The last time anyone dreamt of building a house was perhaps when they were fiddling about with Legos as a toddler.
But what about building a fully-functional home with nothing but some flat-packs and an Allen key?
Samuel Vedanaigam may have just the solution. As the creator of Singapore’s first modular homes, he has invented a system where one can build a home with just those parts.
“You just take one look at the parts, and you know that this piece goes in there,” he says. “There’s no two ways about it.”
How it works is simple. You use whatever’s provided in the box, and you start building.
It is not just some high-concept sketch or rendering that Vedanaigam has cooked up. In Singapore, Vedanaigam already has two modular homes out in the wild. The first went to an expat who wanted to add her own soundproof studio to her existing bungalow: if she relocated again, she’d be able to take her new house extension wherever she wanted. The second went to a multi-generational family that wanted to give their ailing patriarch a space of his own on the ground floor.
Vedanaigam provides the aluminium superstructure, while the fittings can be made out of whatever materials are on hand—concrete, composite, plywood, and so on.
The MOVIT can be technically be built anywhere. And since it doesn’t even need electricity or machinery to be assembled, one could in theory build a home anywhere the aluminium frames can be carried.
One Allen key is all it takes to assemble an entire house, although Vedanaigam recommends it be used with an electric driver (in the interests of saving time, and preventing some avoidable callouses).
Vedanaigam’s company, POD Structures, even maintains its own fully-functional MOVIT in its factory. It’s a 400sqft, honey-hued darling that wouldn’t look out of place at a condominium open house.
But his creations don’t just serve city-dwellers with dreams of supersizing their Lego creations. After the deadly earthquake struck Bohol in 2013, Vedanaigam flew to the Philippines to offer aid. He brought his flat-packed Tubelar structures, the heaviest of which weighed just 15kg, and a three-man team consisting of himself, his partner at POD Structures, and a technician.
With the help of ‘a bunch of farmers’, the ragtag team would assemble a fully functional clinic in eight hours.
“The farmers just saw what the technician was doing, they immediately got it, and started following him,” Vedanaigam says.
Of Tubelar’s intuitive, look-and-you-get-it design, Vedanaigam says that his lack of formal education helped. “Today, I design my products with the assumption that someone who doesn’t know anything about engineering will be building this,” he says.
Vedanaigam learned everything he knew about engineering at a shipyard. He never completed his ‘O’ Levels, either, quitting school out of necessity at a young age to start work.
When he got the chance to attend night classes later in life, Vedanaigam found himself bored and restless. He needed to create, he says, and not just something that looked good on paper.
Take his upcoming project for instance. This July, POD Structures will launch its first modular floating homes, a dream for fishermen and introverts alike.
“It’s better than a yacht. It’s stable, so it doesn’t rock, and it’s designed exactly like a home, so it feels comfortable and welcoming wherever you are at sea,” he says.
The entire structure is self-sustaining, too, so homeowners can live out at sea completely undisturbed. Aside from inbuilt desalination and solar energy systems, Vedanaigam—an avid eco-warrior who abhors even the mention of plastics—is also working on a sewage system that recycles waste into sanitised fish food.
It’s also Vedanaigam’s solution for Singapore’s perennial space-crunch. By taking homes out to sea, Singapore essentially earns itself some valuable, and currently underutilised, housing space.
Vedanaigam himself is a modern renaissance man. He is at once a certified boatman, diver, professional photographer and former DJ in the 80s. He counts problem-solving as a hobby.
“I like to think big: houses on Mars, on the moon—why not? We’re already part of the way there,” he jokes.
But for now, Vedanaigam contents himself with bringing the MOVIT to as many places as it can possibly go.