"If IKEA & LEGO had a baby": U-Build is a home kit you can assemble

Nick Newman helped design a modular construction system so anyone with just a mallet and a drill can build their own home. Since co-founding U-Build in 2020, he has built— and watched others build— furniture, garden sheds, tiny homes, and full-sized houses, so it makes sense he’d use the flat-pack box system to turn the company work van into his full-time home.

[Watch our first video with Nick’s U-Build universal home-build system, a CNC-cut flat-pack design anybody can assemble to make a home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmeiZ90BKH8]

According to Newman, “the U-Build construction system is something like if IKEA and LEGO had a baby. So, it’s these big boxes that can be assembled with a mallet and a screwdriver. Effectively, you start out with your individual panels, which are cut with precision using a CNC machine, and it’s designed with this kind of locking system so you can basically put the pieces together: it would always be on the ‘right’ configuration.”

He started using the fully-electric Sprinter van as a temporary home while on overnight work trips. The U-Build system involves assembling CNC-cut, formaldehyde-free plywood boxes as building blocks which then bolt together to create a rigid frame for a structure.

The conversion cost him less than £2,000 (about $2,400, or €2,300). The system is entirely demountable, so the boxes can be reused over and over: it was easy for Newman to take the boxes he was working with daily and rearrange them in the van to build a bed, kitchen (U-Scrub), storage, and toilet (U-Poo).

Newman left a shared warehouse where he was paying £800 for a tiny, windowless bedroom for vanlife in central London, and because the van is electric, he doesn’t pay congestion charges (£15/day). He has tricked out the van to appear in drive mode so he can use the vehicle’s battery and air conditioning and heating while parked.

The U-Build (and Studio Bark) team recently bought an abandoned warehouse in Stroud (Gloucestershire) for less than the price of a tiny studio in London. While they decide what to do with the space, they have installed U-Build dwellings (built in a half day) to use as bedrooms and private offices. It’s the same model as the SHED Project, where they worked with a London-based guardian company to provide quick-build homes from U-Build kits to provide housing for those in need in exchange for building surveillance.

Nick’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@electric.vanlife

On *faircompanies: https://faircompanies.com/videos/u-build-founder-converts-electric-van-with-own-modular-home-kit/

10 Replies to “"If IKEA & LEGO had a baby": U-Build is a home kit you can assemble”

  1. "We want to empower individuals, empower community groups, thru self-build." This could save my city, where half of us are renters. Developers & Airbnb have displaced entire neighborhoods where the same families lived for generations. Living in a warehouse would be an adjustment with children … but the savings could go toward home-ownership.

  2. Чому не можливо перейти на канал? Переадресовує на "milinua" я каже нема такого

  3. Can't wait to go electric and fill up my vehicle at home. Gas stations in my area are getting more dangerous.

  4. Reinventing the wheel. This is, by now, a fairly widespread solution with Euro containers/Euroboxes that have a fairly large ecosystem around them. Can get them new or used everywhere. In heavy or light duty. It's a standardardized grid system, stackable in countless configurations. With or without lids. With or without side access. There is a huge ecosystem around them, with sinks, toilets, stoves etc. made to fit. The benefit of Euroboxes over this: weight & safety. If you ever get into an accident with these heavy ply boxes, especially without a bulkhead, you're gone.

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