Inside the Box

These new-generation, made-in-Canada kit-build and pre-fab buildings make adding to your live, work, play or stay space simple.

By Charlene Rooke

Who has ever heard of a renovation that’s complete in a few weeks, minimizes waste, allows for a lot of personalization and leaves no messy building site? Click your way to a new guest cabin, office, studio, playhouse, gym or yoga room, with these close-to-home building options.

The pandemic has only accelerated the adoption of new-space solutions. “It’s been a great year of showing jurisdictions that we build a quality product, rivaling new-home quality construction rather than the glorified sheds of the past,” says Conor McGregor, business development director of Drop Structures. He notes an increase in urbanite orders, as municipalities “start to loosen rules on these types of structures.”

Always check your local zoning and building codes for what’s allowed and whether permits are required: in many areas, buildings less than 100 square feet don’t need to be permitted, but requirements vary. Make sure you read up on each company’s offering, to understand exactly when, how and in how many pieces your unit will be delivered, as industry usage of terms like pre-fabricated, modular, kit-build and other wording can differ.


WHO: A “team of carpenters, contractors, drafters, organizers and designers,” based in Parksville.
HOW: Pre-fabricated units are delivered, placed by crane and installed onto your foundation (such as metal screw piles or a concrete pad) and utilities, in a one-day installation.
RANGE: From a 97-square-foot Auxffice ($34,000) to a Model 240 complete with bathroom and kitchen (from $80,000).
TIMING: After a consultation call (paid 3D renderings, proposals and site visits are also available if needed), a typical build takes 16 to 18 weeks.
CUSTOMIZE: Options include patios, door/window placement and colour of the flooring, pine interior and siding. An upgrades menu offers more handy add-ons, from pull-down beds to space-efficient fridge and dishwasher drawers.

Hardy Drop Structures can be used for four-season and even off-grid living. Photo by Drop Structures.


WHO: A Lethbridge, Alberta-based operation building hardy, four-season structures, some ready for off-grid living.
HOW: Finished buildings are delivered on the back of a truck, craned into place and installed in a day, using your foundation and services.
RANGE: A 137-square-foot Mono Mini ($34,500) to a 481-square-foot Duo Plus ($140,000).
TIMING: From three weeks build time.
CUSTOMIZE: Upgrade to a cedar deck or siding, opt for a full-glass front or back panel and consider built-in furniture, skylight and window plus solar-power options.

Architect and master builder input makes The Backcountry Hut Company a cut above. Rendering by The Backcountry Hut Company.


WHO: A Vancouver-based group (with architect Michael Leckie as a co-founder, and including a Swiss master builder (that manufactures at Courtenay’s Cascadianwoodtech.
HOW: A “kit-of-parts” flat-pack system, built on-site with your labour or professional contractor support.
RANGE: From an 80-square-foot sauna ($44,900) to a 100-square-foot A-frame (56,495).
TIMING: Build time is two weeks and up, and the company estimates its smallest model can be built by four to five people in less than a week, with no heavy machinery.
CUSTOMIZE: Two larger units have modular configuration and expansion options up to 1,800 square feet. Finishing materials can be personally selected, and the building envelope can be customized to meet net zero or Passive House standards.

Not all domes will withstand year-round Canadian weather, but Phoenix Domes can. Photo by Wild Skies Resort.


WHO: Western Canada’s first supplier of geodesic domes (based on Phoenix Farm, Salt Spring Island, where you can see demo domes) meant to withstand Canadian snow and wind loads.
HOW: Flat-pack dome structures and covers can be picked up in Vancouver, trucked by ground or shipped to sea ports. Install them on wooden or concrete platforms.
RANGE: The style of 10-foot diameter clear domes you see on restaurant patios sells for around $3,000 and takes a few hours to install; larger “glamping” domes ($7,500 to $18,000) can take up to three days and a few people to install.
TIMING: Some designs are in stock (but sell quickly); allow 12 to 16 weeks for custom orders.
CUSTOMIZE: Add-ons include solar fans, insulation, chimney flashings, inner decorative liners and curtains, awnings, plus window and skylight options. Inspiration photos, ideas for configuring different floorplans and more are online.

Photo by Pan-Abode.


WHO: B.C.’s favourite supplier of cedar home-building kits since 1952.
HOW: Precision-cut and packaged materials (including hardware and everything you need, from floor to roof) are shipped to you for onsite assembly on your foundation.
RANGE: Seasonal-use cabins and “tiny house” building kits (from 120 square feet are around $13,000) are modern options, among many other full-size, four-season dwellings.
TIMING: After a design process that can take up to two months, allow three to five weeks for the build of your custom home package; building times vary with size.
CUSTOMIZE: Decks, insulation, skylights and many other upgrades are optional. An Idea Book and Pan-Abode’s designers and engineers can help you customize options. 

Oban Cabin, Summerwood Products


WHO: An Ontario-based supplier of outbuildings for more than 30 years.
HOW: Kits of pre-cut pieces or pre-assembled parts (like floors, walls and trusses) are shipped to you for assembly; the company can refer experienced installers in many regions.
RANGE: Includes everything from garden sheds, pool cabanas and playhouses to garages. A sleek, modern six-by-eight-foot Mini Oban ranges from $8,000 (pre-cut or pre-assembled). An eight-by-10-foot Bunkie is $10,000 and up.
TIMING: Typically six to eight weeks from sale to shipping.
CUSTOMIZE: Options range from roofing, siding, door and window styles down to hardware options. The company also makes gazebos, trellises and other add-on structures; custom orders are also possible. Three-dimensional tours and tons of resources are online.