SAVMS: prefab modular housing in under 3 weeks?


November 21, 2012

Madrid-based architectural studio CSO Arquitectura teamed up with prefab construction specialists Torsan to create SAVMS (Photo: CSO Arquitectura)

Madrid-based architectural studio CSO Arquitectura teamed up with prefab construction specialists Torsan to create SAVMS (Photo: CSO Arquitectura)

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Madrid-based architectural studio CSO Arquitectura teamed up with prefab construction specialists Torsan to create SAVMS, a modular housing system designed to maximize adaptability while minimizing ecological footprint. The flexibility of the system allows customers to choose a house of their own design, while the prefabricated approach allows costs to be kept more or less fixed.

According to CSO, both design, manufacturing and construction are each remarkably speedy. Once the customer has chosen their preferred layout (selected from 10 or so standard units), and selected their preferred finishes, CSO produces the detailed drawings required for manufacture – a process that takes about a week.

The steel frame structure and paneling is manufactured and pre-assembled in the factory over three days, and finally the pieces are put together on site in the space of another week. If these times are accurate, you could conceivably be turning your key in the front door of a SAVMS home within three weeks of deciding you want one.

Pick and choose an arrangement from standard modules (Image: CSO Arquitectura)

As for the eco-design features, Arch Daily reports that the system is designed for natural cross-ventilation, can accommodate rainwater harvesting as well as both photovoltaic and thermal solar systems. SAVMS stands for Sistema Abierto de Viviendas Modulares Sostenibles, which roughly translates as Open Sustainable Modular Housing System.

CSO says that the cost of SAVMS house starts at €700/m2 (about $900/m2 or $85/ft2), and is presumably determined by choices of finish and other extras. Exterior facade finishes (which can be mixed and matched) include porcelain, corrugated galvanized steel, wood and VIROC. However, once the spec is locked, CSO claims the price is fixed.

Sources: CSO Arquitectura, Arch Daily

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James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

Its hardly surprising that people are looking at throwing up ten thousand dollar cardboard prefabs when the land costs three hundred and ninety five thousand pounds and it takes seven hundred and eighty nine weeks to get planning permission for the faux cardboard finish on the outside breeze blocks. Top tip is that there are still a few post war Nissan hut bungalows hidden around the country that have heating and decorating already built in with a garden full of plants available at half the price. And being over half a century old they probably wont float away in the next climate change rainstorm.

Of course you cant get insurance for them but you can fix anything that might go wrong with them with a bag of nails and a few packets of pollyfiller.

Jeremy Slawson

I do not see the connection between Jeremy Siawson's comment and the article (feature) itself. The feature is not about "cardboard prefabs" (the article says the external finishes can be galvanised or wooden or a combination of both; the construction appears to be steel framed; and the interior walls appear to be standard plasterboard).

If he is worried about UK building regulations, he should direct his comments to his local planning authority or his local political parties, and not to Gizmag.


For the uninformed like me:

"A Nissen hut is a prefabricated steel structure made from a half-cylindrical skin of corrugated steel design during World War I, a variant of which (the Quonset hut) was used extensively during World War II."

Freyr Gunnar

Not sure why they think 3 weeks is fast as from scratch stick built homes are regularly built that faster or faster. The fastest was in less than a day.

Nor do I understand why they must cost so much. A 1500sq' house shouldn't cost more than $40k for parts and labor. I've been doing them for far less. Just finishing a 12'x12' studio cabin for under $2k including labor.

I never new those were called Nessen huts as I've always known them as Quanset huts. They are still available under metal buildings in pop Sci and other magazines and usually in local weekly ad flyers.


I don't see how this is all that much different from the traditional "manufactured housing" (aka "mobile home"). Sized anywhere from 800 sq ft to over 2200 sq ft (double wide), also available in multi-story variants up to 4400 sq ft, reasonably priced and can be delivered and installed on-site in a couple days.

William Lanteigne

What an incredibly ugly design! I would vehemently protest if someone wanted to build one in my neighborhood and lower my property value as a result. Why do these architects think they have to come up with such far out designs? This would fit in real well in a yard full of shipping containers down by the docks, not in a neighborhood of single family homes. UGH!


This thing, might make a nice garage, but that by no means is a home.


Another modular prefab housing idea that won't go anywhere beyond having a few, if any, built.

Most people want a house that looks like, well, a house. They want houses that at least from the outside resemble some common and traditional style in their culture.

Try to go outside the local norms and there's usually resistance of some sort.

That's why the most successful prefabricated housing is the double and triple wide manufactured home. Built on a steel frame and moved to the site on temporarily installed axles. Been done like that for a long time and in the past 30 or so years finished out to look the same as a site built house.

Recently I've seen ones being moved on large flatbed trucks, with no steel frame under the house. They're carefully moved off onto a foundation much like for a site built house.

If you want to be successful in panelized prefab housing you need to make your product look like a house, not a mashup of Wright's and Eames' worst nightmares and do it for considerably less than the big chunks of manufactured homes rolling down the highways.

Gregg Eshelman

Unfortunate that all these prefab houses are designed in complete ignorance of what is required to have photovoltaic panels installed on them for minimizing installation costs and maximizing energy production. Excellent example of not being able to think outside the box - literally!


@ jerryd - think you can hit that cost per sq/ft in San Diego. Let me know and you may have some business here. Good luck.

Mark A

@jerryd and @mark A absolutely interested in Jerry's pricing too. I too live in San Diego and am interested in more details. All the best.

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