Canadian Housing Observer 2013 Webcast — Sustainable Housing and Communities — Industrialized Housing

Canadian Housing Observer 2013

Sustainable Housing and Communities — Industrialized Housing

(Slide 1 — Canadian Housing Observer 2013 — Sustainable Housing and Communities — Industrialized Housing )

Welcome to the CMHC webinar series on the 2013 Canadian Housing Observer. The Observer is CMHC’s flagship publication and provides a detailed annual review of housing conditions and trends in Canada. There are a total of 8 webinars in this series one for each chapter of the Observer, and one focusing on the appendix tables and the wide range of complementary data resources available online. This webinar covers Chapter 7 — Sustainable Housing and Communities with a focus on Industrialized Housing.

(Slide 2 — Chapter 7: Industrialized Housing)

Chapter 7 examines the evolution of factory-built housing in Canada including recent advances in industrialized technology. It also describes the sector’s strong focus on quality, customization, energy efficiency and affordability. In this webinar, we cover four topics from the chapter: types of factory-built housing; growth in the market; advantages of factory-built housing; and a review of industrialized sustainable housing built under CMHC’s EQuilibrium™ Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative.

(Slide 3 — Types of Factory-built Housing)

Factory-built housing has come a long way from the prefabricated homes produced during and after the Second World War. Factory-built housing today has evolved from very basic mobile homes, temporary workers’ accommodation and cottage kits, to multi-storey residential condominiums and rental projects.

The most useful and commonly used distinction in the types of factory-built housing is between manufactured homes and modular housing. A manufactured home is a complete house built on a non-removable steel chassis. Wheels are added to the chassis and the home is towed to the site where it is placed on a foundation. Modular homes are assembled on-site from factory-built modules. Each module is a building block which can be combined with other modules to make single-detached, duplex or row housing or the modules can be stacked to create multi-storey, multi-family housing.

The photograph on the left shows a manufactured home in the Albion Sun Vista community, a manufactured housing community located in Greely, Ontario. The homes are typically one - or two-bedroom designs. Once constructed, the houses arrive in two or more sections with the option of adding a garage or sunroom, or both, at an extra cost. Each house is placed on a poured concrete foundation and has a crawl space of about 1.8 m (6 ft) in height. Purchasers buy the house and usually lease the land.

The photograph on the right shows the multi-unit residential building known as The Village located in Chilliwack, British Columbia. After the 2010 Olympic Games, 72 of the temporary, modular units that housed athletes during the Games were transported from Whistler and converted into 33 housing units to provide affordable housing for vulnerable adults and youth in Chilliwack.

(Slide 4 — The Market for Factory-built Housing)

The chart shows the number of factory-built, single-detached starts for the period 2005 to 2011. The vertical axis on the left shows the number of units started and the vertical axis on the right shows factory-built starts as a percentage of total single-detached starts. In 2011, nearly 14,500 factory-built, single-detached homes were started, approximately 20% more than the previous year.

In 2005, factory-built, single-detached starts accounted for 8.1% of total single-detached starts. The green line shows the fairly continuous increase in the share to 2011, except for a slight dip in 2010. In 2011, factory-built starts accounted for 12.6% of all single-detached starts.

The chart on the right shows the distribution of factory-built, single-detached homes by destination. The largest percentage of factory-built homes was shipped to New Brunswick, followed by Nova Scotia, Alberta and Ontario. In total, approximately 73% of factory-built homes were shipped to these four provinces in 2011.

About 90% of factory-built houses are distributed through builders, developers and retailers, with the balance going directly to consumers building on their own lots.

(Slide 5 — Advantages of Factory-built Housing)

Factory-built housing offers many advantages.

Shorter on-site construction time and firmer completion dates are benefits which have been promoted extensively by the factory-built housing industry. A number of side-by-side demonstrations have shown that site time is significantly reduced when pre-built units are used.

Precision construction and quality control is enhanced with factory-built housing. Prefabrication indoors, in a controlled factory environment protected from wind and rain, prevents the warping and deformation of wood. The result is a higher quality product.

There is potential for improved energy-efficiency. With greater quality control provided in the factory, it is easier to ensure that gaps in insulation are reduced and that air-sealing is effective, making for a much tighter, more energy-efficient building envelope.

Less waste is generated and there are increased possibilities for reuse and recycling of materials. Precision measurement reduces errors and waste. Careful computer-aided design makes full use of framing and panel materials. The more secure factory environment also reduces loss resulting from theft of materials.

Factory-built housing is easy to disassemble and reconfigure. Due to the fact that modules are designed and constructed to be assembled into complete buildings on site, they are also easy to disassemble if necessary. This enables reconfiguration of the modules to meet the changing needs of the occupants or to use the modules to create a new dwelling on the same or another site.

Factory-built housing benefits from labour cost advantages and bulk buying power. Automated processes complement the labour force. This both lowers overall labour costs and helps address the problem of skilled labour shortages which can occur at the peak of the construction cycle. The learning curves associated with the adoption of innovative technologies and practices can be quickly overcome given the quality control, repetition of tasks and the scale of operations within an industrialized environment.

Many factory-built housing manufacturers have some product design and development capacity. This provides an opportunity to optimize and improve designs based on feedback from workers on the factory floor.

(Slide 6 — EQuilibrium™ Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative Projects)

Industrialized housing offers the potential for creating net zero energy housing, that is, housing that produces as much energy as it consumes annually.

Industrialized homes built under CMHC’s EQuilibrium™ Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative have achieved near net zero energy. The ÉcoTerra™ house was assembled in Eastman, Quebec from factory-built modules. One of the innovative features of the home was the development of a highly insulated, pre-manufactured wall panel system, which offered builders a product that is 38% more energy efficient than standard walls. The modules were fabricated in the factory before being delivered to the site where they were assembled using a crane. On-site assembly took about six hours. The quick construction and assembly time, contributed to ÉcoTerra™ being the first EQuilibrium™ demonstration home to be completed. The house uses passive and active solar techniques as well.

(Slide 7 — EQuilibrium™ Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative Projects)

Two other EQuilibrium™ demonstration projects also used highly insulated, airtight, pre-manufactured wall systems as part of their net zero energy solution. The Avalon Discovery 3 project, shown in the photograph on the left, is located in Red Deer Alberta. The exterior walls of the home are composed of a double layer of pre-fabricated structural insulated panels or SIPs. The SIPs are manufactured through a precise process that produces a solid wall section made of rigid foam insulation sandwiched between two layers of sheathing.

The Laebon CHESS project, also located in Red Deer is shown on the right. This house used a single layer SIP system with an insulating value of RSI-7.7 (R 44) as the base structural and insulating system. Another layer of exterior insulation was added on site.

For more information about these and other EQuilibrium™ housing projects, please download Chapter 7 of the Observer, available at or go directly to

(Slide 8 — Contact Information)

For more information on the Canadian Housing Observer or the online data tools, please visit the CMHC web site at

CMHC welcomes your comments and suggestions on how we can improve future editions. Please send them to



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