25/06/2008 - 22:00

New modular player

25/06/2008 - 22:00

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The market for modular housing in Western Australia has boomed in recent years, and while a handful of names dominate the industry, smaller players are finding a niche.

The market for modular housing in Western Australia has boomed in recent years, and while a handful of names dominate the industry, smaller players are finding a niche.

Cottesloe-based property developer Charlie Ball is among these, having secured the Australian licence for a high-end, prefabricated modular housing product from New Zealand.

Called Bachkit, the product is made from pine, steel and aluminium clad, with a minimalist, high-spec design.

Trading as Bachkit Australia, the company will be a joint venture between Mr Ball and West Perth-based architect Michael Lyons, with a building company also set to take equity in the business.

Mr Ball - who previously operated frozen noodle export company, Ball Noodles - said he wanted to create a one-stop, turnkey solution for clients, with in-house design and building services.

While the product has catered mainly to the weekender and holiday home market in New Zealand, Mr Ball said he expected the mining industry to be a major customer locally.

"Mining companies are starting to look for alternatives to dongas. Cost is always going to be an issue, but we've actually come up with a low-cost version, which is cyclone-proof as well," he said.

Bachkit is already in discussions with two mining companies, one of which is seeking a contract to build accommodation for its senior fly-in, fly-out staff.

In addition to the mining sector, Mr Ball said the company had identified three main potential customer groups - property developers, home owners wanting to build extensions (like granny flats), and tourism businesses, such as bed and breakfast operators and caravan parks.

He said the product would also suit some first homebuyers, and people wanting to build a second home.

"This is really the alternative to taking an architect down south to design a holiday home," Mr Ball said.

While Bachkit Australia will sell just the one product to begin with - consisting of a two bedroom, one bathroom house plus add-on modules - its aim is to offer other products later on.

"We want to put together our own modular system and we're setting up a budget for a research and development team," Mr Ball told WA Business News.

Although staff shortages have been an issue for other modular housing companies in WA, Bachkit will be able to access staff from the New Zealand head office, particularly carpenters, which Mr Ball said would give the company an advantage.

"It's difficult to get builders in remote areas, but we will guarantee a build in 10 weeks [from receipt of approval to completion]," he said.

The company is in the process of planning a show home, to be built outside Perth, which will use wind and solar power rather than a connection to the power grid.

Pricing of the product is yet to be finalised, although individual add-on modules will be sold for less than $100,000.

Bachkit International, which is headquartered in New Zealand, has also established an office in France.

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