Chch firm designs caravan for gen-Y tastes

TAMLYN STEWART
Last updated 08:22 17/12/2012
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In news bound to set the hearts of caravanners everywhere aflutter, a Christchurch company has come up with a revolutionary design to replace the traditional clunky box that holds up holiday traffic for kilometres on narrow winding roads.

Christchurch design consultancy W2 is calling the Romotow "the next frontier in mobile living".

It's the first really dramatic reinvention of the caravan since the 1960s, company directors Matt Wilkie and Stuart Winterbourn reckon. It's a caravan for generation Y.

The design of the Romotow incorporates a living area that swivels out from an exterior shell, adding up to 70 per cent more living space as well as a covered outdoor section complete with fold-out barbecue.

Wilkie and Winterbourn started contemplating improvements on the design of the traditional caravan because a friend imports caravans from Britain. Discussions about the possible cost-savings of a "flat-packed" caravan at a family picnic, and a Swiss army knife, got the Romotow rolling.

"The concept is from the Swiss army knife and being able to open up all your gadgets," Wilkie said.

With traditional caravan designs if you were inside it, you were often hot, and not really involved in the environment you were in, Winterbourn said.

The Romotow lends itself to airflow and is more aerodynamic than a regular caravan, Wilkie said.

The design reduces drag on the caravan, which will mean less "wiggling" when it is being towed.

Other features include a lightweight, fuel-efficient build, power-assisted braking, pneumatic shocks, a windbreak, sliding doors, louvred windows and easy clean furniture.

It is designed to fit into a standard lot at a campsite.

Three years from their first concept for the Romotow (an amalgamation of the phrase "room to move"), the firm has secured a New Zealand patent for its design and a PCT - an international provisional patent.

W2 expects the largest markets for the Romotow would be Europe and the United States, but Australia's "grey nomads" also presented a potentially significant market.

Wilkie and Winterbourn are eyeing caravan manufacturers, particularly in the US, to manufacture their design. Market research shows the 900 recreational vehicle (RV) manufacturers in the United States generate a combined annual revenue of $10 billion.

They hope the Romotow will be on the road by 2015.

Wilkie, an interior designer, and Winterbourn, a structural engineer, started W2 in 2007, offering residential and commercial design services.

The February earthquake created strong demand for the firm's services in structural assessment and demolition work, which has largely driven its growth and increase in staff numbers from two to 10, with another two to join the firm in the near future.

W2 has worked on the demolition of QE II stadium and the convention centre.

The firm had found a bit of a niche, Winterbourn said, and had been working a lot with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, but it was not what they saw as the key area of their work.

The core idea of the company when it started was to integrate structural engineering and architectural design.

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That meant designing buildings that were less expensive and more efficient to build and could "push the envelope" a bit further, Winterbourn said.

The firm does residential and commercial design projects as well.

The firm's annual revenue was about $1 million last year and they aim to double it next year.

- The Press

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