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Universal home-kit builds homes & campers: if IKEA/LEGO had a baby

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 pods, 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 featuring Nick Newman’s U-Build universal home-build system, a CNC-cut flat-pack design anybody can assemble.

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.”

Watch this exact take.

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 pods (build 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.

Here’s our story covered by Autoevolution.