Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Factory Produced Housing

The Australis Diamond Beach Resort reminded me of my youth. No, not traveling on holiday with Estelle and my parents; rather, my 1971 thesis at the University of Toronto’s School of Architecture.

My thesis was based on factory produced modular housing, and that is how this resort is being built, literally overnight. Each cabin comprises two or three modules. Some are approximately 12 feet wide; others are 14 feet. In most instances they are placed side by side; in others they are stacked. Just like my thesis, some modules are ‘wet’ and contain the bathroom and kitchen plumbing. Others offer living space. Inside, you would never know the cabins were built off site and trucked in. With the clerestory windows and contemporary finishes, they really are quite attractive. The wider module adds to the sense of space. The add-on porches with fixed or pull-down screens add to their livability.

Since the exterior finish of the modules is very simple and inexpensive, the development ends up looking quite plain, and yes, boxy. But with a bit more effort and expense, it would be quite easy to more completely disguise the units’ factory origins.

Over the past 35 years, I have always been surprised that factory produced housing has not become more popular in Canada. It offers many advantages and is particularly suited for more remote locations, where materials are limited, and labour is expensive and hard to find. For example, it would be very appropriate for a location like Sydney Island, a beautiful small and secluded island off the coast near Victoria. This is where our dear friends John and Laura Swift have been putting off the construction of their second island home for many, many years. John, if you were to start planning now, using factory produced modules you could have a nice place finished by September, just in time for our homecoming party! Something to think about.


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