PETALING JAYA: Home-grown building materials wholesaler and distributor Unitrade Industries Bhd has rolled out a cost-effective modular house rental solution to address workers’ housing requirements.

Its executive director, Simson Sim Xian Zhi, said many companies have been struggling to meet the requirements under the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities (Amendment) Act 2019 (Act 446) in a cost-effective manner.

Since the enforcement of Act 446, construction companies now require more conventional cabins and on-site floor areas to house the same number of workers, he said.

“With our double-storey modular houses, we can potentially disrupt the market as they take up smaller floor space and thus cost less on a per headcount basis. Most importantly, the modular houses comply with Act 446,” Sim said in a statement today.

A set of Unitrade’s modular houses with a 130-worker capacity takes up 198.75 sq m of floor area. In contrast, conventional cabins occupy more than double the space at 448.00 sq m for the same capacity.

“Beyond the affordability and space-efficiency, we believe our rental model has an added edge, particular to small and medium-sized contractors who wish to minimise capital expenditure. Since our recent soft launch, the response has been encouraging. In fact, we have secured orders to rent out modular houses for about 2,000 workers.

“Currently, we are in discussions with several commercial customers to house a further 4,000 workers. With Indonesia recently lifting the ban on sending migrant workers, we are expecting a higher influx of workers and stronger demand for our modular houses in the months ahead.

“As we grow this rental division, our recurring revenue stream will also improve, giving us better earnings visibility and long-term stability. This is also synergistic to the building materials wholesaling business as we further improve our service comprehensiveness among construction sector clients,” Sim said.

Prior to this, the group’s rental division mainly entailed temporary structural support equipment such as scaffoldings, steel plates, and hollow sections.

Adopting a business-to-business model, the company’s modular houses are mainly marketed to the construction sector as on-site workers’ accommodations as well as to entities that are looking to build centralised labour quarter. Apart from dormitories, its prefabricated houses could also be implemented as site offices, canteens, clinics, and laundry rooms.

Act 446, which aims to ensure decent accommodation for workers, came into full effect on Sept 1, 2020. It was previously applicable only to the plantations and mining industries but now extends to all employment sectors. Among the guidelines is minimum bedroom space of 3 sq m for each employee for dormitory accommodation.