Prefabricated houses: A cheap and easy way to build a house

prefabricated houses

Single-family house from the manufacturer Baufritz: living space in harmony with man and nature.

System and prefabricated houses promise cost savings through larger quantities and modern pre-manufacturing. The least expensive prefabricated houses are available from 340’000 francs. Manufacturers emphasize their homes are of first-class quality.

Conventional housing in Switzerland is more complex and expensive than anywhere else in the world. Virtually every single-family home is individually designed and created in lengthy, largely manual handcraft stone after stone. Therefore, the idea of prefabricated and system houses seems immediately plausible: The architect or construction company repeats a once-designed house type, which saves planning costs. Instead of the tedious manual work on the construction site, industrial methods are used – as many components as possible are prefabricated in a production hall and arrive at the construction site ready-to-use.


prefabricated houses

Installation of the house including roof: possible in only two days

Prefabricated houses: quick assembly

“From the beginning of assembly, our house was already assembled after two days, including roofing,“ explains Bernd Waiblinger from Swissbau Fertighaus AG. At the same time, this has the great advantage that afterwards all the rest of the interior work – i.e. installation of kitchen, baths floor coverings, etc. – can be carried out protected from the weather. According to Waiblinger, prefabricated houses are basically just as individually adaptable and expandable as other buildings. Of course, all major labels, such as Minergie and so on, are possible, he assures.

Various domestic and foreign suppliers, however, work with different business models. Depending on the house type and supplier, there are also major differences in the degree to which imported components are used or where labels of origination such as „Swiss Made“ are employed. The term „prefabricated houses“ also has different interpretations in practice. In a simplified way, prfabricated houses mean the relevant components are pre-manufactured and the craftsmen merely assemble these elements on the construction site and then carry out the interior work.

Related to this is the philosophy that a supplier offers quasi-specific house types from a catalog. This approach has the advantage that prefabricated houses are very clearly defined and can usually be offered at a guaranteed fixed price. Classic house construction with an architect, in contrast, offers more individualized planning, but often presents the builder more risks in terms of the construction process and costs.


a cheap way to build a house

Prefabricated houses from Swissbau Fertighaus AG: timber frame construction and pre-production as the most important features

Ecological prefabricated houses

ecological principles. For example, Swiss timber frame or wood system construction is virtually predestined for this sector. Timber framed buildings are well suited to designing them from the beginning as Minergie or low-energy houses. The statically supporting structure made of wood can be well insulated (the thermal insulaltion is installed between the wooden frames). To put it another way: With equally good thermal insulation, more living space can be offered in such a residential building. Most carpenters, architects and general contractors who specialize in this segment make their mark in terms or ecology and sustainability. This approach of wooden structures is also ideally suited to expanding existing buildings with comparatively light and efficient extensions or roof appendages.


prefabricated house

Interior of a Swiss prefab house

What do prefabricated houses cost?

Like others, German manufacturer Baufritz attaches particular importance to ecology and a healthy living environment. Inasmuch as there are no houses „off the shelf,“ costs cannot be compared with budget houses, explains managing director Dagmar Fritz. „Construction costs for a high-quality, healthy ecological house are about 10 percent higher than costs for a conventional house,“ she emphasizes. Sustainability also has added value in construction and thus its price.

Bernd Waiblinger of the company Swissbau Fertighaus AG knows there are no fears of offering even very reasonably priced prefabricated houses: „We currently have an action house from 339,000 francs on offer,“ he explains. It is, so to speak,an „entry-level model,“ but at least two-storey, with 100 m2 of living space and a pitched roof. Even a heat pump (air-water heat pump) is included in this offer. Not included, however, are various ancillary costs, garden and especially not the earthworks such as excavating a pit, etc. „Our approach offers the customer a speed and cost advantage,“ touts Waiblinger for his building philosophy. Individual adjustments and changes are just as possible as in a house designed by an architect. Naturally, Swissbau Fertighaus AG increases its costs depending on size, interior design and other extras. Apart from the earthworks, however, the customer enjoys the advantage that the price for the house and all extras are agreed at a flat rate and is understood as a fixed amount.

Conclusion: One of the most important bnefits of prefabricated houses is their transparency of costs. For some „black sheep“ in the industry, the customer initially has the impression that costs are extremely low. Only gradually does it become apparent that a large number of components, elements and finishing work are invoiced separately. Beyond that, expensive land costs often spoil the price of inexpensive construction. In many places, one square meter of land costs 800 or 100 francs. Professionals doubt that it is sensible to build too cheaply on more expensive locations. This is because the resaleability of such a house might be limited – in exclusive prime locations experience has shown that expensive real estate is in demand.


system and prefabricated houses

Prefabricated house from Baufritz

Points to consider when building prefabricated houses

  • Prices listed in catalogs usually include the pure building costs. In addition, there are in any case expenses for fees, permits, development and environmental work of about 80,000 to 100,000 francs. Also not included is the purchase of land.
  • Assembling prefabricated components requires high precision. Buy a prefabricated house only at a company that has very good references, experience and a well-rehearsed team.
  • Prefabricated houses can basically be of very good quality. But as a buyer, you should pay particular attention to how the service and warranty work after construction is organized and whether you have a contact person in Switzerland.
  • Inquire about which warranties are provided and who is specifically responsible for troubleshooting and repairs. At the very least, the SIA 118 standard should be part of the contract, which among other things regulates guarantee periods and warranty.
  • In the case of imported refabricated houses, it must be checked whether they even comply with Swiss building regulations – for example the themal insulation regulations.