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  • Writer's pictureJustine Rowbotham-Belot

A Modular Approach

Creating a building using a modular approach as an alternative to traditional materials and methods has been increasing in recent years as construction costs rise. It offers a simplicity in expression and efficiency in construction that warrants consideration.

Modules are constructed entirely indoors in a controlled environment to be later assembled on site. They can be assembled in small numbers to create a single-family home or stacked using many modules to form a multi-family residential building.

As created for single-family homes, they are often indistinguishable from traditionally constructed homes – meaning – if you drive through a given neighbourhood, you may not be able to tell those of modular construction from those built using traditional materials and methods.

Making them more attractive, modular homes can be built in a matter of weeks depending on the scale of the project, making them more desirable than traditional homes when length of construction time is a determinate factor.

Consider these simple facts about modular homes:

  • Modular homes are appraised for the same values as their traditional counterparts and are appreciated in-value just like any other home.

  • Home loans and property taxes work the same way for modular homes as they do for traditional homes.

  • Modular homes can be fully customized; they vary from one another in appearance, size, and design.

  • Modular homes can have a variety of features to make them more accessible or more environmentally friendly.

  • Yes, you can still have a basement or crawl spaces with a modular home!

The Toronto Container House is a new modular home created on a 12-foot lot and finished with a full basement and master bedroom on the top floor with a steel framed balcony, sandwiched in the middle with a full kitchen, living room and bathrooms. This innovative project re-purposes shipping containers used as modules to create the form of the house. Shipping containers are adaptable to modular construction because of their size and structural stability.

Toronto is also considering how adopting a modular approach may help be to ease the housing shortage throughout many neighbourhoods. Advocates say many proposed traditionally constructed housing projects are slow to launch or do not get off the ground due to complex rules and length of the approval processes. In addition, they can suffer from weather delays experienced during construction. An innovative approach, using modular building and prefabricated construction could solve those problems partly by being faster and cheaper — delivering a building like "a house of cards" where the pieces come from the factory ready for assembly on site.

Communities are seeing more modular mid-rise residential buildings aiding the housing shortage in Canada. This type of construction is quick, affordable, and pushes the expectation on sustainability. Contractors can also assemble the building quickly, making less disturbance to the community then traditionally built homes. The materials used to build modular homes are the same materials used on traditional construction, so the building is still just as aesthetically pleasing as the rest of the neighbourhood. This type of construction is being utilized in the northern parts of Canada where materials and labour are often expensive and hard to come by, making the building a beneficial contribution to the community because of its speed and minimal resources required on-site.

Currently in Canada there are multiple modular hotels and motels. This enables fast and easy assembly because each suite has already been individually prefabricated and constructed, in some cases the furniture is already in place. Once again, the modules are shipped and quickly assembled directly on site. The quickest turnaround time for construction can be as little as 4 weeks and consist of 40 separate modules.

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