Prefab and Modern Design
I've been reading Design Magazine "Dwell" for about 3 years now. It's generally full great and relatively practical information. It's a little more academic than, for example, the very practical and often cheap Ready Made Magazine, but I still like Dwell very much.
They've been preaching about the coming of "prefab" housing for a while. Not so much the "piece of crap trailers" kind of "prefab" more of the "this is really awesome design and it was at least partially built in a factory which makes it cheaper for the quality and makes assembly time shorter" kind of prefab.
There are two really good books on the subject that I recently read Prefab, by Alison Arieff and Prefab Modern by Jill Herbers. I had heard of the Arief book from Dwell Magazine and found the Herbers book when doing a library search for the Arief book. They are both good, but oddly enough much of the content is the same. Also, they seem to mostly follow in the "Dwell Magazine" format - that is looking at the houses from the Academic point of view with less focus on the every day practical concerns like cost and usability. The houses are almost all gorgeous, but some of them are just wicked expensive or funky useless layouts - or both.
The "big" time
Then, you can imagine my surprise the other day when Businessweek ran an article covering several of these same resources, people and homes Businessweek isn't the best of the business magazines I read, but it's a decent one and they are occasionally ahead of the curve in predicting trends. So hopefully this gets more popular.
Prefab benefits and drawbacks
All the same, I'm very glad personally to see growth in this area. It's something where almost everyone wins: housing can be higher quality, lower cost, more efficiently produced, better designed, etc. etc. The main drawback in my mind is that it could lead to more "cookie cutter" homes - but looking around suburbia and exurbia these days, I don't think we could have a housing trend that takes us any further in the wrong direction on that one. The other perceived drawback is that prefab makes a shift in the labor market. I say "shift" rather than "would force people out of jobs" because I view it as a movement from one area to another.