With continued growth in urban centers, the issue of affordable housing is taking on added importance. Rising housing and rent prices are outpacing income growth, meaning millions of people who are living at or below the poverty line are struggling to find an affordable home.
In Alberta, 5,735 people have been identified as homeless in the seven cities surveyed across the province. Of those individuals, 85% can be found in the major urban centers, Calgary and Edmonton. These individuals have the most desperate need for housing, but many other groups struggle to find affordable homes as well – students, seniors, Indigenous communities and families who are simply priced out of their local market. With commitments from the federal government and several provincial and municipal governments, the need for solutions is being recognized across Canada and the conversation is beginning in Alberta.
Building affordable housing presents certain challenges. First and foremost – how do we keep up with the need? With many urban centers well behind in affordable housing supply and with an accelerating need, conventional solutions simply cannot close the gap. For every new affordable housing build that takes 12-24 months, more individuals find themselves in need. Enter modular construction as a viable alternative to those traditional methods.
What is modular construction?
Modular construction has been a tried and tested method of building for decades in Europe. While less familiar in North America, it is growing in popularity, with a larger percentage of buildings being constructed off site every year.
The innovative process involves manufacturing sections of a building off-site in a controlled facility. Those modules are then transported to their final site, craned and set on top of the foundation, and joined together to make one integrated building. Once the modules are assembled and integration is complete, the structure is virtually indistinguishable from those built by traditional methods.
Benefits of modular
The rapid response capability of modular construction is what makes it a great fit to quickly and effectively answer housing needs. With on-site work occurring at the same time as off-site manufacturing, modular construction reduces build times by up to 50 per cent, with no compromise on quality when compared to a traditional site build. That rapid access to housing is especially important for vulnerable individuals as it dramatically cuts down on the time they spend displaced. It also allows affordable housing providers to create supply in a way that outpaces the need instead of the other way around.
Modular construction has been used to great benefit in BC, where Horizon North has constructed more than 1,400 suites of modular affordable housing over dozens of projects. With that experience, we have learned how to improve our builds to provide efficiency that can be easily replicated and introduce a design flair that can integrate seamlessly with the structure’s surrounding neighbourhood, addressing a common community concern with affordable housing.
Why Horizon North?
Horizon North modular construction is ready to serve the need for affordable housing in Alberta. Our Calgary manufacturing facility is fully equipped to execute on affordable housing projects for any location in the province, leveraging our experience in other areas of the country to provide sustainable, safe, and durable solutions that will assist in tackling the crisis we face.
Over the course of more than two dozen projects, we have made continual improvements to our affordable housing offerings, including the addition of meeting rooms, full commercial kitchens, larger common areas and laundry spaces, in consultation with developers and operators. We have also improved the energy efficiency of our buildings by increasing insulation, adding LED and Energy Star certified fixtures, and implementing full building air tightness. Our work with the Rick Hansen Foundation gives us the expertise to build certified accessible homes as well.
All of these changes and improvements have made Horizon North an expert partner for affordable housing. By never satisfying ourselves with the status quo, our continuous improvement processes never end, meaning each project becomes stronger, more efficient, and better suited to our customers’ needs.
The importance of a home cannot be overstated. For many residents, affordable housing offers a new chance at life, an opportunity to be part of a community, and the foundation needed to live the life they want. Modular construction can play a key role in addressing community needs across Alberta and Canada. With the growing conversation and interest in affordable housing, we see an opportunity for the vision of every Canadian having a safe place to call home to become a reality.