In architecture and construction, the manufacture of large elements, such as walls, floors, and roofs, or even entire buildings, for assembly at the site. Prefabrication is widely used for constructing housing and other buildings, either to meet tight construction deadlines or, as in the UK during the reconstruction following World War II and the housing boom of the 1960s, when there is large-scale demand for buildings but labor supply is limited.
Modern prefabrication began when the Industrial Revolution brought about large-scale production of iron. From 1750, iron framing was developed for factories, as in the flax-spinning mill at Ditherington near Shrewsbury, built 1796.
Joseph Paxton’s “Crystal Palace” 1851 was entirely prefabricated from cast-iron and glass to meet a nine-month construction decline. This style was further developed by Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes in the 1960s. During the 1930s, Jean Prouvé (1901–1984) developed a system of wall components for lightweight housing and further developed the “curtain wall” as well as other components for prefabricated construction.
Prefabrication really came into its own from 1945, when there was a shortage of labor to carry out the massive building programs being undertaken in the wake of World War II. In the UK, entire houses and other buildings were fully made up at the factory and then delivered and assembled on site.