STARTUPS

A Lego house: no groundwork, no major repairs

Prefabricated construction, or Prefab, is a method that uses components manufactured off-site, in a factory, which are then put together on-site to create a structure. Such buildings are popular in the United States, Canada and Europe. A similar technology was used in the Soviet Union — in particular, to build the low-cost ‘Khrushchovka’ five-story apartment blocks in the 1960s. The philosophy of prefabrication was given a new boost in the 2010s. ITERIUM.TECH is one of the most fast growing Russian companies in the prefab construction segment. General Director Maxim Mayorov shared how he got the idea to design collapsible houses and what is special about his projects.

From a private project to industrialized construction

Maxim Mayorov was fond of physics and astronomy as a child. He went to the All-Union Astronomical School; after graduating with honors, he joined degree programs at three universities: ITMO, Leningrad State University and Herzen State University.

In 1992–1993, he went to study in Germany; he is fluent in German and English. In 1993, he began doing business by developing projects in education and IT. His projects included a school of foreign languages, an Internet provider, and a company that developed platforms for online stores.

In 2014, Maxim decided to build an over-water bungalow for himself. Doing it right required seriously exploring new disciplines such as engineering and design, studying legislation and acquiring some blue-collar skills. Maxim applied to St Petersburg State Marine Technical University to hire tutors for subjects related to building floating structures. A garage in the local town of Sertolovo served as his workshop. Considering that the terrain in the Leningrad Region is predominantly marshy, he aimed for a structure that could be assembled manually, without using lifting machines.

Working on his project, Maxim realized that if buildings were prefabricated and moveable it would be their huge advantage. You don’t have to buy land but can simply move your collapsible house from one rented plot to another. Maxim spent a total of two years on studies, experiments and designing prototypes. He rebuilt the structure several dozen times and eventually created his first prefabricated dwelling, an autonomous floating bungalow he named Kon-Tiki. He invested around 15 mio rubles ($204.2K) of his own money in the project.

Just as an experiment, Maxim launched a website offering the bungalow for rent and posted an ad at a business center. It turned out there were plenty of people interested in having a small getaway in the private hotel. Maxim received dozens of calls over just a couple of days.

Hospitality businesses started getting curious about Maxim’s projects too. His first collaboration happened by accident. In 2017, Maxim stopped by a restaurant in St Petersburg where a waitress noticed his designs on the screen of his laptop. She invited the restaurant manager and it turned that the owners were planning to launch a new venue for events. Maxim’s ideas inspired the restaurant management and they ordered a 400 sq m floating platform. A year later, Maxim got another order, for two moveable 600 sq m banquet halls.

Seeing the huge potential of prefabricated moveable buildings, the entrepreneur set up an integrated manufacturing plant in Pskov. A year later, the company established its own design bureau and a design studio in St Petersburg. A woodworking shop was launched in Lomonosov. The group of companies was named Kon-Tiki Research and Production Association, engaged in design and manufacturing of innovative prefabricated demountable buildings.

What is a prefabricated building?

Mayorov’s company designs and manufactures buildings that can be assembled like a Lego set on practically any site: in the forest, on a slope, a concrete pad, riverbank or water (if there is no current and the building does not get in the way of boats). These structures do not require foundation, and therefore, a construction permit. A land plot can be rented for the construction and if the location proves to be disappointing, the building can be moved to another site.

The technology allows for constructing a house of any size and layout that can be easily adjusted. It is possible to remove a wall, a room or even a bathroom using only hand tools.

The houses are equipped with utility lines to connect to power grids, as well as a suction-and-exhaust ventilation system with multi-layer air filters. All utility lines are hidden in the structural elements but are accessible at each square meter. If necessary, these buildings can be completely autonomous when the connection to the grid takes too long, is unviable or technically impossible. These buildings are fitted with a power generator, boiler room and a system to collect and store wastewater.

Structures can be used for various purposes; the company receives orders for building hotels, sports facilities, galleries, shopping centers, and amenities.

Building a prefab home

Until 2021, the company had fulfilled commercial orders only. Yet, an increased interest from individuals prompted the company to develop a new product. The company has entered the private housing market with the cubiq.house project, which offers prefab homes that can accommodate various lifestyles. The structure does not require any groundwork, with the SteadyFrame technological solution used instead — an adjustable support system that operates as a jack. The supports can carry a massive load of several tons, which is significantly more than the weight of the house with furniture, household appliances and belongings. The cubiq.house technology can be used for building houses on problem soils and slopes of up to 30 degrees. The prefabricated kit has all necessary items, including utility lines, hi-tech style finishing materials, furniture, and appliances. Upon production, the building can be assembled within two days on a land plot and is then move-in ready.

Plans and prospects

In the beginning of 2021, Kon-Tiki Research and Production Association was renamed ITERIUM.TECH. The rebranding was done due to expansion of the company’s activities as well as a growing interest from foreign customers. The company is now focusing on executing current orders, improving production, and investing in its development, advanced production equipment and software.

Last year, Mayorov’s company became a resident of the Moglino special economic zone in the Pskov Region. Further plans include construction of a full-cycle production plant, as well as facilities for manufacturing components and a finished product warehouse.

By Christina Firsova

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