While many urban dwellers might entertain the notion of putting in a back-yard studio, a guest house, or revenue-generating laneway housing, who has the time or funds to make the dream a reality? Everyone knows construction jobs can spiral out of control—in terms not just of budgets, but of the months it takes to finish a project and, most of all, of stress.
But what if someone could basically bring the building to your doorstep on a flatbed truck, fully wired and plumbed and ready to plug in? All that, without it looking like a glorified trailer after it’s been installed.
Alberta-based Karoleena Homes is about to unveil its new Karo Cabin at the B.C. Home and Garden Show next Wednesday to Sunday (March 2 to 6) at the Vancouver Convention Centre, and it’s a modular, ecofriendly unit that brothers Kurt and Kris Goodjohn have spent five years developing. With sleek lines, an indoor-outdoor double-sided fireplace, and a chic stone, aluminum, and cedar exterior, it’s about as far from the trailer park as you can get.
“We had been doing very high-end custom homes modularly, and we wanted to create an affordable one—an architecturally pleasing product that doesn’t cost a ridiculous amount,” explains Kurt Goodjohn, speaking to the Straight from Calgary, where he’s putting the finishing touches on the cabin for the home show there before travelling to Vancouver.
In fact, the standard one-bedroom unit of 650 square feet runs $129,900, with appliances, plumbing, wiring, and heating included. And because it’s modular, it can be added to infinitely.
Goodjohn likes to say the cabin is “future-ready”: that means you can make it bigger or change all the layouts easily. Karoleena has partnered with DIRTT Environmental Solutions to incorporate movable walls, and because everything from the toilet to the appliances is hung from them, they can be relocated at any time.
The display cabin at the home show will cater to another use for the units: as a starter cottage, complete with deck, that can be expanded as a family grows.
“It’s for, say, the young couple that gets married, inherits their grandparents’ land, and probably can’t afford to put up a big cabin,” Goodjohn says. “They can start with a modular cabin, and as their family and income grow they can expand up to an infinite size.” The Karo Cabin also reduces the hassles of building on-site in the B.C. wilderness, he adds: “Getting equipment into remote areas is always difficult.”
Whether it’s used for a recreational property or for laneway housing, the Karo Cabin’s biggest appeal lies in its ecofriendliness. It’s not just that the modular home has a tight building envelope, energy-efficient furnace, sustainable materials, and optional solar-energy panels. The construction of modular homes is just better for the Earth, Goodjohn argues.
“It’s the process alone, building them in a factory rather than on-site,” the affable young developer explains. “We can speak firsthand to this: the amount of waste created on a [traditional construction] site is embarrassing, really. Here, there’s virtually no waste—all your workers are in T-shirts, in a climate-controlled factory.”
But is it really environment-friendly to be trucking these units, if all goes as planned, around North America? Goodjohn answers with a definite yes: “No matter what you do, you’ve got to truck stuff to the site—when you build on-site, you make 50 trips for one job, whereas this is all going to the site, and it’s all thought out in advance.”
And all those trips to the hardware store, plumbing-supply outlet, and lumberyard can cause huge holdups and headaches.
“Price is one thing, and value’s another, but there are also those intangibles of managing a construction project,” explains Goodjohn. “Say there’s a professional couple, and they’re each working 60 hours a week—they don’t have the time to oversee an on-site project.” In other words, of all the pluses of the modular home, from environmental to financial considerations, one of the biggest might just be its mental-health benefits.