California, Here They Come

Producer of zero-net energy, steel-framed homes expands to Bay Area from Canada
California Here They Come
BONE Structure has been building scores of steel-framed, zero-net energy houses in Canada for a decade—and the company recently has opened up in the Bay Area. Pictured here is one of their modern projects (#12-275).
California Here They Come
Under construction with steel framing.
California Here They Come
Charles Bovet, BONE Structure's V.P. of business development.
California Here They Come
Very modern BONE Structure model C007-4.

Although Joe Eichler was New York City born and bred, to achieve his vision of modernism for the masses, he moved west to Northern California and built his considerable enterprise.

And although BONE Structure has been building scores of steel-framed, zero-net energy (ZNE) houses in Canada for a decade, the innovative company may also have found its new home away from home in the Bay Area.

"It made so much sense with everything I was seeing here," said Charles Bovet, vice president of business development for BONE Structure, which opened its first U.S. office this month at 2nd and Mission streets in San Francisco. "With California everyone is, especially in the Bay Area, more forward-thinking."

A public informational session about the company is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday June 1 at the University Club of Palo Alto.

Bovet himself moved to California as a Stanford student earning his Masters in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction. A few years before, in 2005, his father Marc A. Bovet had founded BONE Structure in Laval, Quebec after a frustrating construction experience.

"We thought the way the human body is constructed is pretty incredible. Everyone has 206 bones," Charles said of the company name, which is not an acronym (despite capitalization). "We wanted to detach ourselves from 'pre-fab.'"

The homes are assembled using a single type of self-tapping screw to bond laser-cut steel components, not dissimilar, said Bovet, from the classic Erector Set toys. The company offers training in their construction methods for builders.

Its capacity to be ZNE is due to three aspects: pre-cut, polystyrene wall panels; pre-cut plywood roofing with foam insulation; and foam roofing topped by a layer of polyurethane. Add some solar panels up top, and the house can actually be a net-energy producer.

"We've done more than 200 homes, all of them completely different, but the parts are the same," said Bovet. "And then you can dress it up however you want."

Including, of course, aspects of modern design.