The Elsewhere Pod: Small House Design Redefined (Interview)

I interviewed Matt Decarne, CEO from Elsewhere Pods. They create gorgeous, innovative prefab homes cocooned in a titanium structure, almost entirely incased in glass. I did my best to allow Matt to talk so he'd tell me everything he knew!

Here's the interview... (with me asking the questions and mainly Matt talking). All the images are of Elsewhere Pods.

What Is The Idea Behind Elsewhere Pods?

Elsewhere Pods are a beautiful glass pod structure, very unique. Because we were kind of looking at targeting regional and tourism areas with an ecotourism dedicated design, we thought we're trying to take people, inspire them to get out of the bush and remove themselves from their day-to-day life and take themselves elsewhere.

So Elsewhere just felt like the right name and the right feel. But in terms of how the brand started, we launched Elsewhere Pods two years ago, but basically we've been doing about three years worth of product development prior to that through our sister company, which is called Bureau Booths.

Bureau Booths specialise in indoor meeting rooms and soundproof booths, mostly targeted towards the B2B corporate world.

Delivered flat packed, this Elsewhere Pod is a site built home with glass walls and open plan interior.

Essentially there was some product development done there, and we were developing an outdoor work from home pod. And it became very clear very quickly that our customers were wanting these as habitable dwellings, backyard little studios for family and granny flats and these kinds of things.

Then we were being asked about pool houses, and it basically became very clear that we needed to put these out into regional areas, empower that ecotourism industry, get people out of the cities and provide a really seamless connection to the environment, but also luxury finishes and a lot of comfort about it as well.

It's something very different to most tiny homes on the market.

Is It Something Similar To The Coodo Prefab Home?

Yeah. Coodo are starting to come out with a few very different really interesting designs. So it's great to see innovation, and particularly modular design that is a little bit more scalable than traditional building materials.

It's really good to see that because it's one thing to have a tiny home builder just service a local area, but if we want to address housing affordability and power the ecotourism industry, we need to be very scalable and be able to work anywhere in the country.

Martin: A good example might be recent flooding in Lismore (NSW, Australia), places like that where you might need 50 or 100 homes available).

Manufactured homes like this pod can sit on a wheeled trailer or ground screws.

Absolutely. I actually grew up in Byron Bay just around the corner. And part of the reason that I was so passionate about joining this business and launching this product was because my mom actually was a victim of those floods.

So I thought to myself, "I want to get out of the corporate world. I want to do something that's going to have real impact on people's lives." And this is just my small way of trying to have an impact.

Prefab Houses At The Melbourne Home Show

Martin: I also think they look great because I went into your Elsewhere Pod at the 2023 Melbourne Home Show, and when I closed the pod door it was just like silent in there. It was fantastic.

That's exactly right. It's a throwback to the soundproof booth kind of DNA, but also because we've designed this as a habitable structure from the ground up, we've implemented really super high quality window materials.

So as standard, they're much higher than Australian standard in terms of the glazing, double-glazed, we can even do triple glazing as well.

We definitely have designed with high performance materials in mind.

What Eco-Sustainable Or Recyclable Materials Are Used?

The core structure itself is made from titanium magnesium aluminum alloy. And that essentially makes it super strong and super lightweight, but it's actually also recyclable.

So 99.9% of our materials that we use in the whole pod is recyclable materials, and it also includes no combustible material and no toxic material.

Exterior view of an Elsewhere Pod on a wheeled trailer in a great bush location.

So this means it's a really sustainable choice. At the end of its lifecycle it can be recycled into usable products and nothing goes to landfill.


Related: We talk about four future-ready modular construction companies here.


What Types Of Modular Homes Do You Specialise In?

In terms of our tiny home range, we also do smaller studios and that kind of thing. But essentially our system is designed so that we prefabricate all of the materials in our factory.

So the way to think about our building system is a little bit like super luxury large scale IKEA furniture.

Using modular techniques to create modular housing can potentially solve our housing challenges.

We actually pack it all down flat pack into crates, and we deliver the materials directly to our customer's site.

After we've done a test assembly, obviously in the factory, our team arrives on the customer's site and actually builds it all (for our standard range). So within two to five days, it all gets installed on the customer's site.

This is great because it allows us to get access to really difficult to reach sites, and it means that we can efficiently ship those materials anywhere in the country and not have to give our customers build shock when it comes to the delivery expense, which can be a little scary for some tiny home customers.

Does The Homeowner Or Elsewhere Pods Install It?

So we install it as well, and we also include delivery and installation in the price for free. So the price that you get quoted, that's usually your finished price, unless there's really difficult site access issues or something like that where we've got to do something a little bit bespoke.

But most of the time the price you see is the price you get.

Martin: And what would they sit on? Do they sit on trailers or ground screws?

Absolutely. Because it's a totally modular system, we've designed it to be super flexible. If our customers want it to sit on a trailer like the one that you saw at the home show, it's really easy for us to integrate this.

Energy efficient pods at an affordable price (this one an open floor plan studio pod).

Then we've also got brackets that can also integrate with ground screws as you mentioned.

So this means that if you ever want to move it or at the end of its life, you basically detach it from those screws and undo the screws, and it's as though you were never even on the site.

It's very eco-friendly, eco first approach. And then we can even do in areas that are cyclone prone or have higher requirements in terms of soil and that kind of thing. We can even do them on traditional concrete pads or piers or slabs or any number of different footing settings.

How Does The Pricing Structure Work?

Because it's a totally customisable system, basically what we do is we jump on a design meeting with our customers, and our customer success manager and our architectural designer.

And basically we tailor the product exactly to the customer's specification and to their use case and their needs.

So essentially in terms of price ranges, our smaller studios start at about AU$30,000, and the tiny home range at the smallest standard starts at about AU$60,000 plus GST, but that also includes delivery and installation.

Elsewhere Pods have a range of different architectural styles to fit most needs.

Because it's totally modular and customisable, the sky's the limit in terms of the luxury components that you can introduce into it, the comforts, the liveability, the functionality.

It's like playing with Lego. You can go as big and as grand as you want, or you can keep things very simple and cost-effective.

Can We Customise It Or Put Pods Together?

Absolutely. So our standard range is for the tiny homes. We've got a micro home that's 4 metres by 2.4 metres, but as we go up through our size range, we go 4 metres, 6, 10, and 12 metres in length.

We can also double the width. So we're adding another module to extend the width to 4.8 metres. So again, you've got that whole size range at 4.8 meters.

We can do really cool things like rooftop balconies, decks, pergolas, we can double stack the pods, we can make them cantilevered. We're working on some really, really inspiring designs at the moment. So hopefully in early 2024, we'll have some really cool projects to be able to show off.

What Warranty Or Guarantees Come With An Elsewhere Pod?

As a standard for our projects that don't require building permits, we provide a three-year warranty to our customers. The beauty of our system is that we have less than 1% of the number of parts and components than a traditional building does.

You just need a home site or block of land to get your modular home happening!

So there's a lot less parts that have the potential to even break down at all. And the beauty of that is that even if anything does break down, then you can actually just replace that one part or component and not have to pull the whole building apart and renovate the whole building.

So it's kind of like you're replacing a little piece or component on your car as opposed to buying a brand new car.

So that's fantastic. And then our jobs that have a building permit, because our system's unique in the tiny home industry in that we can design it to be classed as a 1A building structure. When we do building permits, we align our warranty with the statutory period, which is five years.

How Do You Handle The Transportation And Installation?

Essentially we prefabricate all of the materials in the factory to the customer specifications. We then do a test assembly to make sure that it all fits together beautifully before we pack it down and protect those materials, put it in crates, send it direct to site.

That whole process takes about eight weeks and then it lands on site.

Outside looking in. Elsewhere Pods have some innovative solutions to housing needs.

Our team will come out within a week or two depending on scheduling. It's out there built and finished. That whole process will usually take less than 12 weeks. But essentially it's built from flat packs.

So it means we can get access to really remote sites. We just lift those products out of the crates and build them all by hand. So we don't even require any heavy duty machinery on site.

Off-Grid With An Elsewhere Pod? (Solar / Batteries etc)

Absolutely. We've partnered with a bunch of the most respected names in the kind of off-grid component providers in Australia.

We can integrate things like solar, off-grid batteries and inverter packages, compost toilets, grey water systems, tanked water, collection off the roof and off the pergola.

Our pods that we provide to the customer are basically a plug and play solution. So whatever access to utilities that they have existing on site, we can just connect straight in.

Otherwise, we can provide those off-grid solutions as well.

I came across the Elsewhere Pods for the first time at Melbourne Home Show.

What's Different Between Elsewhere Pods And Other Site Built Homes?

So I guess there's kind of a lot that sets us apart. Of course, the design is very striking. It's a glass structure, which means there's a high level of a seamless connection to the environment.

That's what our brand is all about. We want to put nature on show. And so what that means from our design perspective is that we want to have minimalism at the heart of our designs.

We don't want lots of clutter, we don't want anything that you don't really need. We want to make sure that it's all about the nature is the beautiful part, and our pod only compliments the natural environment.

Bird's eye view of one of the Elsewhere prefab home designs.

So definitely the striking looks. Further to our processes, our unique flat pack system, things that we can get to a lot of sites that other companies won't be able to get to.

And it also means that we're super customisable. And then finally, because we are designed to be national construction code compliant, we can handle the same building codes - permits on almost any property as a class 1A dwelling.

And it's a flexible system. So if there are overlays that are challenging with new trailers, classes, transport, infrastructure, etc. We were able to design up a solution for 90% of properties.

Where Do The Materials Come From? (ie; Glass / Titanium)

Our factory is located in China, and so like most Australian construction materials, manufactured in China these days.

But the benefit of doing it this way is that as we're actually flat packing things makes such a saving on the supply chain, meaning that we can spec much higher quality materials than traditional building materials or other tiny home providers.

So the materials that you're getting as standard from us are of a much higher quality and we pass those savings onto our clients.

What Does $100,000 Get You With An Elsewhere Pod?

You could get our flagship tiny home with our standard tiny home package. So with that, you might be looking at an eight or even possibly a 10-metre pod depending on whether you go on a trailer or not.

And then so you get a small kitchenette, all the basics that you need and nothing you don't. And then you've got a beautiful little bathroom that goes with that.

And really it's a beautiful glass structure. Depending on the property, you've got as good views as you could possibly wish for.

A rooftop balcony with views on a 4 metre Elsewhere Pod studio.

Martin: Would have to get curtains or window blinds?

We can do blinds, curtains. Again, totally customisable. The other thing is that all of our panels can be swapped out for solid walls or things like frosted glass or mirror glass.

A new innovation that we've brought in this year is where you're looking at the pod from the outside and it actually reflects the environment with a mirror glass.

So you're really maximising the natural beauty and also adding privacy.

Martin: Beautiful. I'll take 10 of them!

What's The Future Of Elsewhere Pods?

Martin: I'm really seeing a future of housing here, big time. Changing the way we build, changing the way we live a little bit.

So our vision for the future is to continue to empower a kind of luxury ecotourism industry.

The reason that we've targeted that is because obviously we have super high spec products, but we feel that camping and kind of glamping in the middle of the market, there are already great products in those industries, but we think that we can make ecotourism mainstream by adding these really beautiful Instagramable products in beautiful locations.

So the flow on effect of that is that if you're providing dedicated ecotourism accommodations, then there's less demand for traditional homes that are currently being listed on platforms like Airbnb.

What this means is you're actually increasing the supply of homes in the market and therefore alleviating the housing affordability stresses in regional and coastal and tourism communities.

It's kind of a two-pronged attack on empowering ecotourism and addressing housing affordability.

Could your next accessory dwelling unit (or granny pod) be like this?

Martin: So you are saying more people might be inclined to go and stay in an Elsewhere Pod as an Airbnb type thing or live in one and then housing could be still available for other people to rent?

To rent long-term for families or workers in those communities.

These regional communities are really doing it tough when it comes to housing, so we don't want to make the problem worse, we only want to make it better.


That's it!

More details about the Elsewhere Pods modular homes here...


 

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