Units have steel framing, priced $2,100 to $16,500

[caption id="attachment_22789" align="alignleft" width="314" caption="The First YardPods unit was installed in San Rafael earlier this year."][/caption]

SAN RAFAEL -- A new Marin County company is testing the mettle of the tiny-building market with a steel-framed structure designed for European-style garden offices, back yard sitting rooms or pool cabanas.

Drawing on growing interest in modular, light-gauge-steel panel and tiny-home construction, YardPods launched this year with one-room insulated units that can be built in a day or so from a number of environmentally friendly components.

"In Europe where I come from, the room in the garden for an office or reading is huge and growing fast," said Chief Executive Officer Malcom Davies. "I think it is going to come here. A lot of people have a yard they want to take advantage of."

The units currently range in size from 64-square-foot square units to 120-square-foot 10-foot-by-12-foot units, but some builders are interested in larger units, he said.

YardPods capped the building size at 120 square feet initially because many jurisdictions allow structures up to that size to be erected separate from the main dwelling without building permits. Because of the need for inspections before connecting to utilities, electrical wiring and plumbing are allowed for in the design of the steel studs but must be installed by a contractor on site.

The first YardPods unit was made from panels constructed at the Codding Steel Frame Solutions factory in Rohnert Park and installed recently at Dr. Davies' San Rafael home by Paul Melish, an Oakland-based general contractor specializing in net-zero-energy homes made from modular rooms and building panels.

Codding is set to make the panels, and Mr. Melish is being offered as a preferred installer. However, YardPods has been getting inquiries from Marin builders interested in acquiring the units as panels for quick-build jobsite offices that are left behind as studios for the homeowners.

Prices range from $2,100 for unfinished do-it-yourself kits to more than $16,500 for delivered and fully finished 10-foot-by-12-foot units.

The units are built from steel rather than wood because of the lower waste factor from trimming and discarding warped lumber and the higher recycled-material content. Another Codding factory client, trailer-mounted tiny home builder Tortoise Shell Home, recently switched to steel framing for similar reasons.

Design options include cork and bamboo flooring on top of the formaldehyde-free plywood subfloor, cotton insulation from recycled clothing rated to R-19 in the floor and roof and R-13 in the walls and locally made insulated windows. The units can be put on stem-wall, block, slab, spike, lumber or gravel foundations.

The founders of YardPods have been involved with management and marketing of a number of technology companies located in the North Bay and elsewhere. Dr. Davies, who has a doctoral degree in architecture and building, and Chief Marketing Officer Marvin Mauer, a formerly registered civil engineer, have handled business development and marketing for venture-funded small-scale wind generator maker VQ Wind of Santa Clara for the past two years.

Dr. Davies' interest in steel framing while with modular high-end home designer Michelle Kaufmann led him to a consulting sales position with Codding Steel just after it opened in 2007. He was a top executive at Gehry Technologies, Hyprotech, Cadkey, Autodesk and General Electric.

Mr. Mauer was vice president of marketing for Autodesk, Mattel Interactive formerly in Novato, Master Builder before its acquisition by Intuit and IMSI/Design in Novato. He was president of IMSI spinoff Houseplans.com for five years.

For more information, visit www.yardpods.com.