According to research over one million homeowners have invested in an outdoor office or workspace in the UK since the lockdown began in March.
A demand that a Wrexham based company knows only too well.
Meet Phil Jackson, managing director of OuterSpace Buildings Ltd whose mission is to ‘create a little magic with innovative buildings that enhances the enjoyment of outside space’.
“It’s all in the name, our name comes from outdoor space,” said Phil.
The team, which includes Phil’s business partner Simon Lead, design, manufacture and build a range of energy-efficient eco buildings from home offices, home gyms, glamping pods, luxury boutique lodges, educational classrooms to shower blocks.
Each building is made from Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) which are highly insulated and designed to be energy efficient as well as sound insulated.
“We inject structural timber panels with a very high density insulated foam which are then used for the whole project, including the floor, walls and ceiling,” said Phil.
“The UK isn’t great at adapting to new building methods, and has for a long time stuck to bricks, mortar and concrete for building projects."
SIPs have however been around since the 60’s and are widely used for passive eco homes across America and Europe.
The panels are much cheaper to produce, more eco-friendly, have superior thermal efficiencies, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer making them ideal for all seasons, are sound proofed and full building structures can be completed in as little as a day.
SIP buildings can also be customised for different uses, tastes and budgets, including cladding, oak flooring, green screen roller blinds (no more views of a bedroom cupboard during a Zoom call) and can even include built in wireless speakers.
“Our products are so versatile and can fit in with all budgets depending on how you want to dress it up!” said Phil.
The team offers a number of options with its projects, from design and supply only, which comes as a flat pack with full instructions to design, supply and fit, where their authorised installer teams go to the customer and assemble the building for them.
And finally there is the option of an off-site factory build where the building can be delivered on a wheeled steel chassis ready to use.
OuterSpace Buildings Ltd was established by Phil three years ago, with Simon joining the team in April.
““Simon and I have worked together for a number of years and decided to join forces,” said Phil.
“Our Wrexham site is split into three buildings, the first is where we manufacture the panels, the second building is where we cut all the panels into components and the third building is home to our showroom, people like to see products before they buy.”
Despite setting up a new manufacturing facility and starting production at the beginning of the pandemic, it opened up new opportunities despite some of the challenges we have had to adapt to and overcome.
“Covid gave us breathing space and the ability to plan,” said Phil.
"We are very busy keeping up with demand, not only with home offices but also in the leisure sector.
“Covid has meant that people can’t travel abroad for holidays so we are turning to the UK for ‘staycations’, there is a very high demand for luxury holidays in the UK, from glamping to holiday homes.
“The demand is huge however the luxury end of outdoor holiday accommodation is very limited and isn’t always there, we are working with a number of companies in the leisure industry to introduce a new standard of mini boutique lodges to the market.”
The pandemic has also seen the team manufacturing a new product which is allowing families to visit their loved ones in care homes again.
The ‘safe pod’ is a building with glass screens which allows care home residents to see their family in the safety of a pod.
“We are very proud of this product and the difference it will make to families at this time,” said Phil.
A typical week for Phil is meeting with new trade account customers to understand their business and to see how they can add value in terms of building design work, building kit supply, introducing eco friendly products and technologies as well as supporting them with full digital marketing support via Outerspace Creative Ltd.
“Our main company value is to produce environmentally friendly products, we are always looking for ways to improve our ongoing mission in reducing our carbon footprint to help preserve the planet now, for future generations,” said Phil.
The most satisfying part of Phil’s role is seeing the customer’s excitement from the initial design stages to seeing the product finished and in its new surroundings.
“It’s a wonderful process to be involved in,” said Phil.
Although he admits to having the usual daily challenges when setting up a new business, new roles have been introduced to support the various aspects of their growth.
Commercial director Mark Inskip who has four years experience in the lodge industry and new development projects has recently joined the Outerspace team and they have also recently recruited a new shop floor supervisor to oversee manufacturing procedures, panel production and safety systems.
“We are a small team and we are moving at a fast pace, our service is based on relationships and planning,” said Phil.
“Our buildings are not an impulsive buy and require a clear understanding on our part in terms of our customers aspirations and desired end product."
Looking ahead to 2021 Phil and the team will focus on expanding their trade customer base while continuing to introduce new products and services.
The key goal is to establish mutually profitable partnerships with their customers and to ensure that they are able to maintain a very high standard of customer service.
The team prides itself on forward thinking, an approach that started a new relationship during lockdown.
“I started working with Ellis & Co at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Phil.
“I searched for an accountancy firm that worked within the manufacturing industry, and realised that I already knew one of the directors John Farrell from networking events over the years.
“I liked the firms’ forward thinking approach, number crunching is important but what’s in the past is in the past, it’s important to plan ahead.
“They aren’t your stereotypical accountants, John is very different, aside from his wealth of experience his personality and likeability were also key reasons why we came to Ellis & Co.
“Your accountant needs to feel part of the team, and Ellis & Co do just that!
“I would definitely recommend them, he added.
For further information about OuterSpace Buildings Ltd click here