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Manufactured Housing: Building In A Building

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 31 October 2000 00:00

Most Canadians are unaware that manufactured housing has come a long way from its "trailer" days. Even those who visit Canada's home shows to learn about the latest innovations often do not fully appreciate what they are seeing when the featured building is a manufactured home. Canadian manufactured or modular homes are indistinguishable from new Canadian wood-frame houses built out in the elements.

In Canada, manufactured or modular housing are umbrella terms that describe everything from build-it-yourself log cabins to luxury homes that are factory constructed as modules and then assembled on-site.

Inside its Ontario plant, Royal Homes , one of Canada's largest modular home builders, manufactures homes of all sizes and styles, including R2000 energy-efficient houses and "smart homes" with a home management system that controls heating, entertainment, security and appliances.

Canadian factory-built modular housing is high quality housing considered by many to be superior to "stick-built" or standard on-site construction. Modular manufacturing techniques have advantages over traditional outdoor construction because they:

  • allow year-round construction
  • cut installation time drastically
  • are ideal for remote locations and rural areas
  • easily accommodate customization
  • protect the system from exposure to the weather
  • facilitate quality management and consistent workmanship
  • cut waste and environmental impacts

Manufactured housing leaves the factory, ready to be completed at the site, in a variety of stages: as pre-cut pieces to be assembled on site; as panels to be completed on arrival; or, as modules that are joined together on location. Pre-cut and panelized housing varies in quality in accordance with the proportion of do-it-yourself building that is involved to finish the house. A modular house arrives at the building site in two or more three-dimensional modules which have had plumbing, floor coverings, cabinetry, electrical systems and insulation installed in the plant.

As the entire structure is protected from the weather, work can proceed in the most efficient order instead of being driven by a need to close in the house as soon as possible. For example, dry insulation may be carefully installed from outside of the drywall, before the siding goes on, thus creating a more energy efficient house.

In Canada, the manufactured housing industry has thirty years under its belt but is still only contributing a small percentage of annual housing starts. In contrast, manufactured housing, largely in panelized and modular form, commands 90 per cent of the housing market in Sweden and a 30 per cent market share in Japan.

As more Canadians start to "think outside the box" when it comes to their homes, there will be increasing demand for low-cost, high-quality attractive housing, demand that modular housing may step forward to fill. The age of outdoor, on-site construction may gradually give way to the era of manufactured housing or "building in a building."

For more information: Canadian Manufactured Housing Institute, Ottawa - 613-563-3520

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