United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) council has endorsed the effort of a company planning to build a high-tech manufactured housing plant in the Russell Township Industrial Park.

At the April 12 Committee of the Whole meeting, Prescott-Russell Community Development Corporation Executive Director John Candie requested the UCPR’s support for Nubuild’s effort to receive federal financing for its plan. At the UCPR Regular Council meeting on April 26, a resolution was adopted in support of Nubuild’s effort.

Nubuild President and CEO John Liptak said the company will pre-assemble using robotics with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. The factory will employ 650 people directly and create an estimated 5,280 support jobs. All manufacturing will be done using artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Finished housing products will be for the domestic market and exported to the United States.

Liptak said the Nubuild method is 68 per cent faster than building homes on the construction site and the factory could build 4,270 homes per year.

“It’s a factory environment that’s more or less like a super factory,” he commented.

He said they are adapting home construction methods already used in Europe for North America.

“We’re taking what’s already working in Germany and Sweden,” Liptak said.

Nubuild has hired management from Lindback, a Swedish home manufacturer, to manage the Russell plant during its first year of operation.  

Liptak said the factory will cost $300 million to build and outfit. Nubuild already has $150 million in private capital for the project but is seeking $50 million each from the Ontario government, federal government, and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board.

Liptak said Chinese industry is the biggest competition the manufactured housing business faces.

“They’ve copied the material and equipment already,” he remarked.

Nubuild hopes to eventually have nine factories across Canada, including two in the Ottawa area.

Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux, pleased with Nubuild’s choice of the industrial park, said the plant will help fulfill the need for more housing.

“The pandemic made us realize we need to bring manufacturing back to Canada,” he said.

Liptak said acquiring reliable services for the factory is a challenge, including a good source of electricity and internet.

“We need water, if we can get sewer, that’s even better,” Liptak said.  

Clarence-Rockland Mayor Mario Zanth asked how any savings from manufactured housing are passed onto consumers.

Liptak said Nubuild is interested in a production line specifically for affordable housing, particularly multi-residential units. He said partnerships with local developers are possible, or Nubuild could keep ownership of the housing and rent the units on the market.

“As soon as we bring housing to the market, the price will come down,” Liptak said.

The Nubuild plant in Russell is projected to operate at 96 per cent efficiency within three months of opening.

 “Where are you getting the wood from?” asked Casselman Mayor Geneviève Lajoie.

Liptak said the wood will be sourced from forestry operations in Indigenous communities and an estimated 17 tractor trailers per day will deliver the materials to Russell.  

Lajoie is concerned about how manufactured housing could negatively impact on local building contractors.

Liptak said there will be little impact for at least the first 12 years of production due to the need to catch up on housing construction.

“We’re 55,000 homes behind in Ottawa alone,” Liptak noted.

All Nubuild homes will be built to the federal National Building Code, rather than provincial building codes. The national code supersedes the provincial rules.

“Everything is engineered, and architect stamped,” Liptak added.

Warden Normand Riopel said if Nubuild could fill demand in Ottawa, how will it help the need for housing across the UCPR.

“What’s left for Prescott-Russell?” he asked.

Liptak said he wants to address the housing needs in all other communities.

“Where are you planning to get the workers?” asked The Nation Mayor Francis Brière, in reference to the local labour shortage.

Liptak said workers from India, Europe, Brazil will likely help meet the labour needs, but he is also hoping to employ local workers who could work in a manufacturing facility. He also hopes to develop employment partnerships with Algonquin College and Collège La Cité.

A robotic, AI assembly line for manufactured housing. From Nubuild promotional video.
Examples of housing Nubuild hopes to produce at its new Russell factory. From Nubuild website.