Houses are now being built with an assembly line sort of efficiency akin to that of Henry Ford. Globally, governments are commonly pushing for more modular homes to be built as these efficient homes continually prove to check all the boxes on the needs list for large populations in a lower socioeconomic class. British Columbia is jumping on the bandwagon and profiting off of the provincial government’s urging to create an increased amount of social housing. With this momentum, the Canadian province is looking to improve its market share in global markets as well.

If you take a look at the modular housing manufacturing going on in China, you may find that you want to take notes. Because of the sheer number of manufacturers in this industry (more than 7 thousand), the Chinese are gaining a reputation and notoriety for producing above-the-bar quality modular homes. In fact, the government has mandated that 30% of all newly build buildings be modular by the year 2025. This all is an indicator that the modular trend is not going away, and its popularity is still on a definitive upswing.

And outside of a burgeoning global appreciation, there are fundamental reasons for the rise in modular builds. With the lack of affordable housing and the pressure of rising homelessness, modular homes stand out like a lighthouse beaconing ships in turbulent waters, fearing an almost certain demise.

The strategies employed in B.C. were inspired by Toyota and follow a legitimate assembly line formation for builds. The homes are built indoors and not out in the unpredictable, and sometimes uncooperative nature of the outdoors. The staff required does not have to be as stringent in its skill-set requirements and can employ far more female and indigenous workers.

More diminutive in size than China’s powerhouse market, the B.C. sector for prefab housing only is made up of a few more than 20 companies and didn’t really jumpstart until 2018. The really boon to business came from a commitment by the province of nearly 300 million dollars to housing homeless in 2 thousand units that were–you guessed it–modular. One modular housing manufacturer projects 2019 sales to be upward of 150 million dollars, partially due to the government’s involvement.  

The government has further reinforced the staying power of modular houses by committing another nearly 80 million dollars to stomping out homelessness with modular housing. Building costs are reduced by as much as 25 percent, according to BC Housing CEO, Shayne Ramsay. Nonprofits are also reducing costs by turning to modular buildings.

In recent times, we’ve seen a bevy of challenges affecting the efforts for cities to reduce or eliminate homelessness and deal with the shortage of affordable housing. This is due in part to the reduced number of workers in skilled trades, rising costs of supplies and  materials and the deadlines associated with the builds.

Modular housing also has numerous amounts of pros. Building can go on year-round, this is due to the indoor builds as well as the ability to store protected modular homes as inventory until they are needed.

Britco, the well-known company making a name by creating solutions for those displaced and needing lodging while working remote locations, split two years ago and left many amazed at its spawn in Penticton, Metric Modular. The newly formed company is already making 60 million dollars worth of manufactured homes annually.

North American construction is not as on-board with modular housing as Europe. In fact, 97 percent of construction remains in areas not involved with modular housing. Until it catches on, it will predominantly be used for work lodging and low-income trailer parks. It wasn’t until the oil crash in Alberta that the large manufacturer, Horizon North, revamped its strategy to move from work-type lodging and refocus on social housing in an effort to reduce layoffs.

Modular housing continues to check boxes and thrill its supporters, which include the provincial government of B.C. The sector supports the use of wood from B.C., using fir, pine and spruce, reducing the need to export elsewhere for economic profit.

The support there is adding momentum to the B.C. builders analysis of alternate markets assessing the solutions to housing employed by Vancouver. In little more than a year ago, these companies had more than 20 million dollars in pre-manufactured houses bought by non-Canadian buyers. As things continue to streamline, that number is expected to rise exponentially. One lead researcher in the industry believes the province has advantages and that, while the sector is currently small, the seemingly overnight growth has been enormous.

This same researcher sees that Canada, and particularly the B.C., are ahead of the North American market on this trend of prefabricated housing due to the vast experience in multifamily buildings. There is significant room for the growth that will inevitably be continuing on an area of the housing sector that only the vigilant seem to be aware., “Prefab homes could solve housing shortages in B.C. and abroad,” Francis Bula, May 1, 2019

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