Lockdown and looking ahead… Lockdown and looking ahead…

Lockdown and looking ahead…


Is it OK to write a news story without mentioning the global pandemic and the challenges that are currently facing the world? Or would that be insensitive and disrespectful to all those suffering as well as all the wonderful people working and volunteering on the front line? I’d say it probably would be. For that reason, I really didn’t want to hurry out “business as usual” posts as let’s face it, that’s not really the case is it? Similarly, amidst all the problems we face in these unprecedented times, there will hopefully be many positives that will come out of this, but again, I’m no lifestyle commentator so I’ll leave that one well alone as well.

Now our factories, suppliers, merchants, and subcontractors are (quite rightly) residing in full or partial hibernation, we for the first time in a long time have a little time and space to reflect (from home of course). What we’ve been doing, how we’ve gone about our business, what has worked well for us and what we can improve on? Amidst all the doom and gloom, and in these periods of frustrating inactivity, we are all looking to our work, creativity, exercise, music, films, sport, gardens and DIY for inspiration to keep us all in check, mentally and physically. I have no doubt there will be great pieces of work that will emerge as a result of the collective pushing of the global “pause” button, we just need to be patient! Time now to push on with all the products and ideas we never have time to pursue!

Way, way back in normal times (when was that? All of 3 weeks ago?) we were settling into life with our new team member who has joined us from one of our long-term suppliers. It’s been an exciting acquisition for us, as prior to him joining us we had worked together on projects for years, both in the UK and in Iceland which meant the transition across the supplier-client border was fairly seamless given he already knows and understands our business inside out. He has been busy challenging us (in a healthy, inquisitive manner of course…not annoying at all!?!) on a number of different levels by questioning our thoughts on various aspects of our business – why do we do this, why do we do that, why don’t we do this and by the way he thinks we should do that etc. You get the picture. A fresh set of eyes and ears “looking from the outside in.” Throw in a few new contacts, ideas, suppliers, sub-contractors and skills and we are…or at least were feeling stronger than ever (current circumstances aside). We do now feel that our small team is even better equipped to deal with all manner of challenges, large or small, at home and abroad. We just need to release the shackles once again and we’re off!

We know where we are with our timber frame structures, we have been designing and supplying high specification timber build solutions for many years now, both to holiday regulations (incorporating modular chassis systems) and to full, residential building regs wherever you may be. We continue to supply our good friends in the Falkland Islands who we’ve worked with for several years now, organising engineering, designing, supplying house kits and materials as well as fulfilling the occasional role of all round hunter gatherers as we make sure they have everything they need for their timber frame builds.

A direct offshoot of this has been our recent work in Iceland, where we now have our first buildings up over there.

Hard work initially, challenging at times but fascinating nonetheless working to ensure UK and Icelandic engineers, designers, architects and building control were all on the same page (particularly on all things to do with wind, snow and their rather mischievous local residents…the volcanoes. Anyone looking to fly anywhere at the end of March 2010 may remember Eyjafjallajökull?) Admittedly, prior to this, we had never had to provide structural calculations that factored in seismic activity before, but our experiences designing buildings for the extreme climates of the South Atlantic certainly gave us a head start. Let’s not also underestimate the knowledge, skill and patience of our extremely “worldly-wise” structural engineer (I’ve just looked up “worldly-wise” to check what it means and whether I have used it correctly: “Adjective – understanding the world and therefore difficult to shock or deceive; sophisticated!” A little dramatic, but pretty much hits the nail on the head as there was nothing he hadn’t seen before! We’re pleased to say the results have been spectacular, we’ve made a lot of friends and professional partners over there now so we’re busy working on new potential projects and would love to hear from you if you are planning a summerhouse or residential build.

Looking ahead, what else is on the agenda for us in our new improved, virus free (!) world? And what will we have learnt from our period of enforced restrictions? 

We do try already to keep our travel to a minimum but our collective exposure to online meeting platforms over recent weeks for business, school (Aargh!!!) and social has certainly been a positive eye opener (unless of course you are working for a company that has you glued to them all day long). We keep a close eye on our carbon footprint and our environmental credentials, but I am not quite at the level where I can preach to the wider world as we all have much to learn and can certainly go further.

Looking ahead, we certainly have some interesting projects lined up, at completely opposite ends of the size and budget spectrum. Large, bespoke timber clad holiday houses, some residential timber frames as well as a couple of small, albeit high specification garden offices. We are also working on a partnership to bring our modular aspirations and designs to life so that we can provide high specification, cost effective, holiday and residential units, fully fabricated in the factory including all internal fit outs. Our intention, with the ongoing input from the shipping companies is to make strong, long lasting, highly insulated units compatible with loading requirements so that we can ship completed modules not only around the UK but overseas to Iceland and beyond. The good news is…we’re very nearly there!

In a simple world, we’d churn out set designs, to the same specification, at a set price whether you’re in the UK, Iceland or the South Atlantic but it never works that way, nor would we want it to. Each project starts with a blank piece of paper, inspired by one of our templates or something you or your architect has already prepared. We work to the requirements of your local authority, home or abroad so we can and often need be creative. Likewise with logistics, its not always straight forward getting a house kit made in England shipped to another part of the world, but there are brilliant people who do that for a living so if we listen to the experts and do as we’re told, life
becomes a little simpler. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” as they say.

We have all had to slow down, whether we like it or not. But we are all trying to use the time wisely. So, if you’ve had a moment in amongst the madness, a visitation from a higher power, or lottery win even, and you’re thinking of a build project when all this blows over, we would love to hear from you. In the meantime, thoughts are with all our partners, suppliers, clients and friends all over the world. Stay safe and stay at home. Thoughts also with all
those directly affected and massive respect to those working on the front line. See you on the other side…

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