The name of their company, Constellations, evokes the Big Dipper or Cassiopeia. But it is not to sleep under the stars that François Turgeon and his five partners founded it in 2021. The young start from Lachute prefabricates designer and ecological modular houses to offer an unusual accommodation experience in the heart of nature.
By prefabricating its “ecopods” — autonomous and eco-responsible microdwellings — in its workshop, Constellations is gaining speed. “This choice makes sense in Quebec, where external conditions present major challenges for a good part of the year,” explains Gaëtan Serrigny, director of operations and co-founder.
In addition to allowing continuous activity, prefabrication makes it possible to better control the quality and efficiency of production and to reduce its ecological footprint.
“We emphasize the use of sustainable materials, improving energy efficiency and adopting clean construction technologies to minimize the environmental impact of our products. They are designed to exceed the energy efficiency requirements of the building code,” explains François Turgeon, founder of the company.
It was when he had the task of renovating the family chalet, located in the Laurentians, that he discovered a passion for architecture and surrounded himself with a team to carry out his project. “Constellations is a continuation of my creativity,” says the man who studied classical music and jazz. “This training gave me a philosophy of life: when you make a mistake, you learn to continue playing” says the former artistic director of the Sun Youth NPO.
Thanks to an investment of $200,000 in 2022, the company of eight employees has already sold nine ecopods for a total amount of $873,000.
“Our minimalist and unique homes offer an unusual experience to disconnect in nature,” describes Gaëtan Serrigny. They stand out in particular for their bold architecture based on the sacred geometry of mandalas and their integrated, multifunctional and optimized interior design.
The young company’s clients are tourist sites that offer all-season microchalet rentals, such as the Terra Perma campsites in Harrington or Saint-Véronique in Rivière-Rouge. It also targets real estate developers and individuals interested in rental investment.
“We are not yet selling permanent housing, but we are seriously considering it,” specify the two co-founders of the company which has just obtained CSA A277 certification. The latter makes it possible to properly evaluate the standards, protocols and construction processes (installation of plumbing, electricity and framing). “It’s important to establish ourselves as a serious company in prefabrication,” underlines Gaëtan Serrigny.
The company plans to expand in September from a 1,500 square foot workshop to an 18,000 square foot factory, which will allow it to meet growing demands.
Among the projects in the order book, 30 ecopods will be delivered to the “Flow Ranch” real estate project on 365 acres of land located in Montcalm. Others will join a hotel project in Val-Morin. Blocks of modular apartments will also be installed in Lachute using “exo-frame” technology, which Constellations is currently developing. This supporting structure of the building can accommodate the already prefabricated pods which fit into it, which makes it possible to create studios or apartments of different formats in a flexible and scalable manner. “Modular pods can be added quickly to increase accommodation capacity or removed as needed, which offers great flexibility,” emphasizes François Turgeon.
The young company, which won the first National Osentreprises Prize in the transformation, production and exploitation category in 2022, plans to achieve four million dollars (M$) in sales in 2023-2024, including $2.7 M in intentions purchase are already confirmed.
To support its growth, it is currently raising a round of financing of nearly $2 million with the support of public and private partners. “Our ecopods are very innovative. Behind each prototype there are many hidden engineering, architectural, validation and correction costs,” emphasizes François Turgeon. The injection of funds will also make it possible to recruit prefabrication professionals.
The self-taught entrepreneur surrounds himself with coaches to support his growth and has relied on the Esplanade Québec incubator since the start of Constellations. For François Turgeon, who defines himself as an “artist entrepreneur”, the biggest challenge now is to “move from the artisanal aspect to the manufacturing aspect”.