While construction costs of modular homes can be more cost-effective than traditional homes, this is not always the case.
High property prices, soaring building costs, rising consumer inflation and an increasingly subdued economy are factors fuelling the development of innovative housing alternatives such as module homes.
As the challenge of affordability continues to grow, Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty chief executive Yael Geffen, expects modular homes, including those made from shipping containers and those constructed using cutting-edge technology, to become increasingly appealing over the coming decade.
However, while construction costs of modular homes can be more cost-effective than traditional homes, this is not always the case, say designers and architects.
Philip Nel of Inizio Homes says the construction costs are “very similar to or even slightly more” than traditional building methods.
“This obviously depends on the final design and also the location and site conditions. In some cases it can be more cost-effective if a very modern design is required in a remote area, as an example, but overall each project varies and it is difficult to give more detailed costs.”
While these homes will attract a design fee, which Nel bases on a percentage of the build cost, other costs could be municipal submission of plans, engineering costs and municipal connection costs, among other things.
“There is a common misconception in South Africa about modular homes and the quality and cost of this option. There are many different offerings in the marketplace but often they are not accredited and also not of the best quality.
“If you go for a good quality, well-designed and high-performance option, the cost will be equal or more than a traditional building in some cases, but you will also get a lot of benefits if designed, specified and executed correctly,” he says.
The biggest advantage to such homes, says Dirk Coetser of A4AC Architects, is that one can move home if needed.
“Therefore you don’t have to own the land because you own the structure. Due to the smaller size of the structure your energy use is reduced and there is less maintenance.”
The downside is that modular homes are usually small, and while Europeans are used to small spaces, South Africans are not, Coetser says. However, Kalil believes this disadvantage is no longer the case.
“The only ‘con’ most clients have is the size, but when joining numerous containers to create a bigger space, that no longer applies.”
The “pros”, she says, are the construction timelines, the cost a square metre, “and the fact you can create your own space”.
“They are modular so you can stack them utilising smaller pieces of land more efficiently.”
Of all the housing innovations developed over the years, the one to have gained the most traction globally thus far is the shipping container home, says Yael Geffen of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.
“Shipping containers are fireproof, floodproof and affordable to buy and maintain, and with around 14 million ‘out-of-service’ containers in the world, they are easily obtainable. It’s no surprise their conversion to modular homes is the fastest-growing emergent trend in this sector.”
Geffen says prefabricated and modular methods share key advantages, including:
◆Short construction time;
Generally, modular and container homes are constructed off-site and most of the building code inspections are made at the factory so it is delivered with approval already in place, she says.
Permanent or movable fixtures
If the foundations of a container home render it easy and cost-effective to dismantle and move, the home is considered a movable fixture, explains
Lara Colananni, specialist conveyancing attorney at Guthrie Colananni.
“However, if the owner demonstrates the intention of selling the land and container home together, as one sells a house, then the container will be regarded as a permanent fixture and sold as such, with transfer duties payable on the total value of the land and container home.”
Another common question regarding container homes is whether all the standard building regulations are applicable to a home that is not actually constructed.
Colananni says: “Safety regulations regarding the load and integrity of the container itself would be applicable, and if you altered it to become a dwelling by adding plumbing and electrical wiring, then the zoning and use regulations would also be applicable.”
All structures that are intended for use as dwellings need an Occupation Certificate.