Could Prefab Be The Future Of Residential Home Development?

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These days, builders are constantly raising the bar on green development. According to a Canada Green Building Trends Report conducted by Canada Green Building Council, 56% of the Canadian respondents reported that over 30% of the projects they build are green – and that number is constantly increasing. By 2017, it’s expected to be closer to 60%, which is exciting. Aside from the obvious health benefits of greener building, there are also other incentives such as lower operating costs and overall more efficient building.

In China, developer Xian Min Zhang is taking green/efficient building to the next level. A video made its rounds on social media this week showing his latest project: a 57-storey skyscraper completed in just 19 days. The building has 19 10-meter-high atriums, 800 apartments, and office space for 4,000 people. How was this possible? The building was completed using prefabricated materials, which during the construction phase were attached together. Think of it as a large-scale Lego project.

This method, according to Xian Min Zhang, reduced the use of concrete by 15,000 trucks, which eliminated the release of dust into the air. With the high levels of air pollution in China, this is a big deal. He also claims that all of the air inside the building is 99.9% pure thanks to the tight construction and built-in air conditioning system. The building has quadruple-pane glass and will reportedly save 12,000 tons of CO2 emission annually.

Could this technique be the future of development? Could this technique be applied more widely to residential housing here in Canada? Well, it’s already a movement that is slowly becoming more popular. In fact, in 2012 factory-built units accounted for 11% of all new single-family homes; however, much of the resistance to the growth in this movement is routed in stigma. Much of the criticism centers on the actual quality and structural integrity of the construction. That is changing though. For example, Landmark Homes and Summerhill Homes in Edmonton are now erecting all of their houses using prefab technique – and they’ve collectively built approximately 300 prefab homes thus far. Another builder who has applied this methodology for over a decade is Mattamy Homes, who built 200 of their 300 homes in Hawthorne Village inside of a factory located in Milton.

Whether prefab will grow in prominence remains to be seen. There are many benefits, and potential drawbacks, that need to be fully considered. One thing is for sure though: Xian Min Zhang’s latest project is extremely impressive.

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