Building The Next Generation of Modular Affordable Housing

Blog | June 6, 2022

“Making a positive difference in people’s lives and communities through safe, affordable and quality housing.” – BC Housing’s Mission Statement

It’s amazing to think of how much we’ve accomplished with BC Housing in just five years. As an organization, BC Housing has been incredibly forward-thinking in its approach to affordable housing solutions and deserves credit for putting permanent modular construction on the Canadian map. Our relationship has grown quickly since 2017/2018 when Nomodic was named a pre-qualified supplier for BC Housing’s “Rapid Response to Homelessness” (RRH) initiative.

In 2019, we opened the doors on our first modular-constructed affordable housing collaboration, a 24-suite facility in Smithers, BC. Two more joint projects – in Terrace and Chilliwack – would also welcome residents that same year. Over the years, our collective goal has always been the same – deliver safe, dependable housing to at-risk individuals in a timely manner. As of March 31, 2021, BC Housing has subsidized nearly 19,000 shelter spaces, housing units, and rent supplements for those experiencing, or at risk of experiencing homelessness. At Nomodic, we’re proud to have contributed approximately 500 new homes/suites to date through our efforts with BC Housing (including completed projects and those in progress).

Tretheway Avenue Supportive Housing in Chilliwack, B.C. & Peterson Place Affordable Housing Complex in Surrey, B.C. Both built in partnership with BC Housing.

Nomodic’s mission statement has always been to leave things better for our communities, clients, partners, and the planet. Our philosophy is congruous with BC Housing’s commitment to improving people’s lives. We’ve seen firsthand how these projects have made a difference. By giving people a key to the first front door they’ve had in years, it gives them a sense of ownership and a sense of pride.

Our team recently witnessed the craning of our latest affordable housing collaboration with BC Housing: a six-storey complex featuring 36 modules in Victoria, BC. I have family in the city, and it’s always been a special place for me to visit. It is extremely rewarding to give back to the community and provide much-needed housing solutions for residents of the Capital Region.  

Craning of the Yates Street Supportive Housing Complex in Victoria, B.C.

The next challenge

The need for affordable housing continues to grow, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and skyrocketing housing prices all over the world. In Canada, the affordable housing crisis is affecting more people than ever before. According to a recent CBC report, Canada has been losing affordable rental units (those available to individuals making $30,000 a year or less) faster than new units are being built. Communities across the country are struggling to keep up with demand. The issue is further compounded when you factor in rising material and construction costs, the lack of available skilled trades, the rise in global conflicts, and increases in the overall population through immigration and natural growth.

As these challenges continue to mount, we are confident that offsite and modern methods of construction can continue to provide benefits in several areas when compared to traditional construction methods. These include reduced time spent onsite, greater speed to occupancy, and the ability to put at-risk individuals into a better environment faster. As affordable housing becomes a pressing issue for Canadians and programs such as the CMHC’s Rapid Housing Initiative continue to be implemented, we remain well-equipped to adapt to the growing demand and deliver projects within government-prescribed timelines.   

Building with tomorrow in mind

During our conversations with clients and partners, we often refer to “The Nomodic Advantage” as a key strategy for providing unrivalled access to a vast and innovative supply-chain network comprised of numerous fabrication options and construction technologies. This provides them with a variety of choices for their increasingly stretched budgets. Our flexible model can also mitigate and alleviate economic or weather-related supply chain issues.

One of the major ways we look to bring cost certainty to projects is by eliminating waste (from either construction materials or general inefficiencies) from the process. A great example of eliminating timeline inefficiencies has been the use of digital design processes or BIM (Building Information Modeling), which is even more beneficial in an offsite manufacturing setting than it is on a traditional onsite location.

This multi-dimensional technology allows stakeholders to build the project virtually, and identify and mitigate risks before any physical construction begins. In some instances, it gives clients the ability to test many different permutations of the design, but also factors in considerations like aesthetics, curb appeal, and general assimilation into the community. We can walk clients through those scenarios and make sure that everyone in the physical world is happy with the end result.

Our vast network has become a valuable tool in leveraging many different groups, people, communities and experiences. This is part and parcel of our role as a project integrator. By providing our clients with flexibility and innovative solutions, it helps them achieve cost and scheduling certainty.  

Sustainable solutions

The importance of sustainability in the construction sector cannot be overlooked. According to Architecture 2030, buildings generate nearly 40% of annual global CO2 emissions. By constructing more energy-efficient buildings, developers and operators can reduce their carbon footprint and decrease overall lifecycle costs.

One of the ways we ensure sustainability in all our projects, including the affordable and supporting housing complexes we build with BC Housing, is to create an airtight building envelope during the offsite construction process. Having that seal is crucial for thermal performance and ensures moisture and heat are not exchanged with the outside environment, especially in BC’s rainy and temperate climates.

One of the challenges we faced during the construction of Goodacre Place in Smithers was adhering to the province’s rigorous Energy Step Code program. These energy efficiency standards are among some of the highest in Canada, and our team was able to meet and often exceed these standards and provide valuable energy cost savings to the facility operator.

The road ahead

We are extremely grateful for our relationship with BC Housing, and the richness of knowledge and experience we have gained by working with this valuable organization. Our relationship has allowed us to evolve and apply what we have learned to future projects. From design to offsite and onsite work, open and honest communication has been the key to solving any project challenges.

Looking ahead, speed to occupancy will continue to be a priority and will likely be amplified as the widespread shortage of affordable housing deepens. We are hopeful that this partnership can continue to make a difference in people’s lives and create a positive impact in communities for years to come.

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