A new building technique, developed in part by a research team at the University of Alberta, is seeing homes under construction in Edmonton crop up faster than usual.
The prefabrication technique, developed through the combined efforts of a team of researchers from the University of Alberta, Landmark Homes and the Great Canadian Construction Corp., sees the frames of houses designed on a computer.
The components of the frame are built in assembly-line fashion in a factory, and the pieces are shipped to a construction site where the entire frame can be assembled in just a few hours.
Curt Beyer, owner of the Great Canadian, said it typically takes three months of construction to build the frame of a house, but the new prefab technique has cut that number down to just 22 days.
"We can build a better quality product [and] deliver it on time more efficiently so there's a cost savings for the builder that he then passes on to the customer," Beyer said. "There's a whole lot of time that we save, and you know the old adage, time is money, right?"
Mohamed Al-Hussein, who led the U of A team that developed the technique, said it cuts down on labour and is more sustainable.
"You're doing something in a day or two which was done in four or five months," Al-Hussein said. "You're not wasting any more material. You're saving also … travelling time and travelling of the material."
Not only does the prefab technique save waste and cut down on labour costs, it also allows construction to continue throughout the year without being dependent on weather, since much of the construction takes place inside.
But in order to get new techniques like this one off the ground, companies like Great Canadian have to invest a lot of money.
"Some nights I go home and wonder, 'Geez I just bought another $500,000 or $1 million crane. Is that the right decision?' But then I come out to [construction] sites … and I watch it happen and realize it was the right decision. But yes, there is a lot of money going into this process," Beyer said.
However, Beyer is confident the prefab technique will catch on.
The technology is even more useful now that the housing market is beginning to slow, he said, because it will help companies stay competitive by getting consumers into their dream homes a lot faster.
Two local home builders, Landmark Homes and Summerhill Homes, are now erecting all of their houses using prefab technique. Approximately 300 prefab homes have been built in Edmonton.