Steel structure delivered on jobsite

It’s a snap: An open-concept home that can be built in four days? It’s here, but just don’t call it a prefab

National Post, March 2014

Reshaping residential construction is the mission of Marc Bovet and his innovative steel home-framing system.

“Our purpose is to revolutionize the residential construction industry, from client experience to design and technology,” says the builder and founder of BONE Structure. “A house should last and look good for a long time.”

The term “good bones” is particularly apt for Mr. Bovet’s concept. Galvanized light-gauge steel components rather than wood make up the skeletal framework of BONE Structure houses, and Mr. Bovet contends it’s a system that allows him to produce customized contemporary houses with character. “BONE Structure is not a prefab home company, rather, a different way of building residential spaces,” says Mr.Bovet, who was a consultant to transportation giant Bombardier before founding BONE Structure.

BONE Structure homes can go up faster than traditionally built ones and come in at a competitive $250 per square foot. Living spaces can be as large as 25×25 feet without the need for load-bearing walls or bulkheads. BONE Structure residences tend to have a smaller overall footprint because efficiencies naturally exist within the volume of an open 25×25 foot living space with high ceilings.

“Our houses aren’t built, they’re really assembled,” Mr. Bovet says, speaking from Laval, Qué., BONE Structure’s base. “No hammering nails; the only tools in your kit are a bag of screws and a hand drill. Our steel pieces snap together like Lego or Mecanno pieces, which inspired me to create this system.” Window and door frames and exterior siding are all assembled with tolerances within millimetres, without cutting. The BONE Structure system comes with pre-cut spaces for the building mechanicals so electricians, plumbers and ventilation and heating specialists can simply roll out and connect cables and pipes through these “highways” within the structure. Light switch boxes are hung on horizontal struts and can be moved anywhere along the strut. The exterior is made up of precut polystyrene boards and a soya-based polyurethane foam that covers it much like “icing on a chocolate cake,” Mr. Bovet says. This insulation gives the walls an R28.5 and the roof an R53 rating. From schematic design to construction, completion of a 3,000-square-foot home takes about four days. It takes a day to install 100 windows, and because of the steel’s strength, larger floor-to-ceiling windows can easily be accommodated.

With the exactness offered by such a system, one could order kitchen cabinets even before the foundation of the home was poured. The walls and floors remain straight thanks to the precision of the system at all stages from manufacturing to assembly. “This stability eliminates unpleasant surprises such as cracks appearing in walls or ceilings,” Mr. Bovet says.

From the design stage to the reference plan on site, 3D technology enables the authorized BONE Structure assembler – “not builder” – to control all details of the building project. The structure is shipped as struts and assembled on site. Because the truck is a flatbed, most areas can be accessed.

Each custom building (an array of models is available) has a specific number of screws and parts, with detailed guides for ease of construction. “BONE Structure clients know exactly what they get and how much it costs,” Mr. Bovet says. “Not only is the end result aesthetically remarkable and sustainable, but the assembly process itself is efficient, economical and environmentally friendly.” In addition, he says the assembly of a BONE Structure home produces less construction waste than most residential construction,where three or more dumpsters are usually filled with leftover debris that’s destined for landfills.

And flexibility in floorplans is built in. The structure can be adapted to the homeowner’s changing needs – or whim. “Imagine converting your house over a weekend from a two-bedroom to a four-bedroom home, with more windows,” Mr. Bovet says. Owners can add to or reconfigure the living space as they choose at any time by clicking or unclicking the components to add windows, modify exterior siding or move internal walls around. No need for architects or engineers.Finishes such as drywall, for example, have to be removed and applied anew, but that is small work compared with traditional structural renovation. There are more than 150 BONE Structure homes in Quebec and more scattered across Canada. Their first building in Ontario, sited on a 40-acre Caledon property owned by Patrick Skuce, president of Caledon Building and Design, is an 1,850-sq.-ft. BONE Structure abode he’s building for his son, Charlton, and  Charlton’s girlfriend, Aurora. An open-house viewing of Mr. Skuce’s bare-bones BONE Structure drew 2,000 home buyers, architects and builders and developers.

“The interest is amazing, everyone thinks it’s a cool technology,” Mr. Skuce says. “They like that BONE Structure homes look ultra-modern, not a single fake French château style in any of its designs. These homes are different and fit any lifestyle. Because no wood framing is used, three’s no chance for mold, mildew or rot to set in. It’s virtually maintenance free.”

We can tell you exactly how many parts and screws you’ll need before we even start BONE Structure also offers interior design services to dress up kitchens and bathrooms, with a variety of countertops, flooring and wall coverings. The home can be supplied in turnkey condition, down to “the Cheerios in the pantry.”

National Post, March 2014 | Read the article online.