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A Wanaka building company is transforming the way we construct buildings, now and into the future. Nautilus Modular is the brain-child of Peter Marshall who was the co-founder of EFTPOS NZ. His aim: make building faster and more efficient, using sustainable principles and without sacrificing on quality. The result is much to be admired. Nautilus Modular have created an entirely unique to New Zealand building system, using innovative modules that can be configured to create a diverse range of buildings, whether that be homes, worker accommodation, classrooms and commercial spaces.

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To really showcase all the wonderful benefits of this inventive way of building, Nautilus Modular was launched in Wanaka late last year where they showcased their ‘protohouse’. This protohouse needed to act and work like a fully functioning home. As supporters of all things innovative in the building industry, McKenzie & Willis were delighted when we were asked to be involved in the fit out. Sarah Shore (Interior Furnishings Consultant, McKenzie & Willis Wanaka) led the way, selecting blinds as well as indoor and outdoor furniture, bed linen and all the finishing touches. For practical style, Sarah specified Luxaflex Roller blinds throughout the home for their minimal, uncluttered look. A neutral palette was chosen with cool contemporary pieces of furniture from the likes of Calligaris, Vincent Sheppard and David Shaw. This complemented the white-washed ply, lending to a decidedly Scandinavian feel. Because the footprint was smaller, consideration needed to be given to the best use of space, with every piece of furniture working hard. Where possible, Sarah picked multi-purpose pieces such as the Vincent Sheppard Roy Lazy Lounge Chair. This chair can be used both indoors and out, making it the perfect ‘extra’ chair.

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Don’t be fooled by the small footprint though. Inside the building, the rooms feel spacious as the ceiling height is 3.2m across the entire building. Although the module sizes are fixed, the way they can connect universally with other modules allows people to really customise their build and the configuration of their buildings to meet their needs. Customisation was something that was considered early. General Manager for Nautilus Modular- Jason Watkins explains, “customisation is something people like to do and while our model has some limitations around dimensions (e.g. all modules are dimensionally the same), the ability to decide how many modules will form a space is ultimately up to the client and their needs.”

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The Nautilus Modular system makes it possible to build in a factory, cutting out delays due to weather and eliminating other common inefficiencies. Amazingly, their homes can be constructed in less than one week! But Nautilus isn’t just ‘eliminating’ time; their eco-conscious nature means they are finding ways to eliminate waste too. “We are working hard to minimise waste in builds and operations. The reason our modules are a multiple of 1200mm is because this is the standard dimensions of a sheet of ply. Where possible we are looking to use materials as they have been manufactured, so we aren’t cutting elements down or creating unnecessary waste” says Jason.

Along with their earth-friendly objectives, Nautilus Modular is unwavering in their aspiration to ensure the highest levels of insulation, energy efficiency and air quality. Polyurethane rigid foam is injected into the module, providing insulation as well as structural strength. Another unique point is that their homes don’t sit on a typical concrete pad but rather above the ground on a sub floor assembly. This is summed up perfectly by Jason who says “our buildings kiss the earth, not crush it.”

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Taking inspiration from its namesake (the nautilus marine mollusc), Nautilus Modular has a distinctive curved shape. There are curves at the wall and ceiling joins as well as around the ceiling apex, giving both the interior and exterior a nice aesthetic feel. In fact this is one of the things Jason loves most about Nautilus Modular, “generally curves are easier for the human eye to follow and studies have found that rounded objects are linked to happiness, harmony and calm. Straights lines versus curves have been generally a matter of personal taste and opinion, but we like our curves.”

The building system resembles the unique marine mollusc in other ways too. Two main layers make up the ‘shell’ while the building modules mimic its chambers, with the buildings growing bigger through the addition of more modules/chambers.

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The response to the protohouse has been incredible with over 100 people visiting during its reveal and over 1,200 enquiries through their website since their launch in mid-November. “People’s feedback and response to the product has been overwhelming positive and much of this relates to the key features and benefits they see with the product and system. We have been greatly energised by how well the product has been received and its gives us validation that we are on the right track” says Jason.

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What’s next for Nautilus Modular? A lot that’s for sure! The new year will see them rapidly expand their Wanaka factory with an ambitious end goal to create a network of plants around New Zealand. They currently have several development initiatives underway but are mindful of not going too quickly and losing sight of their guiding principles. While their philosophy has always been to “crawl, walk, run” Jason expects that Nautilus modular will have a far greater product offering and range by the end of 2020. “In a word the future is ‘exciting’ and everyone at Nautilus Modular is looking forward to what this new year brings.”

Photo Credit: Nautilus Modular

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