Round Homebuilding – Get to Know MCH Founder Lars Chose

Round homebuilding innovator, Mandala Custom Homes is a sublime combination of human psychology, nature, and a passion for beautiful design.

Making the world a better place one round home at a time.

Yes, a Mandala Custom Home (MCH) is defined by its shape – round! – but it’s also known for a beneficial holistic essence. If a home has a spirit, then an MCH home offers a spirit – an energy – rooted deeply in nature that serves fundamentally to promote a sense of peace, health and wellness.

And, by no accident. Founder Lars Close has grown a successful round homebuilding business based on his enduring mission to create beautiful dwellings that contribute as much to a healthy environment as to the wellbeing of the families that live in them.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of Mandala Custom Homes. It was September, 2000 when Lars took the leap to fully manifest the vision he experienced through his longtime meditation practice. To bring the beauty and benefits of holistic and sustainable round homebuilding, and make it more accessible, to those wanting to build a custom home.

From esteemed therapist to successful builder

With an extensive background in human psychology as well as studying under the tutelage of his father-an aeronautical engineer and builder, Lars has always had an interest in building and design – as he says, the “beauty of building.” Lars enjoyed a successful 20 year career as a family therapist.

In the mid-90s, with the mentorship of a like-minded architect, Lars began his homebuilding journey – a dream for many years. He thoughtfully and meticulously created his own custom timber frame home on 20 acres in beautiful British Columbia.

Designed with polarity in mind – high-low, warm-cool, square-round, for example – he created a home of contrasts. A happy foreshadowing of his future, he included a round accent wall that contributed significantly to the unique and restful environment in the home.

Another concept, biophilia – incorporating natural elements indoors to satisfy our innate desire and need to commune with nature – fundamentally informed Lars’ vision for home building. His love of natural beauty and creating meaningful things, was nurtured by ample time outdoors, no matter the time of year — rock climbing, hiking, ski touring, kayaking, and other activities.

Deeply passionate about nature and life all around us as the source of natural shapes and looking to our living spaces as the origin of healing and wellness, while doing his part to make the world better, Lars made the commitment to a vision- making the world a better place- one home at a time.

And so it begins… Mandala Custom Homes round homebuilding

In 2000, Lars designed and built a round home for the first recipients of a Mandala Custom Home, near Bellingham, Washington on scenic Lummi Island.

Between his own first home building experience and the accounts of many others, it was clear to Lars that the psychology of building or renovating a home and its impact on relationships could be very complicated, if not destructive. In his case, the lengthy construction of his first timber frame home ultimately led to the end of his primary relationship at that time. He’s not alone – 12 percent of couples admit that their building projects led them to consider separation or even divorce.

As he developed the vision for his custom round homebuilding business, he explored the pain points associated with building a new home – the stress and anxiety and the general lifestyle upheaval. He wanted to find a better solution.

From this inquiry, the concept of prefabrication took hold. It became the foundational principle of the MCH round homebuilding process. Lars identified that prefab home building could significantly reduce building times and help to reduce the tensions and stress associated with it. Compared to conventional building, a Mandala Custom Home package comes together very quickly — some as fast as 3 weeks!

Lars’ compelling vision began to attract people who were brilliant in their field of expertise in areas such as design, prefabrication and building science.

Lars and his innovative round homebuilding team refined the home designs, building techniques, and developed an assembly manual that supported local contractors to assemble a Mandala Home package wherever they were in North America.

The detailed assembly manual has become one of the fundamental components of the Mandala building process.

Passion to make the world better

Throughout it’s history an on-going question for Mandala Homes has been, “How can we make our homes more energy-efficient?”

As the business grew, Lars looked at the nuances — the fine tuning — of the building process. For example, MCH switched to a truss system – rather than pre-made roof panels – to offer less expensive upfront costs and more efficiency in the long run.

Lars engaged an Energuide auditor to assess all MCH plans for energy-efficiency, evaluating components such as windows, heating system, and insulation in relation to the environment it was going to be built.

In 2010 Lars worked with a Vancouver building scientist, equally passionate about sustainability and energy-efficiency. Together with his equally passionate team, they worked to create the optimum building envelope (the physical separator between the conditioned and unconditioned environment of a building including the resistance to air, water, heat, light, and noise transfer.)

His goal was to create an envelope that ensured an interior environment that would be moderate for living most comfortably. This led to the building of MCH’s, and British Columbia’s, first ENERGY STAR certified home.

One of the primary improvements was to wrap the walls in rigid insulation (xps foam or mineral wool board) to keep the dew point outside the exterior wall. By shifting the focus to creating an air tight thermal barrier to prevent air and cold/heat penetration to the inside.

To confirm its efficiency, Lars conducted a blower door test to determine the air infiltration rate (how many air exchanges per hour) on an MCH built in Alaska, resulting in an impressive .52 rating (.52 exchanges per hour). For context, the average older home can experience up to 5-6 exchanges per hour.

Lars is proud that MCH is part of what is a growing movement to facilitate better energy efficiency in home building.

“We are designing and building homes intended to last for many generations-healthy, energy efficient homes for our children’s children.” Lars Chose

Principles fundamental to Mandal Homes are also essential to Lars’ personal and family life – kindness and caring. In addition to raising four children of their own, over the years, Lars and his wife Rachel, between the two of them have fostered 20 kids. They’ve seen their values take shape and manifest in the children as they leave home and move forward in the world.

Kindness and caring also supports the MCH team —health and safety are a priority for Mandala Custom Homes. Using low VOC products that do not off-gas so there is no exposure to toxins by their employees – one of the reasons why MCH was chosen as one of the Top 5 Best Workplaces in B.C. by Small Business BC.

The MCH mission statement is to “Make Life More Wonderful Through 100% Customer Satisfaction” in every interaction or task – colleagues, client, vendor, engineer or contractor. Mandala Homes values family, generosity, creativity, communication, as well as the vital actions of respect and kindness.

As a result, the MCH staff consistently delivers impeccable performance, a fun attitude, glowing words, smiling faces, and a low turnover.

20 years of feedback from clients confirms likewise — holistic and thoughtfully designed round homes, that promote sustainability and energy-efficiency, have a positive effect on MCH homeowners and their families’ living experience.

In uncertain times, we look home

During this time of great uncertainty, between the pandemic and the impacts of recent forest fires, Lars says, “People’s lives and attention has turned more fully to home. For us, it’s meant a 40-50% increase in sales inquiries.” Consequently, the MCH production calendar is booking up for the next year.

“The value of home is forefront on people’s minds,” Lars says. “We want to feel safe and nurtured by a healthy home — a protected environment.”

Given the current state of things, it makes sense that Mandala Custom Homes appeals to a broad audience, from a Police Chief in Philadelphia to a local yoga teacher; people who appreciate nature and want to live in a round home.

Even, Lars recalls, an 80 year old widow who had dreamed of living in a round home since childhood. “I remember drawing my dream home as a child — it was round,” she said. “But, my husband never wanted one.” Now on her own, she’s finally living her lifelong dream.