An Edmonton company that builds homes for First Nations has its eye on Dryden as the site for a new manufacturing plant.

AlterNative homes makes quick-build houses from panels of magnesium oxide — a hard material that's resistant to mould and mildew, water damage and fire.

First Nations communities that have declared states of emergency due to inadequate housing are on its radar.

"There's such a demand for this," said Bernie Bird, president of the company.

"There's 85,000 homes needed across Canada for the First Nations. And this is something, I know once it does start, I believe it's gonna snowball."


Edmonton-based AlterNative Homes president Bernie Bird wants to establish a manufacturing site in Dryden because it's a good location from which to serve First Nations in Manitoba and Ontario. (Supplied)

Building a 'better home'

Bird said if all goes according to plan the company will begin construction of the Dryden manufacturing plant in the fall and open in the new year.

"Just listening to the news and other people talk that I've met in the past 3.5 years since I've started this company, there's just so much mould and unnecessary stuff that is actually going on through deliveries of other homes," Bird said.

"There's no need for it. We have the capability of building a better home and I just don't see why it hasn't come forward yet."

Up to 20 people could be employed at the plant.

Bird said the city of Dryden is behind this plan and is in the process of trying to secure grants through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund. The Dryden location is ideal, he noted, because it’s a good staging point from which to serve First Nations in both Manitoba and Ontario.

The "panel structure" homes are easy to transport and easy to put together. A 1,500 square foot home can be assembled in 2 days, he said.

The company has plans to train people from First Nations in how to put the homes together so communities can do the work themselves.

The homes cost $85 to $110 per square foot to build, which Bird says is inexpensive compared to the average home in Dryden which costs about $260 per square foot.