Marc A. Bovet, who founded BONE Structure 10 years ago, is poised to expand the Laval, Que.-based company and its innovative construction methods across the globe.
“We’ve taken the time to nurture and develop this technology and patent it in 42 countries, and now we’re in nine of the 10 provinces and waiting for someone in P.E.I. to raise their hand,” said Bovet.
“We’re assembling buildings right now across the country, from houses to townhouses to office buildings up to four floors and condominiums.”
BONE Structure is putting up four buildings in California, looking at American projects in Texas, Washington and Oregon, and is in negotiations with people in 19 countries to license its technology, which was inspired by a combination of LEGO and Meccano toy building sets and involves pieces of lightweight, recycled steel snapping together to form a frame.
Custom steel-frame construction
There’s no wood framing, intermediate beams or load-bearing walls, and electrical, plumbing, heating and ventilation systems can be easily connected via pre-cut openings within the structure.
Each tailor-made building has a specific number of screws and parts, which takes the guesswork out of ordering and eliminates waste and unexpected budget increases.
“All of our parts fit precisely together,” said Bovet. “There’s no cutting, piercing, welding, waste or garbage containers, while other steel systems will still have some waste on the job site.”
Bovet was talking on the site of BONE Structure’s latest home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. on Aug. 6, the first day of a four-day open house that the company president said had already attracted 500 viewers, including potential customers, builders, architects, engineers, interior designers, tradespeople and just the merely curious.
“This is a 6,000-square-foot home where the structure and all of the insulation was put up in 10 days by gentlemen with battery pack drills and that’s it,” said Bovet. “Everything looks so simple, but there is a lot of complexity behind it in terms of engineering, thinking and technology.”
The company name is analogous to the human body, which includes 206 internal bones. Bovet says BONE Structure houses are fully customizable in terms of size, exteriors and finish, and can also be built to net zero energy and passive housing standards.
90 per cent savings in heating and cooling costs
Bovet claims clients can already save up to 90 per cent in heating and cooling costs with a BONE Structure home through its airtight, energy-efficient shell that uses rigid polystyrene-insulated wall panels and structural insulated panels for roof insulation.
The thermal resistance of the BONE Structure insulation provides an R-28.5 rating for walls and R-56 for the roof.
Bovet said the air quality is higher in BONE Structure houses because there’s no risk of mould and the durable steel frames are designed to resist the worst climatic conditions anywhere and are made to last for more than 100 years.
BONE Structure uses 3D modeling for what Bovet calls the company’s “engineered mass customization” process that differs from modular or prefabricated building systems.
“We’re enabling local builders to do good and do it right the first time because of the methodology, the materials we’re using, the way they’re pre-cut and the way things are assembled,” said Bovet.
“We’re at version 10 of our system and are making it more affordable, faster and better.”
Prices on par with traditional construction
BONE Structure houses — generally including siding, roofing membrane, doors and windows, electric heating and air exchange system, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, countertops and flooring — have a starting price of about $225 per square foot, which Bovet estimates is about the same as for traditional construction.
A crew of five approved builders can complete 500 to 1,000 square feet of a structure per day and add efficiency to the project down the line.
“Everything is so straight on the inside and outside that when the time comes to do the floor coverings or drywall or outside masonry, things are sped up by 30 per cent because you don’t have to redo things,” said Bovet.
BONE Structure expanded beyond Quebec 28 months ago, and now 80 per cent of its projects are outside of the province.
More than 250 buildings have been assembled and production is doubling annually, while the company’s full-time employees — including engineers, architects and industrial designers — have doubled to 63 since last year. Bovet said 575 builders have applied to be part of the process over the past few months, but only 10 per cent will be authorized after going through a due diligence process.
BONE Structure has also moved into commercial construction and built Baton Rouge and McDonald’s restaurants as well as a car wash that was recently built for the Couche-Tard convenience store chain in two days.
“We have not done one cold call yet,” said Bovet. “These companies have come to us.
“We love it that we don’t have to pitch to them and they obviously see some positives in the speed of erection that allows them to open businesses faster.”