Nothing square about these pods

Buildfirst managing Director Gary Elks with one of the pods already garnering interest.
Buildfirst managing Director Gary Elks with one of the pods already garnering interest. Geoff Potter

THINKING outside the box has created an innovative room-in-a-box concept set to revolutionise the building industry.

Alan Emblin is managing director of Buildfirst, a Queensland construction company that has developed Podfirst, a prefabricated pod which can be configured into a bathroom, kitchen, laundry, closet or small study of any size.

They weigh about 15 tonne, are made of concrete and Ritek wall panels and can also be stacked on top of each other for high-rise developments.

The pods will be built at a factory in Cooroy, next to Ritek, and would significantly reduce build times.

“For the last 30 years we have built a lot in remote areas like the Torres Straight, Kimberley and Pilbara,” Mr Emblin said.

“I've always seen an opportunity to try and reduce the dependency on skilled labour in those regions, because it is difficult to get men out there and accommodate them and productivity is difficult because it's so hot.

“It's more about trying to get that skilled labour component off the site. When the pod goes to the site, it's totally finished...tiles, plumbing everything is connected, and when we transport it to site we don't even need a foundation if the ground is a suitable load-bearing capacity.

“It immediately becomes a cyclone shelter, it's termite proof and vandal proof.

“You can have one or more pods per house and the rest of the building is built around it because the rest of the construction is straightforward.”

Mr Emblin said expressions of interest had been strong.

“We are close to signing deals for motels in mining areas and our focus is also on Darwin, where Ritek has supplied materials for the aboriginal housing project.

“We've had interest from projects in Brisbane as well as defence housing.

“They would also work well for student accommodation as you can stack the pods on top of each other.”

Mr Emblin said a succession of university professors and engineers have been inspecting the pods, which were eight years in the planning.

“This is seen as the way forward in the building industry.

“If you look at technology or motor vehicles or anything, the advances in the last 50 years have been enormous – but not in the building industry.

“My brother did his apprenticeship in the 50s, and brick veneer construction is what it was all about back then and we haven't come very far since.

“We can mass produce these pods and get all the quality aspects in there and have better productivity.”

Mr Emblin, who is also a Ritek director, said his company built a prison cell using similar pod techniques years ago. He put it on the back of a truck and parked it out the front of parliament house.

“That led to us getting the contract for the 800-man Fulham Prison at Sale,” he said.

“We've always been known for having a crack and thinking outside the box.”

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