Recently they have launched a company called OUT of the BLUE Ltd to specialise in pre-fabricated modular living units that are suitable for isolated locations and extreme weather conditions. They approached MANiFAB with a concept for a new modular living unit and over two years the two companies have worked together to produce the Out of the Blue Airship.

Read the full case study below   

The Design Brief

The client Roderick James Architects LLP approached MANiFAB with a concept for the design and manufacture of a modular living unit. This was to be a contemporary, maintenance free, fully insulated flexible living space for Housing, Hideaways, Rooftops or Afloat.

The brief that MANiFAB were given included four specific design requirements.

  1. 1Unit to be portable to allow them to be erected in isolated location with restricted vehicle access
  2. 2Each modular component to be lightweight enough for just two people to carry and handle
  3. 3Construction to be robust enough so that is able to withstand extreme weather conditions
  4. 4Hardwearing to be able to cope with rough handling and transportation

The original concept was a design that incorporated a laminated timber frame with glazing at each end and clad with timber panels. However upon recieving the brief, the design team at MANiFAB suggested some structural changes to the architects at Roderick James as part of the initial discussions.

These proposed changes including building the frame out of aluminium rather than timber to make the structure lighter as well as using aluminium for the cladding panels to provide a weather tight skin. Once agreed with the client the design team at MANiFAB could take the next steps and begin to put together a design for the unit.

The MANiFAB Process

MANiFAB were well equipped to realise this design concept for the client thanks to their in-house design capabilities. Using the latest 3D CAD software removed the need for blank development so the design could go stright through into production ensuring that the process was quick and cost effective. As well as that the ability to carry out pre-manufacture strength and structure analysis meant that the client was protected against costly misjudgements.

A highly skilled production team coupled with the latest in manufacturing technologies ensured that the finished product was of the highest quality and completely repeatable with precision for future commissions.

To ensure that every aspect of the project fits the brief, MANiFAB strive to work in complete collaboration with the client involving regular contact points, progress checks and prototyping work. The following is a breakdown of how the team at MANiFAB work to carry out bespoke projects such as this one.

  • A basic frame layout model was designed in 3D using CAD and this was sent to the clients structural engineer for verification of its integrity.
  • Changes proposed by structural engineer were incorporated into the frame and then prototypes of frame sections were manufactured. This was to prove the feasibility of manufacturing and to determine the optimum production processes to give high quality and consistent sub-assemblies.
  • Following evaluation with the client of the prototype sections, the full frame was developed to incorporate the production processes chosen. This included extensive use of tube laser cut elemenets which were developed to give complete frame sections.
  • The full frame was then manufactured and trial constructed. Upon feedback some slight modifications and adjustments were made to improve manufacturing and make erection easier.
  • Further discussions were held with the client to agree a design for the cladding panels. Aspects included the panel material and grade, insulation type and method and finally the finish of the panel.
  • Trial panels were then made following agreeement with client and fitted to the frame to assess the appearance and the ease of installation.
  • Additional items were added to the design to include porthole windows, flue openings etc. as requested by the client. Discussions were then held with specialist glazing companies to design the glazed ends. The framing was then adjusted to suit the system chosen.
  • Prototype glazing sections were then manufactured to allow samples of the glazed units to be trial fitted and assessed.
  • A full set of cladding panels were then manufactured and fitted to the prototype frame.
  • On request of the client MANiFAB were also instructed to specify the internal fittings for the unit. This included internal partition walls, flooring, bathroom fittings, furniture frames and finally kitchen fittings and counters. From the clients sketched 3D designs were developed for all areas. These were assessed and modified to suit clients comments.
  • Samples of all units were manufactured and fitted to the prototype. This was then dismantled and shipped to its intended location in Scotland where it was erected by the client with assistance and guidance from the MANiFAB team. Once in place the units internal power and water was installed by the clients team.


Following on from the completion of the project consultation and feedback sessions were held with the client to assess the success of the project overall and provide any revisions or changes that could be made.

On the whole the client was pleased with how the project was carried out. The main change to the design that was suggested was that the orientation of the cladding should be changed from vertical to horizontal.

Thanks to the success of this initial project a second prototype has been produced and is currently being installed in south east England and a further two units have been manufactured and will be despatched soon at locations to be agreed.

Manufacturing Capabilities

The following Manufacturing processes were used throughout the construction of this project click on each one to learn more about them.