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Modular homes business taking Waikato by storm

Modular homes business taking Waikato by storm

Trent Montgomery has been in the building business for well over a decade constructing site-built homes, but it’s the past 18 months that have seen phenomenal change, with rapid expansion and an innovative new focus.

Trent and his operations manager, Anthony Blackmore, now oversee TDM Modular Homes – construction-related businesses taking the Waikato by storm.

From their 5-hectare site on the outskirts of Cambridge, Trent explains that frustrations with the traditional building processes and the regulatory environment led him to investigate alternatives.

“Construction of a house on site can take a long time. Regulations and red tape, with the waiting time for consents, can be huge factors. The weather can cause delays, too.  In a way, building firms are being constrained by the boom and, when you look at it, there’s not been that much change in the way we build,” Trent said.

“Maybe I’m just impatient, but I needed to find a solution, so I looked into off-site manufacture.”

Trent and Anthony travelled overseas to investigate modular home builders, focusing on Melbourne and San Francisco. They analysed all the elements of the many examples they saw and put together what they see as the best way of working for New Zealand conditions, materials and regulations.

The construction is different to transportable homes, which are moved in fewer larger parts, and TDM’s approach doesn’t follow the model of some overseas examples where each room is a module in itself.

“We consider the transportation factor throughout the design phase, but the configuration varies between every layout and floorplan,” Anthony said.

Efficiencies come about through a degree of automation and the benefits of working mostly in a controlled environment. There is also less product wastage than in a traditional on-site build, which is not only good for the environment but also allows TDM to pass savings on to their clients.

“Nationwide concerns about house prices and the government’s initiatives around affordable homes have opened thinking about to how we construct houses,” Trent said.

“As a result, we’ve got orders from all over. There’s even one on its way to Christchurch and we’ve got one on Waiheke Island.”

The houses can be any size or as small as a single ‘pod’ of 21sqm.  The homes are built at the workshop, including all electrical and plumbing work, but designed to be moved in their separate parts and put together on the client’s site.

“Modular is a construction method, not a design philosophy. We design our plans to answer our client’s brief and our tech team factor in the construction and transport needs around that,” Trent said.

“Pretty much the only thing that gets installed on site is the carpet and carefully securing and hiding the joins. The fact that it is a turn-key solution is great for developer clients in particular.”

By the end of this year, there should be around 40 of TDM’s modular homes completed. But with growing interest from private developers, including in Wellington, that’s a conservative estimate.

Supporting businesses have also grown as a result of the interest in TDM Modular. TDM has its own independent joinery company working on the modular homes and the traditional onsite builds that Trent and his team also continue to work on, as well as outside commissions. They also do their own steel fabrication.

The two of them are both locals and have capitalised on the advantages that Cambridge has for national distribution. Another local factor in the company’s success is the support of Waipa District Council.

“Every home leaves site with a code of compliance for the receiving Council’s regulations.

“We’ve had a lot of support from the Waipa team that has helped us build efficiencies,” Trent said.

If you’d like to see how the modular house process works, TDM is holding an open day on March 2 at its Leamington workshop, at 2 Matos Segedin Drive. Visitors can take a tour any time between 10am and 2pm and refreshments are available. Covered shoes must be worn on site.

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