by Elemental Green staff
According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of having a new house built in the U.S. was $305,372 in 2016. Clearly, this cost can vary A LOT depending on what choices you make, and there are A LOT of choices when you decide to build a custom home. More often than not, many people go far over their initial estimated cost as the process drags on. If you’re looking for a less expensive, easier to design, and more sustainable home, then a prefab modular home could be exactly what you’ve been dreaming of. Although there are very spendy options out there in the prefab world, we found eighteen that should all be less expensive than the U.S. national average. And that’s just the beginning of the long list of benefits that come with deciding to go the prefab route. Learn more about the benefits of prefabs and check out these inexpensive sustainable homes almost anyone can afford so you can start researching your new (and smarter!) dream abode.
A prefab, or prefabricated home, is built offsite in a factory and then shipped to a building site in pieces to be assembled on the home lot. Prefab homes are more than just affordable — they come with a plethora of benefits for their owners and the earth!
It’s easier to gauge how much material is required for a prebuilt home since the same formula is followed for each model. This means that prefab builds result in far less material waste than traditional builds. And since materials are stored in a factory instead of on-site, they’re less likely to be stolen, vandalized, or damaged.
Not every house could stand up to the long journey of being shipped to another site. Prefab homes require extra materials to reinforce the house frame for delivery, so they’re inherently much more durable than traditionally-built homes.
Short construction time
By the time a traditional site is prepared for the building process, a prefab home will already be built. And since building takes place indoors, weather delays won’t pose any problems. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that most prefab projects are completely finished in around 5 months — sometimes in as little as 60 days!
Lower Average Permit Value
The National Association of Home Builders, states an “average permit value of $76.80 per square foot versus $94.34 for site-built.” Average permit value is a more useful figure than price according to Paul Emrath, NAHB vice president for survey and housing policy research. “It is necessary to base the cost comparison on permit value rather than price, because about 80 percent of modular homes are custom built on the owner’s lot and therefore record a sale price, unlike site-built homes that are often built speculatively for sale at some point in the future.”
Sometimes the most affordable option is to renovate rather than start from scratch!
Your existing home, or a fixer-upper, can look like new with strategic upgrades.
It is surprising how inexpensive many new (and old favorite) products can be.
Check out our Eco-Friendly Flooring Product Showcase for gorgeous solutions.
Ready to explore? Here are 18 inexpensive sustainable homes.
Note: For comparison, we have included base prices at press time. These may have changed. Please check with each manufacturer for current pricing.
The LivingHomes two-bedroom, two-bathroom C6.2 is a compact model that fits perfectly on narrow lots, but still offers plenty of space and outdoor mobility at an affordable price. This home’s 8-corner layout offers more visual interest than rectangular models. It combines clean, modern design with LEED Platinum level certification and C2C (Cradle-to-Cradle) inspired materials (learn about C2C here). BASE PRICE: $159,000
Method Homes M Series
Method Homes is a custom manufacturer of precision-engineered, modern prefabs that can be built to obtain credits for green building certifications like LEED, Living Building Challenge, Passive House, and more. The M Series represents Method’s most affordable prefab selection. It features multiple interior and exterior finish options, so the homes are fully adaptable for various sites, locations, and owner needs. BASE PRICE $162,000
Titan Park Cabo Tiny Home
The Titan Park Cabo Tiny Home is a 1 bed, 1 bath, 399 sq/ft home that feels much more spacious on the inside with high ceilings, an open-concept floorplan, and a much larger kitchen than you’ll find in most tiny homes. It includes a covered front porch, modern mono-sloped roof, and ample storage space. Tiny living is inherently more sustainable! BASE PRICE: $64,900
IdeaBox – Sage House
IdeaBox is like the Ikea of prefab houses — the design possibilities are endless! The designers at IdeaBox are experts at using the prefab housing system to create cost-effective, sustainable, and imaginative housing. Each home is designed with sustainable bamboo flooring, and energy-efficient construction, and the Sage House is the perfect example. This 1,014 sq. ft., two bedroom wonder cottage is flexible, rugged, and spacious. While the Sage House isn’t big, it’s definitely not small! A large living space is anchored by a chef inspired kitchen. Large sliding glass doors open the whole house up. Two large bedrooms are opposite each other with access via simple openings in the wall, closed off with barn doors. For large living in a smaller, sustainable space, the Sage House is the perfect fit. BASE PRICE: $164,500
EcoCraft Homes – EcoMod
EcoCraft uses prefab techniques, but all of their homes are actually custom designs. The floor plans found on their website are just the springboard to help customers dream up their ideal green home – any aesthetic, any size. They use resource-efficient construction methods that produce less than 5% material waste compared to more than 25% waste that can result from conventional building techniques. The homes are extremely energy efficient through the use of smart home technologies, high-performance insulation and mechanical systems, and passive and active solar systems. They also incorporate a wide array of materials that are both renewable and recyclable, as well as materials that are ageless and long-lasting. BASE PRICE: $175 per sq/ft
Bamboo Living Homes Pacific 992
Bamboo Living Homes are the first and only code certified permit-able bamboo structures in the world and their engineering is designed to withstand catastrophic conditions (their homes survived a hurricane with 173 mph winds!). All of their timber-grade bamboo and supporting materials are sourced and treated to the highest standard to ensure clean indoor air quality. Bamboo is an amazingly sustainable and strong material (and these homes actually sequester CO2!). The Pacific 992 is a 2 bedroom, 2 bath with a porch and loft. BASE PRICE: $89,000
Greenfab 1200 Series
Greenfab builds highly energy efficient, healthy, and sustainable homes and is committed to making them more accessible and affordable for everyone. They build custom homes and have pre-designed options, as well – and they work with clients from beginning to end, finding land, figuring out a budget, designing the home – everything. They also create a secure website to track every detail about the creation of your home, so you can check in 24/7! The 1200 Series is an elegant blend of space and function using a nice layout including a courtyard feeling. Even with a small footprint you can have up to 3 bedrooms. BASE PRICE: $189,900
Clever Homes Custom Prefabs
Clever Homes combines prefab and modular techniques with custom designs to create whatever a client can dream up. They’re committed to creating green and healthy homes and often incorporate green roofs, water catchment systems, and other sustainable technologies. They also design many off-the-grid homes. The home pictured to the right is in Atlanta. Better Homes and Gardens magazine built the house as part of a survey of home trends from their readers.
BASE PRICE: $150-$200 per sq/ft for the prefab parts
EcoSteel Custom Prefabs
EcoSteel designs and manufacturers prefab homes in every style, for every budget. Their homes are most widely known for their characteristic steel frame, which gives the home an incredibly eco-friendly touch: Prefab steel is one of the most renewable resources on Earth, and all prefab steel is currently at least 75% recycled content. Visit EcoSteel to see examples of past projects, including everything from tiny homes to massive prefabricated hotels (seriously!). If a custom prefab is what you have in mind, EcoSteel is a great choice. BASE PRICE: Since all homes are custom designed, the cost is incredibly variable. The rough estimate for an 1,100 sq/ft home is $136,000.
EcoCor Passive Houses
ECOCOR is dedicated to the construction of environmentally responsible Passive Houses (meaning they are super energy-efficient). They build their own designs and also work with architects and owner-builders to build the healthiest, most energy efficient, resilient homes they can. From design to construction, they are committed to reducing the ecological impact of the construction process. They have 11 models to choose from with a variety of exteriors. BASE PRICE: $140,000
GO HOME by Go Logic
The GO Home line of prefab passive-house dwellings have a more traditional aesthetic and can be assembled onsite in less than two weeks. Their portfolio ranges from a 600-square-foot, single-bedroom cottage to a 2,300-square-foot, four-bedroom family home. Clients choose their base model and preferred exterior cladding—fibre-cement clapboard, cedar shingles, charred cedar, or corrugated steel—as well as options for windows, trim, flooring, and interior hardware. BASE PRICE: $179,000.
Weehouse by Alchemy
The weeHouse was inspired by sustainable design principles such as building small and efficiently. Their architects can work with sustainable energy experts to customize your weeHouse with greener materials and systems using active solar, geothermal, green roofs (more on that here), and other sustainable solutions. They range in size from 450 to 2,000 square feet and include steel or wooden siding, low-e glass, stainless steel appliances, and in-floor hydronic heating. BASE PRICE: $80,000
Ark Shelter was created by architecture students from Belgium who “desire to reinvent how people live their lives.” On the inside, you’ll find a built-in platform bed adjoining a large picture window, plus a fireplace, table for two, full kitchen, and bathroom. The floor-to-ceiling windows on either side of the structure offer plenty of natural light. Also, with sides that fold open, the home becomes an extension of nature. Not only does this prefab come fully furnished (with everything from appliances to kitchen utensils), it can also be shipped and installed practically anywhere. Plus, you can make it completely sustainable with their rainwater collection system (that filters water 3 times) and solar power panels. BASE PRICE: $59,000.
Domespace Rotating Prefab
Designer Patrick Marsilli created Domespace as a revolutionary passive house that rotates away from the sun in summer to cool down and towards the sun in winter to warm up. Plus, it’s proven to withstand winds up to 150 mph (Category 4 hurricane) and magnitude 8 earthquakes without damage! The structure is built from 100% FSC certified wood and no harmful chemicals. BASE PRICE: $240,000 (for a 2,400 sq/ft model)
Deltec Homes Classic
Deltec Homes helps you achieve your desired level of sustainability: from simple energy efficiency to net-zero and beyond. Each home is built in a factory powered with 100% renewable energy. In the Classic Deltec models, the self-supporting roof system means no load-bearing walls so they can create any floorplan imaginable. The round shape also allows you to capture panoramic views and truly bring the outdoors in. This Classic is a 2 bedroom, 2 bath model that’s 2,075 square feet. BASE PRICE: $129,000.
Allwood Eagle Point
The Allwood Eagle Point is a 3 bedroom, 1 bath 1108 sq/ft home constructed from durable, dense grain, and slow grown Nordic Spruce. The kit comes in at a very low price point because it’s just the “bones” of your home – leaving you in position to add all the sustainable features you wish. While some of their smaller homes can be easily built yourself in 2-3 days, since this one is 2-stories, they recommend hiring a professional crew. BASE PRICE: $46,900
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