The construction industry in Canada is seeing a turn towards a relatively new and innovative methodology called modular construction. Modular homes are gaining popularity because they make sense and they save money, but modular designers face misconceptions and misunderstandings about their products.
Derek Hiebert, Sales Director for Canadian modular building leaders Grandeur Housing, based in Winkler, Manitoba, wants to clear up the confusion and help educate the public on the superior aspects of a modular home to its traditionally built counterpart.
For those unfamiliar, a modular home is one that is factory-built. The homes are built in the controlled environment of the manufacturer, usually in an assembly line system, and are then taken to the site where the building will be erected. Grandeur Housing manufactures a wide variety of projects which can meet the requirements of families, businesses and cities.
“We sell products through a dealer network which sells different components of our product line,” says Hiebert. “We build single-section manufactured homes and we build multi section buildings where there will be multiple pieces of modular homes. We also do much larger projects with commercial industrial sectors as well which could comprise of individual units as well as multiples from 10, 12, 20 type pieces that get put together in a similar style to what a Lego-type configuration might be.”
“The backbone of our business is our residential sector,” explains Hiebert, “and the industrial commercial is an area we have been growing in. That is the biggest growth area in the past few years.”
Every day, more Canadians are moving into Grandeur homes. “In Manitoba, we would probably have 50 or 60 homes probably within this past year, but we also ship homes from Ontario through to the western side of Alberta,” says Hiebert.
Many people erroneously equate modular homes with mobile or manufactured homes. These people may presume a modular home is a standardised, one-size-fits-all box, but, in fact, Grandeur Housings offer customization options to their clients every step of the way, and can be built to any specification and size.
“What sets us apart is our attention to customer service and the customization of our homes. We do offer a lot of customer input. Everyone is a little different, so I can’t say put this nail in this spot every time. We also pay a lot of attention to the quality and care taken through this process. We have various quality control inspection points engaged there to ensure the customer gets a well-built and well-finished product in the end,” beams Hiebert.
This mode of working is good all around for Grandeur. Doing the assembly line process creates specialized employees that are very good at what they do and they do it over and over. “And that is what gains us efficiency and the expertise in different areas of construction,” Hiebert says.
Controlling the cost
Building Grandeur homes in a factory allows for a controlled environment which would be impossible out of doors where the elements, the threat of vandalism and theft are virtually negated.
“The advantage to our construction method, to building indoors, is we are not susceptible to any weather conditions; we continue to build our homes without being effected by wind, rain, snow. By being inside, we can of course make much better use of material,” says Hiebert. “We significantly reduce the waste factor that comes into other forms of construction. We can make use of the different cut offs and other components of the operations. So there is a different type of environmental impact there as well,” he continues.
Many people might be surprised to know that modular buildings are intrinsically quite strong. They are typically built with over 20 per cent more materials than traditionally built homes to withstand the transport. “Building indoors and shipping means we have to put and design things in such a way that it is even stronger than if it were just building on site. We use more lumber in some cases and we also use more adhesives that add to that structural integrity of that unit. You are getting a much stronger box when you buy a modular home because of the care we take for transporting things down the road that you’re not going to have things falling apart,” describes Hiebert.
“People are very often surprised by what we do,” says Hiebert, explaining that this type of construction can work very successfully in different larger construction areas that haven’t typically been looked at as a viable option for what Grandeur does. “That is one of my big goals, to get into areas that have not been seen as viable arenas,” he says.
You cannot distinguish a modular home from a traditionally built home once it’s been built. Today’s building technology has allowed modular manufacturers to build almost any style of house, office or building. In many parts of the worlds, modular producers are called upon to build banks, schools, hotels, condominiums, and apartments.
Hiebert would like to see Grandeur expand into these markets. “Truly, modular makes sense for large apartment complexes and take that concept and applying it to larger projects. It’s something that’s done in other countries, like Japan, for example. Our business is one that has not been used as effectively, in our opinion, in various types of construction projects, especially in Canada. In other countries, this type of methodology is used quite successfully for much larger projects that we are just starting to get into conversation about. We would like to see this methodology become more commonplace in the general construction industry. We are working very hard at educating people and having them through our facility that can get the information out.”
As Grandeur Housing grows the Canadian construction landscape, it becomes more and more important for the employees to give back. Of his team, Hiebert says “We definitely are concerned and want to do work within our community. We have partnered with Big Brother/Big Sister, as well as a few other organizations doing playhouse construction (these very elaborate little play homes for children). Grandeur makes these houses and then has them raffled off, with the money going back into these organizations. “It has been very successful from our point of view. Our whole staff gets involved in these things, and we jump into it and end up raising an awful lot of money for these organizations. So that is one area we get very involved with,” Hiebert continues.
Grandeur is also quick to give employees opportunities to serve in different companies or disaster areas and have many employees who of their own fruition go to help, and the company is very supportive of that.
“We have also done different projects like offering for a camp for kids where we product that they can use for their cabins,” says Hiebert. “We want to stay active within our community while recognizing the fact that we serve product through our dealers and we try to support our dealers as well.”
Being on the leading edge of an emerging new product is an exciting place to be, and Grandeur Housing wouldn’t have it any other way. As they continue to grow and support the national community, Grandeur Housing is a true example of a Canadian success story.