Kudos is developing its very own micro-homes product working with Queens University Belfast’s KTP programme. KTP Associate Andrew Eves is the first Engineer to join the Kudos team and he tells us about his time at Kudos and his experience so far in developing timber frame micro-homes.
So, Andrew, tell us a bit about yourself?
Well at 26 years young, I’m the youngest member of the Kudos office staff and don’t they like to remind me! I’m a Bangor man born and bred! I’m a big rugby fan and was still playing up until a recent knee injury. I went to University over in England and have a Masters’ Degree in Medical Engineering.
How did you go from designing pacemakers and ECG devices to micro-homes?
I was over in England for five years in total, some working, some studying but as everyone who’s moved away will know the call home is a strong one! So, I decided to move back and in doing so widened my job search. After a brief spell in aerospace, I found the job at Kudos and was instantly drawn to it. I’ve always loved design work, particularly when I come to functionality. My degree is an exact equivalent of a Mechanical Engineering degree; however, our application subjects were in the medical field. This allowed me to transfer those skills learned developing the likes of portable ECG devices into presenting how I would go about developing a micro-home. Considering I got the job, I mustn’t have done all that badly!
You’re working with Kudos through the KTP scheme, could you explain a little about what that is?
KTP stands for Knowledge Transfer Partnership, which in short is a scheme set up by Innovate UK to give government support to companies looking to develop new products. It works by partnering with a University which has access the cutting-edge technology and a depth of knowledge, with a local company with the resources to build and develop a new product and using an individual to lead the project and bridge the gap between the organisations.
In my case the University is Queens University Belfast (QUB), the Company is Kudos and through the process of interview, I managed to secure my place as the individual.
What exactly is the micro-homes project?
Well the objective of the project is to create a self-sufficient micro-home for mass production. Which is a tall order for a two-year project! But breaking it down into component parts has been the key to making good progress. The project has been divided into, functional design, mass manufacturing and renewable energies.
We have recently built our first prototype which has given us a wealth of information. We are taking key steps to improving the factory and design to make the pods cost effective to produce while not compromising on quality. I think the first thing everyone says when viewing the prototype is ‘’Woaw this feels like a proper house.’’ That’s the quality we strive for.
We have been able to provide final year projects to over five students at QUB who have been working to solve certain design challenges for our cabins. For example, one student is designing a system for self-sufficient water management, both sourcing clean water for drinking/bathing, washing and managing waste.
What will these micro-homes be used for and who is your target market?
To be honest with you everyone and anything! We’ve had clients request pods for all sorts of functions, to list a few, saunas, music rooms, holiday homes and year-round living accommodation! We build our pods to the same level of quality as we build any timber frame home. This makes year-round living not only viable but very comfortable! Kudos has a number of designs being fine-tuned for the launch of our new pod range. We believe that our range of pods each with its own adaptability will allow us to meet any clients need.
Is there anything exciting you’re working on right now?
Well, one of the many exciting aspects of developing a product like this is looking for ways to challenge the traditional way of building, which shouldn’t be surprising as Kudos has always challenged what’s possible and pushed to be at the cutting edge of new systems and technology.
An example of this would be a real drive to remove steel completely from our buildings. We occasionally use steel for key structural features, such as large hall spans or in the case of the pod when the product requires lifting.
Why use steel?
Well, steel has several strengths, primarily its strength, excuse the pun, but we have continually used steel because of its strength to weight/size ratio. It also seemed the only way to be able to safely lift the pod on and off the lorry and into its final site. However, steel also has some major draw-backs, steel production has a much higher carbon footprint than timber. Steel can cause ‘cold-bridging’ which is where either heat is drawn out of the build via structural steel components or cold is drawn into the building the same way. This is due to steel having a high heat conductivity. We have been working closely with several companies looking at materials which are both renewable and responsibly sourced and will also provide the same strength at a similar size.
You’re less than a month from the one-year mark with Kudos. Have you enjoyed your time so far and are you happy with the project process?
Yes, I’ve loved my time with Kudos, it really doesn’t feel like I’ve been here a year already! It’s a friendly environment to work in and we have lots of fun as well as working hard! As for the project, yeah, I think we’ve made some incredible progress. As I said, the project is an ambitious one for a two-year time frame! We’re on our way and setting ourselves up to continue developing pods on our own once the project is complete. Including making significant improvements to our production-line and investing not only in machinery but training and developing our staff team.