What began in 2015 by Wilson Edgar in partnership with Michael Leckie of Vancouver’s Leckie Studio, and Cyrill Werlen of Cascadianwoodtech, the Backcountry Hut Company was initiated with the idea of creating turn-key structural solutions for remote locations.
They accomplish this with modular, easy-to-assemble prefabricated kits - essentially (as the company not just readily, but proudly acknowledges) an IKEA-style flat-pack product - only at a scale of a building rather than a bookshelf. It’s no easy feat in itself, but on top of that BHC is committed to high standards of sustainability with the use of FSC certified lumber, 100% recyclable components and a zero-waste philosophy. Leckie Studio garnered an Award of Merit for the project in the 2016 Canadian Architect Awards, a prize based on considerations such as response to site and context, innovation in concept, process, materials or building systems, and demonstration of exemplary environment or social awareness.
A single module is just 191 square feet but features a covered entry and sleeping loft, and can accommodate 2-4 people. For applications requiring a bit more space, modules can be chained together. Combining four would result in a building that could sleep 16-24 people, not with all that much personal space and privacy, but comfortably enough for recreational uses, satisfying the needs of outdoors clubs, alpine associations, or backcountry lodge operators.
Now, however, applications of the building kits are going beyond barebones structures in remote sites, with BHC’s introduction of the “Frontcountry Hut”. For urban locations or sites more readily reached by road, the same prefabricated shells that make up the backcountry hut can be fitted out will fully-customized interiors (including full kitchens). The adaptability of the units means they can serve as an addition to existing structures or as small stand-alone residences. They can also be incrementally modified and expanded.
The concept of prefabricated buildings is by no means a new revelation, stemming back to early days of Modernism with the Winslow Ames House by Robert W. McLaughlin that was built in 1933 and perhaps the best-known example, the Eames Case Study House built in 1945.
As well suited as prefabricated, modular building methods are for remote sites, there’s no shortage of fantastic examples in Canada. I’ve covered some in past articles on Houseporn, including one of my earliest posts here on the Molenarr Young Cabin and MAFCO House.
The BHC model stands out nonetheless for its flatpack nature, commitment to sustainability, and its adaptability to the equally challenging needs of urban infill - an concept also explored in the speculative Villa S and Villa M proposed by Jonathan Enns. Perhaps there's something of particular note in the thought that Canadian architects and designers might be able to apply expertise developed through addressing the difficulties of building in the backcountry, to develop innovative approaches for urban construction.
With the ever-escalating cost of housing, not only in Canada’s major cities but urban areas across the world, the need for more options like this is becoming increasingly urgent.
All renderings by PlusVisual
Like this post? Here's some other posts on houseporn.ca celebrating the modern modular movement:
This article was written by Miranda Corcoran, a designer and creative strategist based in Toronto who began writing for Houseporn while studying Industrial Design at OCAD University.