Re: Modular Construction in Co-Housing
From: Juniperjojo (
Date: Sun, 24 Apr 2005 07:24:00 -0700 (PDT)
Hi mew et al,

Laura Fitch is correct that Great Oak Cohousing in Ann Arbor, Michigan (where 
I live) used modular (a.k.a. pre-fab) construction, completed in early 2003.  
 Touchstone Cohousing, which is currently under development, is also using 
modular construction.     (Sunward Cohousing, which was finished in 2000 if I 
recall correctly, used traditional stick-built construction.)

I wouldn't describe the modular construction method as significantly cheaper 
than stick-built, however, though of course it is somewhat cheaper.   Partly 
this is because we used reasonably high-quality materials and fixtures (thicker 
sheetrock (known as drywall around these parts), solid-wood doors, low-E 
casement windows, nine-foot insulated basements, etc.).   What modular 
construction does allow, however, is some individualization ("custom-built" 
features) of 
unit designs for less than a custom-built price.   Another significant benefit 
of using modular construction -- other than allowing better quality for less 
money -- is the time that can be saved by building the modules indoors, which 
can be done regardless of weather (a big consideration in Michigan).   This 
also keeps the wood, wiring, etc., from getting wet during construction.

Also, because of the "modular" nature of modular construction, every unit has 
a double-layer between 1st and 2nd floors, which really reduces the 
transmission of sound between floors.   Because you also get a double-wall 
units, the sound transmission between units is practically zero in my 
as well.

Great Oak's homes were built by Royal Homes of Ontario, Canada.   You can 
learn more about them by going to their website,   
Touchstone is using a different modular construction company.   I don't know 
anything about them, but you could ask 
Nick from the Cohousing Development Company 
( about them.

There were some limitations imposed on our home designs due to the pre-fab 
construction; the most significant of these was that a single module could be 
wider than (if I recall correctly) 15' 10".   This was of little consequence 
with the larger units, but the two-story two-bedroom townhomes were limited to 
this width in order to stay reasonably affordable.   The most significant 
effect of this limitation was that we had to compromise on the layout of our 
downstairs half bath, which means it is too small even for a shower stall, 
these two-bedroom townhomes from being truly accessible even on the first 

If anyone is curious to see what one of these two-bedroom townhomes looks 
like, please go to   This is my 
which is currently for sale. (I am planning to purchase a three-bedroom home 
that recently became available here at Great Oak.)

If you are interested in seeing more pictures of our community as a whole, 
please go to   A schematic of our overall site 
plan is available at

Any detailed questions regarding the construction of our community or 
Touchstone should be directed to Nick Meima at nick [at], who is 
one of the developers of Great Oak and Touchstone.

Jenny Cook
Great Oak Cohousing

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