Student digs never used to be like this

An Armadilla pod on display at King William's College.  Below, Lisa Douglas, 11, Patrick Douglas, 11, and Roisin Douglas, 12, try it out for size and comfort

An Armadilla pod on display at King William's College. Below, Lisa Douglas, 11, Patrick Douglas, 11, and Roisin Douglas, 12, try it out for size and comfort

  • by Adrian Darbyshire

It looks like an upturned wooden boat.

But this and scores of other structures like it could become a desirably eco-friendly if somewhat bijou home from home for students attending a proposed International Centre for Technology.

ICT founder Kurt Roosen, director of the Manx Education Foundation, said the project was ‘definitely going to happen’ - and momentum was building after the MEF secured the first £5 million of the £20 million in external investment it needs to make the plan a reality.

The landmark Castle Mona Hotel has been identified as a possible base for the ICT university but Mr Roosen insisted this was just one of a number of sites being considered. A government deal to underwrite the project to the tune of £5 million will only happen if the Castle Mona is chosen.

Mr Roosen said the aim was to attract 1,000 students, mostly from the UK and overseas, within 10 years and there would be a need to accommodate 400 to 450 these.

That’s where these innovative high-tech wooden pods, which have been a hailed as a design classic, come in.

They went on show to the public and media at King William’s College on Monday this week.

MEF has teamed up Edinburgh-based Armadilla with a view to it possibly supplying a first phase of 110 units that will make up the student campus.

Potential sites have been identified in the Douglas area or in the south of the island with the aim of having a campus available before next year’s TT.

The pods require minimal planning permission and little disruption to the ground. Out of term time, they would be made available, for example, for TT accommodation, providing a significant revenue stream for the high education facility.

And if an order with Armadilla is made for the 110 pods, there is a potential for a new business unit to be set up in the island to pre-construct and assemble them, employing some 20-30 local workers.

The Armadilla have been designed and developed by Archie Hunt and his son Ross.

Ross said the pods, measuring 12ft long and 9ft at their widest point, were designed to last 50-plus years. ‘We wanted to break the mould of dreary design for outdoor structures,’ he said. ‘They are best described as looking like an upside down boat and using clinker-built technology – that’s how they used to build Viking boats.’

They can be easily moved about – transported on a car trailer and lifted into position by fork lift. Inside, Tardis-like, they appear surprisingly spacious. To the left is the kitchen area and to the right, a wet room that comprises wash-basin, WC and shower.

Two facing sofas, beneath porthole windows, can be transformed into one double bed or two singles. Super-insulation and bespoke double glazing means that they are cheap to heat and when the front door is closed, all outside noise is blocked out.

More than 200 Armadillas have been supplied so far and Ross said the response from customers has been ‘phenomenal’.

Mr Roosen said: ‘We are very interested in making sure the items we invest in are, as much as possible, sourced from the island, so we are very excited by the possibly of manufacturing of the Armadilla being moved to the Isle of Man.’




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