Did They Have Modular Homes in 1970?

In 1970, modular homes were just starting to gain popularity in the United States, even though the concept of building a house with prefabricated modules was introduced more than a hundred years earlier. Modular homes have evolved enormously since they first appeared, though the modular homes built in 1970 already shared most of the advantages of today’s modular homes.

Main things to know about the 1970s modular home:

  • Their construction process was very similar to today’s procedure.
  • They were cheaper to built
  • They often had a low public opinion

Modular and prefab homes before 1970

The concept of building a house by putting prefabricated modules together started in 1827 [1]. These first “modular” homes introduced a revolutionary idea to the construction industry: the possibility of building a house off-site and transporting it to the property per parts. However, they were far from what we know today as modular construction. At that time, the construction industry lacked the technology to build modules with structures capable of withstanding the stress of transportation. 

As a result, most prefab homes built before 1970 were delivered as kit homes, precut but disassembled, so they had to be put together by the client [2]. Prefabrication moved closer to modularity after World War II thanks to the mobile home [3]. These transportable houses were built off-site up to completion and could be easily transported as a whole. Still, while the construction process was innovative, the quality of these constructions was very low.

At the end of the 1960s, the company Dukor Modular Systems, Inc. designed a very resistant module using a light frame of structural steel. This module was very flexible and easy to combine with other modules, which allowed manufacturers to build high-quality three-dimensional modules entirely off-site [4]. This technological advance marked the beginning of the modern modular home.

About the 1970 modular home

In 1970 modular construction was pretty much beginning to grow in popularity, with a building rate of 26,000 modular homes per year in the United States. [5] These homes were quite similar to today’s modular houses: high-quality constructions, built fast, and at an affordable cost.

Fig. 1. A modular home built in 1970

The construction process

The construction process of a 1970s modular home was similar to today’s modular houses. Every module was built off-site in an industrialized environment and delivered to the building site as a three-dimensional unit ready to be assembled. However, the customization options were minimal, reducing the on-site work and accelerating the process.

Modular homes were cheaper in 1970

Building a modular home in 1970 was cheaper than building a modular home today. The rising costs of today’s modular homes are caused in great part by the number of customization manufacturers offer. In the ’70s, modular homes were predesigned constructions that could be built in a mass-produced environment up to 85%. Other elements, such as the increase in building permit costs and the addition of fees, have also impacted the cost of today’s modular homes since they represent as much as 25% of the total price [6]. 

The 1970s modular home had a bad public opinion

The 1970s marked a turning point for modular construction, though the growth of modularity wasn’t an easy path. Modular homes were highly associated with the mobile home, which didn’t help them grow in popularity because, in 1970, mobile homes were buildings of very low quality. It wasn’t until 1976 that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) started applying building regulations to these constructions [7]. 


  1. Herbert, G. The Portable Colonial Cottage Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 December 1972; 31 (4): 261–275. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/988810
  2. Harmon, M. S. Housing, Mail-Order Encyclopedia of Chicago http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/611.html
  3. History of prefab homes. Redefining Modern Construction Trinity Building Systems https://www.trinitybuildingsystems.com/education-center/history-of-prefab-homes/
  4. Nitin N. Shah (1970 October 9) Modular Housing Systems Around the world and in the U.S.A. International Symposia on Low Cost Housing Problems, Missouri University of Science and Technology https://scholarsmine.mst.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1037&context=islchp
  5. C. Huntoon Jr., M., and A. Smith, J.  (1971 June) Who’s building the modulars… and how many? House & Home https://dahp.wa.gov/sites/default/files/ModularHomes_House_Home_June1971_small.pdf
  6. Fleisher, G. (2021, April 28) Does housing need to return to the 1970’s? Modular home coach https://modularhomesource.com/does-housing-need-to-return-to-1970s/
  7. Adkins C., (2018, July 4) Manufactured Home facts everyone should know Mobile Home Living For Mobile Homeowners By Mobile Homeowners https://www.triadfs.com/news/how-manufactured-homes-differ-from-mobile-and-modular-homes

Fig. 1. Yardley, E. (2017, November 8) How to bring a 1970 Modular Home into the 21st century HGTV Canada https://www.hgtv.ca/how-to-bring-a-1970-modular-home-into-the-21-century/