Plugging into a new housing concept

Family dynamics in Canada are fast becoming more diverse, but the housing industry has been slow to adapt to them. It used to be that families remained in one house for decades or even generations. Today, according to the Vanier Institute of the Family, each Canadian on average owns five houses over a lifetime, upsizing and downsizing as children are born, age, and eventually move out of the nest. Often, families renovate rather than move, which can be an expensive and disruptive process.

This is making the traditional notion of the family home obsolete. Families today need innovative housing models that can quickly and easily adapt to their changing needs. One possible solution is a housing model that can expand or contract as a family evolves. But adapting house models requires adapting everything in them — so this research project examined “plug-in” electrical circuits that can be snapped in and out as needed.

It was visionary Okanagan developer Andrew Gaucher, president of the Okanagan chapter of the Urban Development Institute and of Catalyst Land Development and its parent company, G Group, who approached Okanagan College in 2016, asking for research assistance to explore his idea.

Gaucher teamed up with a 17-year-old carpentry student, an electrical apprenticeship student and an electrical trades instructor, who is an emerging researcher, to explore the possibility of developing a revolutionary concept for housing units. Gaucher wanted help to realize his vision of living-space modules that could be joined and separated again.

“To bring this idea of modularity to reality we need to think about making it easy for families to add another module to their home or take it away as things change,” says Gaucher. “Safe, reliable, dependable and easy connections are vital. And while you’d think there were already-developed systems that meet that criteria, I wasn’t able to come up with any. The idea is to move away from hardwiring all connections to the grid.”

Investigation let Okanagan College researcher to recommend a plug-in system for electrical wiring that’s already commonplace in heavy industry. This system was chosen because it was weather resistant, complied with the Canadian Electrical Code and homeowners can operate it safely and simply, even when the electricity is connected. Now, with the electrical problems addressed, Mr. Gaucher is tackling other construction and infrastructure issues for his adaptable housing.

“I really appreciate and value the support of the College, Luke, and Noah, and the federal government,” Gaucher said. “The opportunity to innovate and create or refine different approaches to housing needs is clearly here and it’s tremendous to have this kind of resource at our fingertips in the Okanagan.”

Partner(s): The G Group
Funded by: Applied Research and Development (ARD) Grant, College and Community Innovation Program, The G Group

About Okanagan College

Situated in one of Canada’s most picturesque and dynamic regions, Okanagan College offers more than 130 different programs, and credentials that range from certificates to... Learn more