What is PreFab?
The term ‘PreFab’ or ‘Modular PreFab’ is thrown around the housing industry much in the same way the terms ‘Green’ and ‘Sustainable’ are used, everything is relative and as a consumer you must be the judge.
There are many building systems that are described a modular because they use standardized components to build. Fair enough, however Lego is modular but the only thing that is ‘PreFab’ or pre-fabricated is the Lego block itself, you still have to assemble them together to make something. Here at Altius we would challenge all those ‘modular’ systems that make claims about their speed and efficiency by suggesting that traditional stick framing is therefore also modular because studs, joist, rafters and plywood come in pre-cut sizes ready to construct.
There are all sorts of ‘systems’ out in the market place: kit homes, log homes, panelized homes, homes that unfold,etc… In every case the provider lauds the speed in which they can construct the shell of your new home. The problem is that once the shell is up it still takes months to finish when you, as the customer, realize that your ‘prefab’ home isn’t really prefabricated and missing most of the things you need. As a result your budget is set to dramatically increase whether you planned for it or not.
Altius PreFabs are the real thing. Our homes are as complete as they can possibly be when they leave the factory with all interior and exterior finishes done down to the cabinetry and the appliances. This provides you with a home that takes only a few days, or weeks at most, to finish on site. This saves you time and effort, provides a remarkably condensed construction schedule and provides cost certainty as every aspect of the project is tendered a quoted before the project even begins.
Why consider PreFab?
The staff at Altius are Professional Architects, Construction Managers, Accountants and Interior Designers. We have been designing and building custom contemporary homes for almost twenty years. We site build with almost every structural system available, we design kit homes for Lindal as part of their Architect’s Collaborative (http://lindal.com/LAC/) and we build prefabricated homes. We do every type of building because for each method there is a reason behind the choice.
PreFab is not a panacea, moreso it is an alternate construction method. PreFab has many key benefits which are as follows:
- the efficiency of a manufacturing process
- reduced design fees from being largely pre-designed
- factory production quality control
- reduced waste
- reduced transportation cost
- weather and seasonality is removed from the construction equation
- minimal site disturbance if done properly
- drastically reduce onsite construction schedule
- cost certainty
- stress-free building experience
You can utilize PreFab just about anywhere but that statement comes with a caution. In many cases conventional site building is better than PreFab. Where PreFab makes the most sense is on remote and rural sites where access to labour and materials is difficult and the small size of the project makes achieving an economy of scale even more difficult. Prefab is also ideal for small urban projects where speed of construction is desirable for a variety reasons.
Getting workers and materials to and from a site over a long construction period is expensive. Having a big enough site so that multiple trades can work simultaneously and having the economy of scale to effectively manage and supervise the construction is hard for residential projects in general let alone small ones. Complicating matters further are challenges such as weather and security. Years of experience doing small site projects has taught us this. In a factory setting that all changes, that is the real benefit of PreFab and that is why we do it.
Do you provide financing?
The miniHome can be considered a park model trailer or a manufactured home, depending upon where it is installed (park or private land).
Sustain Design Studio does not currently provide direct financing for the purchase of miniHomes, however mortgage financing through third party lenders for miniHomes may be available to you with as little as a 5% down payment. There are several different options for buyers but it really is specific to the circumstances of each individual (leased vs. owned land, amount of equity in current home, proposed location/use, etc.).
Mobile/Modular Homes on Leased Land
Eligible under the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation CLIP program.
- CMHC insurance is required regardless of the loan to value
- Maximum LTV 95% is permitted for fixed rate mortgages
- Variable rate financing is available to a maximum LTV of 90%
- The lease must contain certain criteria (i.e. the length of the lease must exceed the amortization on the mortgage by a period of at least 5 years, the lease must be assignable to the lender, month to month leases are available for insured mortgages only, etc.)
- Mobile home units must be: designed to be moved again from the site, not permanently affixed, constructed and installed in accordance with CSA standards, designed to be transportable and meet maximum road widths as prescribed by provincial/territorial authorities and have a one-year warranty against defects in material and workmanship
- If unit is affixed to the land (prepaid long term lease), it may be eligible for Leased Land Mortgage. CMHC insurance is required regardless of the loan-to-value.
Mobile/Modular Homes on Owned Land
- Can be submitted as a conventional (20% or more down payment), regular insured mortgage (between 5% and 19.99% down payment) or under CLIP program
- Maximum LTV 95% is permitted for fixed rate mortgages
- Variable rate financing is available to a maximum LTV of 90%
Finding a financing program that meets your unique requirements is a very important part of the process. Feel free to contact our mortgage specialist to help you determine which financing options are right for you.
Ann Pope Todd
Axiom – Assured Mortgage Services
What is the cost of shipping?
Shipping is the responsibility of the miniHome owner and the cost is not included in the price of purchase. The cost of shipping your miniHome will depend on your geographic location and the shipping company you choose. We recommend dealing with Muskoka Transport or Mackie Transport as they are very familiar with our product. In Canada, please contact:
Mackie Moving Systems
President, Muskoka Transport
705-645-4481 ext #2231
What on-site set-up is required?
The on-site set-up of your miniHome will vary depending on your level of customization and intended use of the building. In general, set-up is pretty straightforward and can be done in a single day!
Set-up requirements on your end will require you to have the following in place:
Water: municipal or park service; self service (well or lake pump); storage tank
Power: electrical plug into service; PV panels with a battery bank are available if you do not have service
Wastewater: septic; municipal service; holding tank; gravel pit.
Water hook up simply requires connecting a pvc hose to the external frost free spigot. Optimally the hose would be heat-traced by yourself or a plumber.
Power hook up simply requires plugging in your power source to a 240 volt outlet located on the exterior of the unit to feed the electrical panel.
There is also one external drain that requires hook up where full septic or grey water pits are available.
In the event that you have chosen an off-grid option, your pv panels would come mounted on the roof and pre-wired.
Our Green Roof is a pre planted panel system that comes fully installed with plant matter, a great solution for a turn key green roof option.
Homeowners must ensure suitable access for the transport vehicle to the site and adequate room to unload. The miniHome will be delivered on a tractor trailer and therefore there must have 3.9 meters of height clearance and a road or equivalent access.
Do I require a contractor?
We suggest that you contact a local contractor if you have any questions about your site requirements or set up.
Decks are not included in the cost, however deck plans are available from Sustain and a local contractor would easily be able to build a deck to suit your particular site and needs.
Also, depending on your location, we can provide you with the names of some reliable local contractors.
Does the miniHome require a foundation?
Depending on your location foundation requirements will vary. In most cases simple concrete piers can be built, the miniHome is manouvered into place and lowered onto the piers using jacks.
In Canada, miniHomes must be installed in conformance with CSA 2240.10.1-08 and the requirements of the local jurisdiction.
In the USA, miniHomes must be installed in accordance with HUD Part 3286 Manufacured Home Installation Program and any additional requirements of the state jurisdication within which it is being installed.
What are the water supply requirements?
A water supply system is not part of the miniHome, therefore a reliable water supply is required to connect the system.
This can come from a well, submersible pumps in a lake or river, a serviced connection or even an advanced rainwater harvesting and filtration system.
What are the power requirements?
An electrical source is also required. Unless you have chosen an off-grid option, customers are required to make the necessary arrangements for grid connectivity. The miniHome is equipped with a standard 240V connection.
For off-grid or alternative power sources, please speak with us to ensure the set-up process is successful.
What are the waste water requirement?
If you opt not to install a septic system or other approved wasatewater management system, or connect to a municipal wastewater treatment system (sewer), you may opt for a composting toilet. You are still required to have a grey-water filtration and recycling system as approved by your local authority. Customers are required to make the necessary arrangements for the desired system (municipal, external holding tank and pump, conventional septic, compost toilet with grey water, or external outhouse). We recommend contacting your local building department to determine the requirements in your area.
The miniHome is equipped with one external drain that will allow you to connect where full septic or grey water pits are available.
Does the miniHome meet my building code and/ or zoning requirements?
One of the special features of the miniHome is that it not only complies with applicable CSA standards, it also far exceeds the baseline standard building and energy codes for year-round dwellings (including the Ontario Building Code and the National Building Code). Check how your governing code compares.
As for Zoning due to the fact these requirements and By-laws vary from municipality it is impossible for us to guarantee that all criteria are met. Zoning is dependent on location (lot density), size (minimum size standard), use (main building versus accessory building) and permanency (requires foundation).
It is the purchaser’s responsibility to ensure compliance with local codes, by-laws and ordinances. You can find information about zoning in your area by contacting your local municipality.
What if I want to live off-grid?
The miniHome’s compact size and superior building envelope are ideally suited to off-grid living. The miniHome can be custom ordered as a fully equipped off-grid model or the standard model can easily be hooked up to off-grid systems you may wish to install on your own. Living off-grid is easy providing that the systems you have in place are well matched to your expectations. Living full-time in a miniHome during the winter months consumes far more energy than staying for a weekend in the summer, however with proper planning both are achievable.
There are five key factors to be considered in order to enjoy off-grid living:
• In what seasons are you going to be using your miniHome?
• What is the local climate where your miniHome will be located?
• Is your location and orientation good for passive solar and PV generation?
• What fuel sources are available for heating and cooking?
• Are you prepared to monitor and be involved with the operation of your miniHome?
In order to live off-grid you need to be aware that your resources are finite. Water, power and fuel supplies need to be monitored and waste needs to be controlled and dealt with. This is a very rewarding experience for some. Depending on use, off-grid systems can be relatively inexpensive or a serious investment. Whether you are living on or off-grid the miniHome’s consumption footprint is very small.
The best way to begin is to classify what kind of off-grid living you intend to pursue:
A. Spring/Summer/Fall weekend use (decommissioned for winter)
B. Spring/Sumer/Fall full-time use (decommissioned for winter)
C. Year-round weekend use
D. Year-round full time use
If off-grid living is something you wish to pursue please contact our technical staff and they can discuss what options will work best for you.
What are the advantages of a Green Roof?
Our factory installed, light weight xeriscape green roof system is pre-vegetated with a variety of hardy sedum plants. The advantages include:
- 1. Storm water management
- 2. Reduced heat island effect
- 3. Evaporative cooling
- 4. Offset natural habitat
- 5. Supplemental insulation against solar gain and loss.
Is the product under warranty?
Yes, Sustain Design Studio offers a one year limited warranty on workmanship and materials and will pass on to the purchaser, as permitted, any component manufacturers’ warranties.
What maintenance is required?
The good news is that our high-quality miniHomes are designed to be low maintenance! For example, the wood is given a light coating of water-based urethane to give an easy-to-clean, satin finish.
Each miniHome Owner Manual contains complete specifications and manufacturer’s instructions for the care (as in washing) of all of the materials and assemblies used in our units. You can always contact us directly with any specific maintenance questions you might have.
How does the miniHome perform in the winter months?
Our models are unique in that they are designed for energy efficient performance in the dead of the Canadian winter. From floor to ceiling to walls and windows, our miniHomes are built with the highest quality, winter-appropriate materials that prevent drafts and heat loss.
All plumbing, tanks and systems are contained within the insulated shell of the building. Since our miniHomes have a small volume, they warm up rapidly to a comfortable temperature, making winter living a pleasant experience. This same performance and high-quality insulation also ensure the miniHomes stay cool in the summer.
Our miniHomes are designed to incorporate an optional woodburning stove to serve as an alternate source of winter heating.
How is mould prevented?
The prevention of mould, mildew, rot and decay is one of our top priorities at Sustain Design Studio. Mould requires three conditions to grow: moisture, heat and air. When one of the three conditions is eliminated, mould cannot grow. Our miniHomes are designed to breathe and shed moisture to prevent mould and decay from taking root. Our materials work to combat the build up of unwanted moisture, such as foam insulation and rain screen cladding.
How does the ventilation system work?
Even when our first miniHome was only one-day out of the factory, it did not have any of the noxious off-gassing and poor indoor air quality that plagues most houses, vehicles, trailers, and manufactured products.
Our miniHomes are designed with an integrated passive cooling system that works by natural convective and wind-driven ventilation. Keeping building materials cool and thermal transmission low is achieved by ventilating the exterior cladding. Venting or cooling the unit at night, and closing all windows and blinds in the morning, also help the unit stay much drier and cooler during the warmer months.
Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) systems are used to introduce fresh air to the units. This ensures a steady stream of fresh air through a dedicated port that is evenly distributed throughout the home.
Also, quality materials and build ensures high indoor air quality that allows the natural, pleasant aromas of unfinished cedar and pine to emerge.
Can I add air conditioning?
While air conditioning units can be added, we suggest you try a season in a miniHome without AC. In humid climates our miniHome’s building envelope will resist reverse condensation that works to keep the interior cool and free from unwanted, excessive humidity.
Much of the battle to keep your home cool in the summer lies in smart design and excellent insulation, two elements that define our miniHomes.
Have a question that’s not on the list?
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you with an answer.