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Factory-built homes: The latest trends, according to Bonneville

20 February 2015 by National Bank
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Factory-built housing has come a long way. There is a world of difference between the poorly insulated mobile homes of the 1960s and the avant-garde architecture of today’s properties. For the last 54 years, Les Industries Bonneville has been refining its offering, steadily raising quality standards and pushing the envelope in terms of design.
Dany Bonneville, Co-President of this company based in Beloeil, spoke to us about the trends in his industry.

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Have consumers’ perceptions of factory-built homes changed over the last 50 years?

Dany Bonneville: Yes, a lot. Back when my father was running the company, up until the 1990s, we sold “square feet.” A factory-built home was “attractive, good and cheap.” In part that’s because this was before the technological advances of the last few years.

What kind of advances are you talking about?

D. B.: In factory-built housing, there is one constraint: since the house needs to be shipped on public roads, we are limited in the height and width of our loads. So we need to be extremely creative if we’re going to find ways to offer striking models, despite this constraint. For example, we are now building homes with 11-foot ceilings; this is unheard-of in factory-built homes.

But factory-built houses cost less nevertheless…

D. B.: Yes, it costs less to build a home in a factory than on-site, but that isn’t our focus when we’re selling a home today. Now we focus on personalized service. In our showroom we have five interior designers to help clients, guide them in their choices, take measurements, etc. Clients can touch the materials and counters and try out the bathtubs and showers for size. They are served from A to Z, all in the same location. In my father’s time, we built fifty model homes, and all the same. Today, no two homes are identical … that’s why it’s hard to run a production line.

What do consumers like about factory-built homes?

D. B.: Buyers are concerned about construction quality. Half of the new homes in Europe are factory-built. There, they’ve understood that it’s much easier to build a house indoors, sheltered from the wind, rain and cold. They also really like the style.

Tell me, how has the style of factory-built houses changed?

D. B.: In the 1980s and 1990s, the heart of a home was the dining room. We did everything in our dining rooms, and this was reflected in how homes were designed. In the 2000s, kitchen islands became the big thing. And today, the next major trend is outdoor living spaces. Buyers are no longer just looking for “square feet”; they want their home to be a place to recharge their batteries. People want to be able to relax, with a great view. In this sense, buyers are increasingly looking to connect with the out-of-doors, year-round. This is why we’ve been presenting concepts like the homes in our NATUR series, which have movable glass walls that allow a kitchen to open out onto a patio, creating one large open terrace.

The NATUR houses and those in your other more modern collections are quite surprising in terms of their architecture.

D. B.: Each year we invest over 10,000 hours in creativity so that we’ll always be coming out with really innovative models! It began 15 years ago with the Casa Poitras, a home designed by the Quebec designer, Jean-Claude Poitras. At that time, the response was rather mixed, but we kept at it anyway, because we knew that innovation is the path to the future. More recently we presented an industrial-style house, the Aeroloft, at Montréal’s HomeExpo. We already know that it won’t appeal to everyone, but we’re going to continue pushing the envelope and proposing audacious new styles because we’re a leader in our industry. And you can’t be a leader of if you’re just rehashing the same old things.

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