Gosforth-based design group's pilot scheme takes shape

A design firm is nearing completion on a £200,000 pilot scheme which could see a new manufacturing facility built in the North East

From left, Alan Curry of Durham County Council’s Children & Adult Services, _space group associate director Keith Handy and DCC’s Regeneration & Economic Development service TRT project manager Lynne Gough

A design firm is nearing completion on a £200,000 pilot scheme which could see a new manufacturing facility built in the North East.

Gosforth-based architecture and design firm _space group has been working on two timber ‘eco-kabins’ at Holmside in County Durham.

The new single-storey buildings, a three-bed 105 sq m lodge and four-bed, 120 sq m lodge, will provide respite care for young people and adults with autism and learning disabilities.

If successful, the pilot could be rolled out across the country and see a new manufacturing facility built in the North East, creating a wealth of new jobs.

_space group chief executive Rob Charlton, said: “We have set up a separate building manufacturing division called Volula to sell a range of different buildings including lodges, schools and also care homes.

“At the moment we import our components from a company called Trivselhus in Sweden, but the plan is to move into the manufacturing side and create significant jobs in the North East.

“If we can get commitment to the product in the north and south, we can set up a manufacturing facility in the north where labour costs are sensible and we have the skills, and then we can send the products south.“

The news comes after the Government launched its new strategy and vision for the construction industry this week. Construction 2025 sets out key targets, including a 50% reduction in construction time, 33% reduction in cost and 50% reduction greenhouse gasses.

Charlton said: “The only way to do it is to completely rethink how we deliver buildings, including a lot of standardisation and a lot of supply chain management.

“The idea of cabins is a small example of what you can achieve by bringing it all together and by us managing the supply chain.

“Most importantly we are investing in young talent and new ideas.”

The firm was awarded the lodges contract by Durham County Council (DCC) working with the North East Autism Society and environmental charity Groundwork North East and sub-contracted building operations to Anthony Douglas Construction Ltd.

The new buildings were constructed using timber from sustainable sources and took a week to put up on-site, due to their off-site manufacture process.

A six-week fit-out is close to completion, to ensure the lodges are ready for their first visitors this summer.

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