13/08/2008 - 22:00

Holiday, mining market growth

13/08/2008 - 22:00


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Twelve months ago, architect Jean-Mic Perrine began commercial production of his modular housing system, called the 'perrinepod'.

Holiday, mining market growth

Twelve months ago, architect Jean-Mic Perrine began commercial production of his modular housing system, called the 'perrinepod'.

Made from pre-stressed concrete, the product was targeted at people wanting to build holiday homes on rural blocks who faced long waiting periods to secure architects and builders.

While there's been interest from this cohort, a much larger market has emerged in the state's mining industry.

Mr Perrine said the sector's shift in focus, from purely utilitarian dongas to resort-style luxury accommodation, had created a huge opportunity.

"The demand from the mining sector has been a real revelation to us. We're in negotiations at the moment with three major companies, either suppliers or sub-contractors to the mining industry, for our product," he said.

"We're talking to people about 3,000 to 4,000 pods."

While the company has only manufactured about 100 groups of pods to date, Perrine has signed a memorandum of understanding for a $100 million project in Karratha, and is negotiating with several building companies to create a strategic partnership and increase its production capacity.

"It would allow us to have a large market penetration, because we have the assembly line facilities, but they would have the logistics and north-west expertise that we need," Mr Perrine said.

The company has also decided to localise its manufacturing - currently performed mostly at Naval Base, near Henderson - by placing moulds for pod shells at strategic locations along the coast, and stockpiling fittings from Europe and China up north.

This decision was partly motivated by the need to curb rising transport costs.

"We started transport costs at eight cents per kilometre for a road train capable of handling our product. Now, within a year, it's at 20 cents per kilometre," Mr Perrine said.

The company is finalising its first remote luxury accommodation project of six units, based in Carnarvon.

Mr Perrine said that, while the perrinepod was certified to Category D for cyclone resistance (able to withstand winds up to 380km/h), it was also stylish and delivered the higher level of amenity sought by mining companies.

This client-driven demand for a better quality product - which most agree is related to staff attraction and retention - has had an impact on businesses throughout the industry.

Nomad Building Solutions set up a research and development team in January this year, with a budget of $500,000, to improve energy use, materials and acoustic quality.

Managing director Phil Guy said mining clients were now looking for a resort-style design, including multi-storey units and leisure facilities, which was part of the reason for the company's acquisition of resort operator Rapley Wilkinson earlier this year.

"We're talking about spas, beach shacks, those sorts of things. They don't cost a lot to do but they enhance the environment," he said.

Another new player, Nordic Homes, has decided to branch out into the north-west market, despite its main pitch being for the holiday home market. It has designed a 'ding dongar' for a motel operator in Leonora - a series of four units, which can be lined up together.

However, the company's director, lawyer Mark Nylund, believes the business will mainly cater for landowners in the South West.

Founded last year, Nordic has built 12 high-spec, steel-and-timber transportables for hobby farm and rural landowners, with orders for another dozen on the books.

Mr Nylund said he had realised there was a niche for affordable, modular holiday homes in WA after living in Norway.

"[Over there] you can be the richest guy in town, but you don't need a gigantic Eagle Bay style holiday home. People just have cabins," he said.

"We wanted to replicate that idea, not necessarily building down to a price, but catering for people who want to take something down south or to their hobby farm without being embarrassed that they have a kit home."

So far, the company's clients have fit into three groups - hobby farm owners in areas such as Bindoon; land owners on the coast in Denmark and Margaret River wanting holiday houses; and people with blocks in Donnybrook and Manjimup.

Clients are involved in choosing the fittings and design of their home, in consultation with an architect appointed by the group.

"What we find is, people want to make a project of it," Mr Nyland said.

"It's catering for people who aren't too worried about price, but want something stylish."

The homes range from about $125,000 to $200,000 for a 75 square metre house, plus decking, and up to $400,000 for a multiple-module house.


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