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Close Up on Prefabricated Buildings

Initially, the idea of a constructing prefabricated buildings conjures up images of shabby tin units used in Britain after the Second World War to house those unfortunates who had lost their homes in the incessant bombing raids, or cold sixties classrooms constructed to house the baby boom generation. Much has changed in the standards, style and construction of modular homes and many today believe them to be of a more sophisticated standard than brick-built structures. In comparison to many traditional Bulgarian built property, a prefabricated build gives the opportunity of combining many unique and stylish features into a speedy, well insulated, EU compliant home and the finished result is undetectable from its brick-built counterpart.

Architects are trying to change people’s perceptions in the UK by holding exhibitions dedicated to prefabricated architecture. Andrew Scoones, of the Building Centre Trust, who managed the London Prefabulous exhibition, believes that, “Prefabrication and modern methods of construction have moved into a new phase, the industry has graduated from the pioneering stage and shifted up a gear. The benefits offered by high-quality, factory-built homes are of particular significance where there's an increasing demand for good and affordable homes.”

There are numerous construction companies in Bulgaria who can help with the build of a prefabricated villa. Many have catalogues of predesigned homes, which often means that you don’t have to spend money on expensive architect’s fees. Others are happy to take plans from an architect to create your own unique house and some boast that they will dismantle and reconstruct your home should you ever wish to move. All modern day features can easily be incorporated into the build; everything from under floor heating to sound systems in every room. Another benefit of prefabs is the fact that they are cheap to build, the cost is agreed in advance for the total build of your home and excludes those age-old building trade excuses about overrunning and needing additional funds. Prefab homes are quick to erect; generally a 5- bedroom luxury villa will take around five months from start to finish.

Usually the prefabricator will expect you to arrange for someone to dig out the foundations and construct the concrete pad, which the house sits on. You may also be required to find transport to bring the finished product from the factory to your site, electricians to wire the house and decorators to paint the interior, but all of this will be made crystal clear at the contract stage and often the contractor can help you to find these people.

If you’re now convinced that prefabrication is the way forward for your Bulgarian dream house, the inevitable question is “What happens next?” A trawl of the internet will reveal a wealth of companies who construct prefabricated homes in Bulgaria. Many are exported around the world; TrueBuild Homes in Sofia a company run by a British and Australian management team have over 30 years experience in the construction of prefabricated homes and sell not only in Bulgaria but also in Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the UK. Each website contains details and pictures of projects undertaken and many list the work which is not included in the price.

Once you have chosen your preferred contractor, you need to either select a design from their catalogue or provide plans drawn up by a qualified architect who is aware that they are designing a prefabricated home. Often the company who constructs your house will be able to advise you on an architect. Once planning has been approved by your local municipal, you need to make a contract with the construction company which outlines the design, tasks included in the price and gives a time line on the completion of the job with penalty clauses for late delivery.

With the paperwork behind you, the site needs to be cleared and concrete foundations laid. Often this is the most time-consuming part of the build. The contractor who undertakes this work should also be contracted to create a septic tank and one for the water.

It is also advisable to build the concrete pad slightly larger than the actual house; this way you will be able to incorporate a terraced area and walkway around your property.

Once the base is in place, your house will be delivered in stages directly from the manufacturer. It will arrive in sections on the back of a large truck and will be erected in stages starting with the ground floor. The framework is constructed from pretreated wood and will be well insulated with layers of polystyrene foam and Rockwool insulation. Stage payments are available with most companies with the penultimate payment due once the roof is tiled and the final payment due once the house is completed and any “snags” have been eliminated. Work on the interior begins when the roof has been finished. Interior work is generally very quick to complete and often includes the laying of floors, installation of bathrooms and hanging of doors.

Once the final touches have been added to the shell of your home, the building is ready for rendering and the addition of any wood or stone cladding which you have agreed with the construction company. The finished result is undetectable from any brick built home.

We live in a prefab…

The Smythe family from Chester opted for a prefabricated home because it was cost efficient and a speedy way of accomplishing a permanent residence on the Black Sea. “We were unimpressed with the standard of brick-built Bulgarian homes and with two young children we wanted something which would be ready in a matter of months,” explains John Smythe. “Our foundations were laid by an independent contractor in November and we moved into out luxury five- bedroom house in the following May.”