A homegrown building materials wholesaler and distributor, Unitrade, is expanding its rental services with the addition of modular houses. Prior to this, the Group’s rental division mainly entails temporary structural support equipment such as scaffolding, steel plates, and hollow sections.
Adopting a B2B model, Unitrade’s modular houses are mainly marketed to the construction sector as on-site workers’ accommodations as well as to entities that are looking to build Centralized Labour Quarter (CLQ). Apart from dormitories, its prefabricated houses could also be implemented as site offices, canteens, clinics, and laundry rooms.
The amended Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446), which aims to ensure decent accommodation for workers, came into full effect on 1 September 2020. Act 446 was previously only applicable to the plantations and mining industries but now extends to all employment sectors. Among the guidelines include a minimum bedroom space of 3 sqm for each employee for dormitories.
Executive Director of Unitrade, Simson Sim said, “Since the enforcement of the amended Act 446, many companies have been struggling to meet the necessary guidelines in a cost-effective manner. Compared to before, construction players now require more conventional cabins and on-site floor areas to house the same number of workers. With our double-story modular houses, we could potentially disrupt the market as they take up smaller floor space and thus cost less on a per headcount basis. Most importantly, the modular houses comply with Act 446.”
A set of Unitrade’s modular houses with a 130-worker capacity takes up 198.75 sqm of floor area. In contrast, conventional cabins occupy more than double the space at 448.00 sqm for the same capacity.
“Beyond the affordability and space-efficiency, we believe our rental model has an added edge, particular to small and medium-sized contractors who wish to minimise capital expenditure. Since our recent soft launch, the response has been very encouraging. In fact, we have secured orders to rent out modular houses for about 2,000 workers. Currently, we are in discussion with several commercial customers to house a further 4,000 workers. With Indonesia recently lifting the ban on sending migrant workers, we are expecting a higher influx of workers and stronger demand for our modular houses in the months ahead.”
“As we grow this rental division, our recurring revenue stream will also improve, giving us better earnings visibility and long-term stability. Besides that, this is also synergistic to the building materials wholesaling business as we further improve our service comprehensiveness among construction sector clients,” Simson added.