These builders often construct modulars on land owned by the purchaser. 

Site-Built Homes:  Construction of new homes on site through sequential fabrication and assembly of products, materials and systems into finished homes by skilled tradesmen and general laborers. Activities are planned and coordinated by experts with regulatory oversight at the local or state level of government. 

Now that we have differentiated between the three main categories of homes, the rest of this post will focus on modular vs stick-built homes.  

So which sort of home is best for a person with a physical disability?  When looking for a home for someone with a physical disability I look for the following factors:
  • Cost per square foot.
  • Low maintenance cost.
  • Accessibility/universal design. 
Cost per square foot:  

Modular Homes:  The cost per square foot of an average modular home, not including land, is approximately $90-$110 per square foot.  When alterations are made to the modular home to make it accessible the price increases to $110-$150 per square foot.  Also, costs of setting up a modular home can be excessive, transportation and cranes are not inexpensive.  I haven't found any modular homes with an 'accessible' universal design floor plan, but I have found many modular homes with floor plans that could be easily altered for accessibility based on universal design principals.

Site-built home:  The cost per square foot of an average site-built home, not including land, based on accessible universal design is $125.00-$150.00 per square foot plus architect/design fees which run between $5000-$10,000 average but sometimes up to $20,000 depending on the scope of the project and the number of changes made to the original plan and let's face it there are always several design changes before the plan is 'just right'. 

Maintenance Costs:  The magic words for any homeowner, especially someone with a physical disability are the words 'maintenance-free'.  Unfortunately in the world of home ownership there is no such thing as a 'maintenance-free' home, but I was interested in what had lower long term maintenance costs so I looked for research regarding maintenance costs for modular vs site-built homes.

I wasn't able to find any hard research on maintenance costs of site-built vs modular homes.  'Modular Today' expresses probably the most accurate statement regarding the maintenance costs of site-built vs modular homes which is as follows:

Modular Homes Maintenance:  "These homes are built in a climate controlled factory using high quality materials and more precise building techniques that are capable inside a factory. Modular homes are intentional designed with additional insulation and other energy savings to reduce your maintenance costs."

Site-Built Maintenance:  "Site-built homes are built in all types of weather, with varying quality of materials so the quality of site-built homes varies greatly. Research has shown that traditional homes are more likely to require repairs and higher maintenance costs then modular homes."

Accessibility/Universal Design:  The beauty of site-built homes is the flexibility of design.  If you are hiring an architect to design an accessible home for you or someone with a disability be sure to have an occupational therapist involved in the design.  Architects that are "CAPS-Certified Aging in Place" certified have been educated in the principals of universal design based on ADA guidelines but architects (or builders for that matter) do not know how to transfer with a physical disability or the prognosis of the illness or what is functional for the individual.  

If you are building a home to allow independence and function for someone with a disability, be sure the home is designed for the person who will be using the home not designed for the average person with average needs, get an occupational therapist involved many times health insurance will pay for services.

Modular Homes:  I have looked at many different floor plans for people with varying abilities and I have not yet found a modular home with accessible/universal design bathroom or kitchen options.  I have found many open floor plans for modular homes that could easily be altered for accessibility.

Site-Built Homes:  The cost to design a site-built home from scratch is substantially more than altering an existing floor plan of a modular home, but when designing a home from scratch the home itself can reflect the tastes and style of the homeowner, which can be fun but also overwhelming.  A more popular and less expensive way to design a site-built home is to alter house plans the builder or architect has already utilized or there are many websites that offer house plans for sale that can be altered.  

Synopsis:  There are many varying opinions and a variety of factors that are not consistent between houses, builders or manufacturers.  Cost per square foot of modular homes seems to be less than site-built homes but the cost differences seem to be minimal.

Maintenance costs seem to be variable with site-built homes based on builder, materials and weather. Modular homes seem to require less maintenance than site-built homes based on my research.  The problem with the research that I have found is that most of the statements, comparisons, ratings/reviews of modular vs site-built homes comes from the modular homes industry which in this case is most likely biased.  

Design costs are definitely higher with site-built homes than modular homes but modifying existing floor plans for accessibility can substantially decrease design costs of site-built homes.

Anyone have an opinion on this topic?  Please post a comment.


Anonymous said...

Yes, more and more people are going into manufactured or modular homes because it's cheaper and built faster. The maintenance also are not that high.
Know more about manufactured homes by visiting manufactured homes in washington state.

venzkids said...

Modular construction buildings are highly popular for both, official and personal use, as they provide a much more cost-effective and space-saving option for property owners. Whether the need is to increase storage or increase usable area in the office, modular buildings provide it all. Visit us for information.

Anamul said...

The principle distinction is that there are no connected systems to a mobile home and the insurance company recognizes this.
please go to:- mobile homes Massachusetts for extra.

Sam Wilson said...

You have given nice info I was aware of modular homes and modular home manufacturers are playing vital role to build them where people can live there life according to their plans. Thanks for giving me information about site-built homes it’s impressive.

Build Owner said...

This is a beautiful home that looks very well built. I am vaguely familiar with programs like this, but am excited to hear about what they're actually up to in my town.
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