what our customers have said about us:

Our entire experience was positive from quotation right through to erection of the timber frame on site. All the staff dealing with our project were extremely professional and helpful throughout the process.

Pat and Jacinta Kelly, Architect, Co. Offaly

Timber frame studios offer useful options to gain space

Thursday 06 May 2010

Timber frame studios offer useful options to gain space

The downturn in the construction industry forced John Desmond to diversify his timber frame house construction firm, Cygnum.

Earlier this year, Desmond set up Getouterspace.com to use the expertise of his existing firm to construct detached timber frame garden studios.

Based in Macroom in Co Cork, the firm designs and manufactures timber buildings suitable for use as outdoor living space in the garden. The buildings, which are made to requirement and built off-site, are suitable for a number of uses including studios, home offices or studies, gyms or playrooms. All have cedar-clad exteriors and are of timber frame construction.

Desmond said an increasing number fo people were finding it difficult to trade up in the current property market, yet are in need of more space.

"We felt that there were a lot of homeowners who didn't have the option of trading up because of the downturn, yet were living in spaces that were quite limited. The studios are a cost-effective means of getting extra space without moving," he said. "You can plan and design a studio space that meets your exact requirements, and can choose the design, size and layout online."

Prices range from €17,000 plus VAT of 13.5 per cent for one of the smallest of the units, offering 16.5 square metres of space, to €33,000 plus AT for a high-specification unit measuring 38 square metres. The exact price varies depending on the specification - for example, the choice of window can make a price difference of about €1,000, depending on whether they are PVC, Nordic pine or aluminium.

The units do not require planning permission once they are no greater than 40 square metres in size. But if a home owner intends to use the studio as a public building, such as a creche or surgery, planning permission will be required.

Cygnum, which was founded by Desmond almost 15 years ago, was producing 40 to 50 houses each week during the property boom, and had a workforce of between 150 and 200.

But the housebuilding slump quickly affected the business, and the firm began focusing on the British market.

"We noticed the downturn in late 2006 and early 2007," Desmond said.

"We opened a sales office in Britain in 2007 and despite the fact that things are slow there, we've had steady growth. Their downturn hasn't been nearly as dramatic as the one we have had here."

Instead of waiting for the housing market to recover, he began researching and developing Getouterspace.com 12 months ago.

"We either had to scale down to a cottage-type industry or look for alternative products and markets, and that's what we did," he said.

Desmond hired architectural technicians and software designers to create a design tool for the website, so that consumers can design their own building, depending on their requirements and budget.

"We believe it will be very important to the success of the company that people can visually see what they want, check the price and specify the requirements. Then, once theya re happy, we do a site survey and usually make some small changes," he said.

There are currently over 20,000 options for customers to choose from, but Desmond plans to have over 200,000 available by the end of the year.

"The units are most often used as home offices but, last week, we got an order from a client who wanted a place to drink a glass of wine and read at the bottom of their garden. Other people want somewhere to get rid of teenage kids from the main house in the evenings - they want to be able to see them, but not hear them," he said.

Desmond is positive about the prospect for both arms of his business.

"Cygnum's British projects are going very well - we are currently building a timber-frame six-storey apartment complex, and we have other projects ongoing," he said.

There are also plans to expand Getouterspace into the British market next year.

"We have traffic through the website from Britian already, so we think there's definitely a market there," he said.

"We are feeling positive - we've rescaled the business, and our sales this year will be better that last year because of the British timber frame business."

"By year-end, I hope to increase employees to 70 between the two companies, based mainly in Cork with some in Britain as well."