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Faster and cheaper, a prefab home pops up in Napa

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Prefab Home Delivered

Workers prepare to lower a module of a prefabricated home into position at a job site on Dealy Lane on Wednesday morning.

Most new houses can take months, or even a year, to build. Craig Schauffel’s new home was practically done in less than a day.

Schauffel’s new abode – a prefabricated home — arrived in Napa on Wednesday via three large trucks carrying three huge “modules.”

After carefully backing up a slight hill to a waiting foundation, each section of the dwelling was then carefully lowered into place by a giant crane.

“It’s like Christmas,” said Schauffel, speaking by phone because he was out of town on a business trip. “I’m very excited. I couldn’t be more pleased with the workmanship.”

Schauffel’s home was designed by sustainable design firm LivingHomes, and built in a factory in Rialto in Southern California by a sister company called Plant Prefab.

Prefab Home Delivered

A prefabricated home, designed by LivingHomes and built by Plant Prefab, is estimated to be 30 percent less expensive than building from scratch.

While some wildfire victims are scrambling to find contractors to rebuild their homes, these companies are offering a solution that could cut the amount of time it takes to rebuild in half and at a lesser cost, said the builders.

The factory house is located on Dealy Lane near Old Sonoma Road, south of Napa. It includes 1,300 square feet, three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and was designed to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum environmental standards. In addition to the interior of the home, Schauffel, a well-known chef, plans to create a large outdoor cooking and living area. Solar energy will also be added.

Schauffel said he chose LivingHomes because the houses are designed to be very energy efficient and sustainable. The home should also cost about 30 percent less than a ground-built home, he estimated.

They’re also attractive. This new home features modern, clean lines and a sleek exterior. Numerous glass doors and windows create a space that feels open for its size. The modules in Napa came with flooring, finishes, paint and cabinetry already installed.

Prefab Home Delivered

A crane lowers a module of a prefabricated home onto its foundation on Dealy Lane on Wednesday morning. The 1,300 square-foot home was designed by LivingHomes and built by Plant Prefab in Rialto, California.

Steve Glenn, CEO of LivingHomes and Plant Prefab, said that when completely finished, this home should cost about $325,000. That does not include Schauffel’s cost to buy the one-acre parcel.

“There’s a shortage of general contractors in the area,” Glenn noted. “We help solve that” with this prefabrication building process.

It’s the first Napa County home that Plant Prefab has installed. However, Plant Prefab and LivingHomes have created a total of more than 60 housing units, said Glenn. Just recently, they installed a multi-story dorm-like unit in Berkeley.

Glenn hopes to install more of these sustainable prefab homes in Northern California. He’s already working with four Sonoma County families impacted by the October wildfires and is offering reduced pricing for others affected.

Prefab Home Delivered

A portion of a 1,300 square-foot prefabricated home is lowered into position at a home site on Dealy Lane on Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday, nearby neighbor, Kathy Mahoney, watched during the installation process.

“I’m really pleased” to hear about the ecological aspects of the home, she said. “It’s very green, and that’s just great.”

Craig Schauffel will share the prefabricated home with his mother, Lorraine Schauffel. She was on site on Wednesday to record video to share with her son.

Prefab Home Delivered

Workers move a module for a prefabricated home into position at a job site on Dealy Lane on Wednesday morning.

Lorraine Schauffel said it was “awesome” to watch the home modules arrive. The mother and son will probably move in later this summer, after the outdoor area is completed.

She admitted some downsizing would be required before she moved in. “It’s painful,” she said with a laugh. But ultimately, “It’s just stuff.”


Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.