The Future of Prefab? Move the Whole House

A big limitation of conventional modular prefab is the limitations set by transportation- you have to get down the road and under bridges. But if you are a major builder and control the roads, you can ignore those restrictions and build the entire house inside.

That is what Mattamy Homes did in Milton, Ontario; they built a factory to supply a 1,000 unit subdivision, and have created a warm, secure working environment. "The chandeliers are hanging, the tiles are grouted, the hardwood is shined up," says Ron Cauchi, president of Mattamy's Stelumar operation.

CAD is old hat, but these houses have the CAM (computer aided manufacturing) too; A very detailed CAD plan determines where each stud and every nail in every piece of lumber goes. The machines that nail the lumber are precise to within half a millimetre.

Roofers won't break their necks falling off this: "It's significantly safer, rather than having a roofer outside, up in the air."

According to the Globe and Mail, Mr. Cauchi adds the new system is also easier on the environment.

He estimates about 25 per cent fewer trees need to be cut down for each house because the smaller pieces of wood can be gathered up from the factory floor and incorporated into the house.

Similarly, scrap drywall can be kept separate from the aluminum and other materials so each can be recycled more easily.

"It's a little trickier to do that on site."

And, when the subdivision is finished, the bolts will be removed from the factory walls and it will be trucked to another location.

"Ultimately, we recycle the plant itself," says Mr. Cauchi.

They might have purchased the old Saturn 5 delivery vehicle to move the house to the lot;


and then they just slide it into place.

Does it make sense? In boom times, with big subdivisions, if you are a responsible builder who uses legal trades and pays them above the table. I also suspect that the quality is superb. Cauchi says "A lot of what we're doing is developmental. There's a lot of R&D.;" It is a bit of a shame that such sophisticated technology is being used to mechanize such a tired paradigm, the low density suburb; imagine if they turn this loose on denser, sustainable design. ::Globe and Mail

Tags: Ontario