Rohe Homes, a Vancouver start-up, displayed their first model in Sechelt. Rohe Homes is a company that produces foldable prefabricated housing.
Where do you unfurl it: at home? That phrase recently came true for one Sunshine Coast tenant when a Vancouver-based start-up business completed the first construction of a foldable pre-fabricated home in Sechelt.
The Lotus Mini, as its designers prefer to refer to it, is a Rohe Homes home that is 430 square feet (and may be expanded up to 530 square feet) with one bedroom and one bathroom. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom Lotus Rancher that is being built next door in a West Porpoise Bay neighborhood is a possibility. The company eventually wants to provide 10 by 10 spaces to increase units.
In late July, as the renter was settling in and the property owners were waiting for the construction of a second model, Coast Reporter was given a tour by Rohan Kulkarni, the CEO and designer of Rohe Homes, and Salik Khan, the head of customer experience.
According to Khan, it can be set up within a week of delivery and is a “rapidly deployable home.” “We’re attempting to concentrate on increasing the number of ancillary dwelling units and housing stock in smaller areas. Therefore, areas like the Sunshine Coast [Regional District], Gibsons, and the District of Sechelt are looking at housing choices, and we can see that thanks to the new bylaw change, there is now a chance for people to lay down roots. We want to build accessible homes that can be installed in people’s backyards.
Sechelt’s Bylaw 580 is the one that the District is now examining. According to a recent staff analysis, the bylaw allows for the possibility of more than 1,300 new “infill” homes, some of which result from expanded regulations on auxiliary dwelling units, or “laneway homes,” in most residential zones. According to Michaela Sugars, administrative assistant of Sechelt’s planning and development department, those auxiliary dwellings would need to adhere to a maximum size requirement of 120 square meters, with height and setback regulations according to each zone.
The building code, which establishes a special certification need for these kinds of pre-fab dwellings, is not updated by the new zoning bylaw, she continued.
The unit was also toured by members of the Sechelt and District Chamber of Commerce, the Sunshine Coast Regional Economic Development Organization (SCREDO), and Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers in July.
Rohe Homes began operations in 2017 and went into business in 2019. The company is now concentrating on properties that already have a sewage connection and other existing amenities. For a concrete base, “we just drop our product down, unfold it, and then it just fills the perimeter,” according to Khan. Each unit costs $200,000 for the Mini and $350,000 for the Rancher, which includes the building’s framework, interior fittings, and on-site assembly.
However, Rohe Homes anticipates that because of the building’s basic design, the normal building permit review can be completed more quickly. The apartments met the B.C. Building Code and were certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), so they don’t need to be inspected.
What makes it unique from other pre-fabricated modules, then? The product, according to Khan, is nearly done when it arrives, and thanks to its foldable size of 11 feet wide by 20 feet long, it can be transported on BC Ferries with little effort. Once the unit is unfolded, the mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems are already there and connected. The appliances are incorporated after that. The structure requires less energy to cool or heat thanks to the white roof’s ability to reflect the sun’s beams. The air in the watertight, airtight chamber is cleaned with the aid of an energy recovery ventilator. There are no stairs needed in the design. The major home’s façade and character can be replicated in the facades, and the interior can be altered as well.