How Bluefield Houseboats achieved growth

Bluefield Houseboats recently trebled its manufacturing capacity while reducing waste and delivering low-carbon designs. Here is how they’ve tapped into a growing alternate property market. 

In 2016, Bluefield made the timely decision to set up as a specialist in the design and manufacture of residential and commercial houseboats in Northern Ireland. Since then, lockdown has led to fresh interest in houseboat rentals and purchases, as has the search for cheaper housing amid the cost of living crisis.

Sustainability underpins the ethos of Bluefield Houseboats, with a focus on upcycling sites that have previously been inaccessible, bringing new life to marinas, waterfronts and riversides throughout the UK and Ireland. 

Innovation centre: from commercial to floating homes

By using Ulster Bank-provided funding to buy an acre of commercial ground outside Ballynahinch, it is now the proud owner of a 6,000 sq ft purpose-built production facility.

Phase one of this multi-phase investment programme has also seen the company expand its manufacturing capacity from a dozen hand-built-to-order houseboats a year to 36. With this came three new roles, as well as future recruitment in the pipeline.

Bluefield Houseboats chairman Tony Reid says: “Our core business is focused on the development of houseboats for commercial use. However, our long-term outlook sees significant opportunity in the residential space, as well as supporting marinas to capitalise on tourism potential to generate new and sustainable revenue streams.”

Derick Wilson, Ulster Bank’s Business Development Manager, points out that Northern Ireland enjoys a proud manufacturing heritage, which Bluefield Houseboats reflects in its range of cutting-edge models and premium product suite.

With the benefit of a modern and built-for-purpose manufacturing base, the company is now equipped to attract further investment and maximise its export potential in a market with huge opportunity for growth.

Derek Wilson
Business Development Manager, Ulster Bank

Adapting to your environment

In a world where flooding is becoming more common, these builds offer a “light touch” to the environment by minimising permanent infrastructure; off-grid and renewable energy sources are also an option.

Operations director Colin Nelson says the aim of the investment is to minimise waste while maximising productivity by embedding the principles of manufacturing best practice to sustain growth.

“Already, we have a very strong proposition and a high demand product which we believe will only continue to grow as population size and density, combined with land availability, intensifies.”

Technical director Justin Reid adds: “By streamlining the production process we’re able to eliminate the double-handling of materials and increase our output, manufacturing up to eight individual houseboats under the same roof at any one time compared to only three previously.”

More success is on the horizon

With an expanding order book, the young company is looking to the future. Subject to planning permission, phase two of the investment programme will see Bluefield Houseboats add 13,000 sq ft to its production site, upping output to 100 houseboats annually.

At present, there are seven different models of houseboat from three ranges, all with highly insulated, airtight, low-carbon designs. Care is taken to use contemporary materials and quality fittings, while a bespoke service based on prefabrication and modular floating solutions chimes fluidly with our rapidly evolving landscape.

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