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East Anglia Future 50

One Suffolk company is using robotics to revolutionise the construction industry

PUBLISHED: 17:39 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:39 15 August 2018

Smart Garden Offices 
Photos Lucy Taylor Photography.

Zedbox Smart Garden Offices Photos Lucy Taylor Photography.

Lucy Taylor Photography

When people question the purpose behind Charlie Dalton’s company, which manufactures annexes and garden rooms and delivers the finished product to your door, he has a standard reply: “You wouldn’t buy a car if it was built in your back garden, so why buy a building that’s made there?”

Charlie Dalton of Zedbox with MP Jo Churchill. Picture: Cherry BeesleyCharlie Dalton of Zedbox with MP Jo Churchill. Picture: Cherry Beesley

The 52 year-old founder of Zedbox is a firm believer that the construction market is automating at a rapid pace and he is determined to be at the forefront of those changes. “Its the way that all construction is going - we are just ahead of the game,” he said.

For this reason, Zedbox has just opened a 5,000sq ft research and development centre a five minute drive from their current production facility in Thurston. But contrary to the widely held belief that automation leads to job cuts, Mr Dalton has been a hiring drive, with 75 staff currently employed by the company, including 25 at the new centre, and another 100 being brought in at a new site in Suffolk from next year onwards.

“We want to develop new technology for our annex business to help us export overseas,” he explained. “There is really substantial demand in the international annex market, but every country has its own building codes which makes it a long and complicated process. We set up our R&D Centre so we can perfect the UK market offering, then do product development for all different countries.”

Mr Dalton aims to start conquering the overseas market towards the end of next year, starting with the US and Canada then Europe six months later.

OPening of Zedbox's new research and development centre. Picture: Cherry BeesleyOPening of Zedbox's new research and development centre. Picture: Cherry Beesley

He claims that his robotics ‘Tusc’ system, which enables everything to be designed and manufactured using machines, makes the end product “more accurate and robust.”

Mr Dalton started up Smart Garden Offices in Thurston in 2006, and launched Zedbox, producing timber annexes, last year.

“We can now get products made up in a matter of a few days, because we have invested in R&D,” he said.

“We are now delivering as far afield as Scotland and the West Country, and we are doing a lot of work in London.”

Mr Dalton believes that socio economic changes are driving the market for annexes. “They are being either used by the younger generation who can’t get on the property ladder, or by the older generation who want to get off it. Families are staying together for longer. Multi generational families have always been the norm in many other European countrie, because it works nicely, when there’s space for a degree of separation.”

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