Affordable modular homes coming to Bowen

New Islander offers insights into housing solutions

Since relocating to Bowen Island from the UK just over a year ago, Jae Mather has worked hard on figuring out how make his decade-old business working on “sustainability in all its guises” work in a new landscape. He says he quickly realized that affordability was the critical issue in the lower mainland and started working on finding a way to solve it while keeping his environmental consciousness a top priority. His solution comes in the form of shipping containers that are efficient, cozy and affordable.

“In Vancouver land prices are absolutely crazy,” says Mather. “One of the few ways of making an impact on that is to make the price of building cheaper. To do that, you need to speed things up and pre-fabrication is the answer.”

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Mather compares building a house to building a car.

“You don’t walk in to an auto mechanic and ask them to design a car, source the pieces and put them all together for you. You just buy a car,” says Mather. “Building a house should be the same. When manufacturing a home in a factory as much as 95 percent less waste is created than in building one from scratch, and the time of constructing the house on site is cut by as much as 90 percent; typically to just over a week.”

Prior to moving back to Canada, Mather was involved with the regional planning and sustainability for one of the largest prefabricated housing projects in the world.

“This project was to house students in Amsterdam, and thousands of buildings went up in just over a year,” says Mather. “The price point and the speed were incredibly good, but when the students moved in some complained they felt like they were living in a factory.”

He says that when he started researching pre-fab housing here, he found that most manufacturers made their homes with this industrial mindset. Others were as expensive or more expensive than traditional construction.

Then Mather found the Edmonton-based company Honomobo. They build their houses out of shipping containers that are used just once to import high-end goods from Asia. After a single use, they are typically dismantled for scrap.

“I was impressed by the attention to detail. They managed to incorporate high levels of quality modern design along with cost effectiveness,” says Mather. “Many people are now coming to the conclusion that their homes don’t need to be as large as they used to be and that with a fully installed 1216 sqft, 3 bed Honomobo home (H04+), typically costing around $225k, the affordability of building your own home begins to look quite different”.

Mather also likes to highlight the environmental features in Honomobo homes.

“They are highly airtight, and there’s an option for an insulation upgrade that will bring the home up to nearly passive house standards. This means that your house will be in the top tier for efficiency in heating,” he says.

All of the homes come with air source heat-pumps (ASHP) that take care of the building’s heating, cooling and hot water needs. He says this method of heating is around 60 percent more efficient that electric baseboards and combined with the insulation upgrade the heat-pump will reduce the heating and cooling costs by between 75 and 85 percent.

Mather is now helping Honomobo roll out their product worldwide. He says the company is working through over 3,000 inquiries from around the world, with nearly 1,500 inquiries coming from Canada, and 8 on Bowen Island.

“With rental availability being so very low on Bowen it is becoming obvious that there is an immense need for housing that is both cost effective and quick. The recent movements within the Municipality of changing the building rules to potentially allow secondary suits by this Winter, opens up the opportunity for existing land owners to create additional income from their land, while at the same time creating rental accommodation.”

Jae is speaking further about these issues on Oct 4th at 8pm at Cates Hill Chapel.
Affordable Housing & Modular Building Conversation on Bowen Island Event Oct 4th 8-9pm at Cates Hill Chapel.

Contact him at: Jae.mather@honomobo.com

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