Intelligent space

Terrapin has enjoyed nearly 60 years of success and today delivers the best construction solution for every building need

Terrapin came into existence in the late 1940s following the rising demand for new buildings after World War II, and during the 1950s and 1960s the company was best known for education accommodation. Terrapin quickly became recognised as a building concept, and when you look up ‘terrapin’ in the Oxford dictionary, the second definition of the word is ‘a prefabricated one-storey building’. For many years ‘Terrapins’ were manufactured under licence in several countries overseas. Today the company’s key customers are in the living accommodation, specialist housing, military, education and health sectors.

Terrapin’s success stems from its early identification of the need for a new form of construction, which would provide quality buildings quickly and at a low cost, whilst adhering to good architectural practice. Whilst that early need was generated by the demand for new buildings, there was also a longerterm need to rethink construction.

The building industry had to respond to new pressures – minimising waste, reducing time on site, improving site safety and reducing reliance on traditional skills. All these factors have accelerated the need for offsite manufacture and other modern methods of construction (MMC). The combination of acute building demand, skill shortages, regulatory pressures and affordability created a climate in which the design and construction principles behind the original ‘Terrapin concept’ are now accepted as a vital part of today’s modern building industry.
Terrapin Dec Jan 06 07 b
“I believe we have tremendous opportunities in the marketplace but it is not getting any easier to secure work, as the supply chain system now means that a majority of the work goes through to large contractors, PFIs (Private Finance Initiative) or PPPs (Public Private Partnerships), or other contractual arrangements. This makes it very difficult for the small to medium players, like us, because it means that we are further down the supply chain,” Nick Whitehouse, the chairman of Terrapin Ltd comments on the current state of the marketplace.

“There are a lot of issues in the market especially with managing change – regulations keep changing with the strongest driver being sustainable materials. There is often a lack of good strong data against which to make decisions as to how you measure cradle to grave embodied energy or carbon content in materials and processes. We know we all have to get a lot more efficient and proficient, but how do you do that whilst being cost effective and competitive at the same time because some of these issues are going to cost significant amounts of money in the short term. The biggest challenge is that clients are still only interested in the initial cost rather than measuring the whole life performance of the building.”

Delivering tomorrow’s buildings based on the firm foundation of almost 60 years’ experience in pioneering offsite building techniques, Terrapin uses modern construction technologies to deliver better buildings – faster and more sustainably. Its production capabilities and expertise encompass the widest possible range of construction technologies from highly flexible low cost modular construction, through mass replication using steel framed modules, to custom design and component build for larger building projects. Whatever the construction solution, Terrapin underpins it with innovative design, quality engineering and a full range of services, including planning, full project management and finance.

With specialist expertise in education, healthcare and living accommodation (especially for key workers and public sector projects), there is a team uniquely placed to deliver the best construction solution and the best value for every building need. Because the company believes that there are no limits to the quality and efficiency that can be obtained by using modern methods of construction for building procurement, it continues to invest in research and development of building materials, design and construction technologies in order to expand its knowledge and find new solutions to satisfy its clients’ building needs.

Continuing, Nick outlines the secret to Terrapin’s success and its ability to stay ahead of the game: “The winning formula that has seen us succeed through the years is a combination of being commercially careful and yet technically adventurous. This means that we produce and develop technically sound products through careful commercial analysis and management of risk.

“We also have specialist knowledge with a good breadth of experience and expertise in our sector and a wide range of skills and support services. The three main ingredients to success lie in our capabilities in design, manufacturing and construction. We also look after our employees with a family type approach to employment because each and every one of our staff is critical to the success we have experienced over the years and they are highly valued.”

Nick continues by highlighting the company’s strategies for moving forward: “There are no major changes anticipated in our market sectors so we are continuing to invest in new techniques and processes as well as becoming leaner and more effective all the time – so there is a continuous improvement plan.

“We are also increasingly joining forces with strategic partners because I believe it is much better to work together than to paddle in individual canoes; and partnerships do work to the benefit of all. We have joint ventures with the likes of Barratt Homes and Sir Robert McAlpine, licences with Corus and we are currently coming to the end of our part in the Colchester Garrison project – the largest PFI project ever undertaken in the UK to date at £2 billion.”

In the 1980s Terrapin pioneered revolutionary innovations in design and energy efficiency and in the 90s launched a radical modular construction system with a rigid light steel frame for residential and key worker accommodation. This new technology is at the leading edge of today’s building industry and is being applied in manufacturing the living accommodation modules for the Colchester Garrison.

From its unrivalled foundation of experience and knowledge, the company has become widely recognised as the market leader in design and engineering innovation for offsite building. Terrapin thinks harder and works smarter in order to deliver a total building solution – a concept it calls intelligent space.