Compliance and Competence the Key to Success

5th August, 2022

Established in early 2016, Carlow Build is a dynamic, innovative, specialist offsite manufacturer of light gauge steel modular buildings whose core business is designing, manufacturing and installing modular building structures for the UK and Irish construction sector.

The company is owned and managed by Enda Byrne and MJ Lomax, both highly experienced in the industry, bringing a combined wealth of knowledge spanning 50 years. The founders became acutely aware of a gap in the construction services market for initially modular residential building systems, seemingly as a direct result of several modular building companies experiencing significant growth and moving onto larger projects in the commercial and healthcare sectors.

In 2016, Byrne and Lomax founded a highly focused building system business to maximise the opportunities within the residential sector. At that time, only a handful of modular companies were semi-active in this arena, offering various volumetric and panelised systems with bespoke designs, eventually deemed non-compliant with then-current standards. The key to success for new entrants to penetrate the market was to develop a product range fully compliant with current design codes and building regulations.

Carlow Build designs and manufactures all modular systems at its state-of-the-art facility in Southeast Ireland for direct supply and installation by market affiliates and trade partners. They are currently making progress on setting up a UK-based production facility for later this year/Q1 2023. The company is well on course to establish itself as a market leader in the provision of modular building systems in the delivery of large-scale residential, commercial and departmental buildings.

Carlow Build's Approach

The competitive position of Carlow Build is underpinned by the in-depth technical knowledge and experience of the founding Directors. MJ Lomax has 25 years in the manufacturing industry, and Enda Byrne, a qualified structural engineer, has spent 20 years in the construction and consultancy sectors. Their extensive market knowledge and trade connections are reflected in the innovative modular design and service processes, supported by a lean and efficient production model, which together define a sustainable competitive position.

Factory production of modular units is easier, more efficient, and cost-effective. It also facilitates higher levels of quality control than traditional onsite construction methods. The production of stock items ensures constant availability. Carlow Build is also highly committed to minimising the impact of its activities on both the local and global environments. In line with this commitment, they implement carbon accounting and management protocols per ISO 14064 – Green House Gases, specification with guidance at the organisational level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals. Project-specific carbon budgets are produced upon a customer's request to support carbon accounting which is now a major component of bid analysis.

The Carlow Build system provides developers and, ultimately, construction clients with assurances of quality, programme, and ease of installation due to the innovative design, factory production techniques, and simple connection details for site assembly. The design and detailing of this system are critical to its success on every project. A blend of structural steel design, finite element analysis, and 3D Building Information Modelling (BIM) is required on all schemes. This high level of in-house technical skill provides a truly unique customer experience.

The company's research and product development team was initially successful in obtaining Irish Agreement Approval and more recently achieved SCI/NHBC approval for up to five-storey residential construction. The system has also reached the patent-pending stage in both UK and Ireland.

Effectiveness and Efficiency

The business is highly design and innovation lead. To date, the priority has been developing a core range of modular solutions to meet specific needs and standards required by residential housing developers. Within the factory, process effectiveness and efficiency are constantly monitored and improved through better methodologies and designs. Over the last 24 months the emphasis has moved to new product design and increased productisation of solutions for residential applications where the potential scope to scale business is significant and sustainable. The current housing deficit in the market presents real challenges at the government, local authority, and private sector levels.

The availability of good quality affordable development land, restrictive planning procedures, onerous building regulation requirements, conventional costly delivery strategies, and construction techniques mean the landscape for housing delivery will need to be drastically changed and rethought. Put quite simply, the construction aspect of these projects can now be taken offsite to the controlled environs of the factory floor, where quality, innovation, and speed of delivery can be much more controlled and anticipated.

A significant portion of Carlow Build's resources is dedicated to servicing the requirements of UK and Irish developers together with local authorities. With an objective to be rapidly established as a key supply chain partner to large-scale development companies, Carlow Build wants to ensure its building system gains acceptance as an industry norm as part of a new delivery approach. At first glance, offsite construction seems ideally suited to the house building industry. Given the high level of site and building regulations, together with ensuing costs and extensions to construction programmes it seems logical to move as much work as possible to the factory floor. 

Industry Best Practice

The fully integrated operation in Carlow is accessible to Dublin and Rosslare ports. Production buildings of over 7,500m2 are ideal for large-scale production and graduated expansion. Core functions include design, estimating, NPD, technical assistance and QA together with LGS-design, production, and logistics. All production is made to relevant British Standards and EuroNormsand industry best practices. At the design stage, each project undergoes rigorous structural design using cutting-edge analysis software and the option of 3D BIM modelling at both approval and construction stages. The production cycle from design approval to factory and delivery averages seven days. The current plant capacity is approximately 900 residential units per annum.

Future Expansion

Expanding into larger markets other than the UK is a logical step and forms part of Carlow Build's long-term strategy. Research has confirmed that, similar to the UK and Irish markets, significant technical expertise, accreditations, and quality control are essential for new entrants to the Northern European markets.

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