Two years ago we made an exception to our "wooden only" policy and we had an interview with people from Kodasema OÜ, a small and ambitious Company providing a clever turnkey housing solution.
Today we went back to see how they are doing...
KODA by Kodasema is a future-proof, movable, concrete house. Since we first covered their story in November 2015, Kodasema has been growing at a steady, fast, pace.
Today they are opening a KODA Village near Port of Tallinn (Mere pst 10).
We spoke to Ülar Mark, System Architect at Kodasema, and we tried to get a clear picture of the progress they made in these two years.
What is going on in those KODA houses near the Port of Tallinn?
Ülar Mark: We are here experimenting a mixed-use KODA Village.
5 of those KODA are Hotels, 1 is Kodasema Office and one is a showroom for Union of Estonian Designers's.
How many "KODAs" have been built since the beginning?
Ülar Mark: Right now we have built 31 KODA modules. They have been installed in several locations in Europe and with different destinations of use.
- three units are used as classrooms in Rocca al Mare School;
- one is in Helsinki;
- one is in London;
- one in Amsterdam;
- seven in here in Tallinn working as Hotels and offices.
The rest are in our factory waiting for delivery and all of them have been already sold.
There is a great advantage in using KODA modules for public buildings: the modules can be easily relocated and repurposed once they are no longer needed at the original location.
Think for example of a school that becomes over-sized when the growth of the population slows down... when there are fewer kids the school can be down-sized and the KODA units removed and used by the Municipality for different needs (i.e. extending a hospital).
The KODA solution allows spending public money in the best possible way.
How much does the 31st of KODA house differ from the first prototype you built? ...from distance, they seem quite similar.
Ülar Mark: As you said, from the outside they do not differ much. But they are very different.
The differences are in the construction details and they are hard to spot.
Whatever I answer to you, nobody would understand how much sweat and tears have gone in those changes. It would be very long to explain.
Maybe the best answer is that, between the prototype and current version, there has been continuous hard work of 10-15 persons.
Ülar Mark: as I said in the previous interview about two years ago, KODA houses are factory made with a process similar to the one adopted in the automotive industry. We improve the product as we gain new knowledge from the manufacturing process and we try to make new KODA Villages look and work better.
What has been the feedback from the people who have seen this first KODA Village?
Ülar Mark: We did not get any negative comments. People usually appreciate the fact that a site where old buildings were demolished has been taken care of. They like that the site is living a new life, with all these small nice modules. The place is vibrant with life, people are moving around with curiosity, the lights are on.
Because of the noise of the busy Harbor area, some people are still wondering if this is actually a good place where to have Airbnb accommodations or a small Hotel.
Here is where the quality of KODA kicks in (opening the door): when the door is open, it is quite noisy. There are big trucks passing by on their road to the harbor... but when you close it, there is silence.
Quite surrealistic experience, no?
There has been a switch in the mental attitude of the people. There are more and more people deciding not to own car, they just use one when they need it. They use services like Uber or Taxify or just rent a car for a period.
This shift comes down to houses as well: young people need an accommodation in a nice neighborhood, they are not too keen on the idea to own the place they live in. They are more than willing to use just a service.
How many people are involved in the process of producing KODA prefab homes?
Ülar Mark: There is Design and Development Team, some of these people are full-time employees, some part-time. There are people involved in Prototyping and Production process in the factory and there is also some seasonality involved.
I would say the number of people involved is between 15 and 40.
KODA house price... everyone is asking about it. Which sum are we talking about?
Ülar Mark: The starting price is around 100 000 EUR. The final sum depends of course on customization.
VAT and the cost of transport have to be added.
If I bring you money today, how long it would take for me to get my Koda?
Ülar Mark: If you order today you could get it tomorrow. We have an agreement with LHV Bank, so you could finance your KODA and get it easily, without putting down the entire sum.
If I want to have a KODA for renting it out, how the process would look for me? ...and how does it work for you?
Ülar Mark: Usually, the scheme goes like this: the Investor buys the product/s and then there is an operator who manages the renting process. We have an agreement with LHV bank for financing KODA, so you have to invest only about 30% in cash and can lease the rest from the bank.
What has been the bigger step for Kodasema?
Ülar Mark: We just recently won a public procurement and are going to install 60 KODA units into the Tallinn Harbour area. It is going to be 2-story structure, with terraces and stairs and nice space in between.
Our architects are developing different community structures, creating various spaces between the units. This is one of the main topics our Team of architects is working on, besides applying for building permits.
Meanwhile, we are working with other Countries and we have to design projects and apply for building permits there. At the moment we have interested parties from UK, Netherland, Sweden, Spain. We also include local partners in the process.
When comparing us with car factories, the bureaucracy might be our weakest point.
What do you mean by that?
Ülar Mark: With a car, you pay and you can drive out from the shop. With a house, there is a big gap full of work between the wish and the actual building.
Even if we can deliver and install the house in one day, you are still going to need several weeks to sort out all the permissions and paperwork.
Speaking of time... how long does it take now to manufacture one KODA house?
Ülar Mark: We became much faster in producing the units. Standardization and Lean Production techniques work wonders. Today it takes just 6 days to produce one KODA module.
Have you taken any Investors onboard with Kodasema?
Ülar Mark: Yes we have. We had 2 seeding rounds and we did raise capital. At the moment we have only Estonian Investors.
The solution designed and brought to life by Kodasema is indeed innovative, functional and elegant. They created an object that screams Quality and can be installed in just one day. This is brilliant.
The quality of their work is outstanding and their dedication is impressive.
However, with a floor plan of less than 27 square meters (see KODA house plans below) and a price of over 100000 EUR, the nominal price stands at over 3700 EUR per square meter!
When the average price for a good custom made small construction is less than 2000 EUR per square meter, we wonder whether KODA is just another architectural exercise in the Startup ecosystem or if there is a real future for it.
In a previous article, we covered the expensive Airbnb solution by ÖÖD OÜ and even that was way cheaper than KODA (about 2500 EUR per square meter).
So far KODA worked well for small demo projects where money was not really an issue.
Our concern is:
would it work on the real open Market?
When developers look for solutions on large housing projects, the price they look for is in the range of 1300-1500 EUR per square meter. We know this for a fact.
While solving this problem is probably not one of the objectives of Kodasema, there is a real opportunity for anyone who can find a scalable solution to satisfy this - huge - Market need.
To close with an automotive comparison, the current KODA units are much like Tesla's "Model S". We are hoping that Kodasema will bring the innovation further and develop soon a "Model 3"...so that everyone can really tap into the benefits of this new type of architecture.
INTERVIEW BY: TIIT SILD.