ISBU prefab outsourced to China?

Over at Treehugger there is an article about a Canadian firm, Meka, that has outsourced their prefab container homes to China.

image courtesy of inhabitat via treehugger

What I’m thinking is…..WHY?  There are literally thousands of shipping containers sitting unused right here on our own shores in port cities spanning both coasts.  Why would you outsource to China?

image courtesy of inhabitat via treehugger

Obviously cost would be the biggest issue, since everything coming out of China these days is cheaper.  But is it a better quality product?  Treehugger gets the last word with this brilliant line: “Modern prefab is now affordable, but at what cost.”

image courtesy of inhabitat via treehugger

About Jeremiah

Birth: April 6 - Upstate New York Education: Savannah College of Art and Design Bachelor of Fine Art - 2003 Masters of Architecture - 2003 Member AIA National since 2004 Member AIA Florida since 2004 Member AIA Jacksonville since 2004 Member Emerging Design Professionals Jacksonville since 2006 Emerging Design Professional President 2009-2010 View all posts by Jeremiah

3 responses to “ISBU prefab outsourced to China?

  • Jeremiah

    I recently got this comment from an anonymous reader a few days ago and thought it was worth publishing with my own comments at the bottom:
    “I spoke with the guy behind the ISBU publicity stunt in NY.
    They say that a sucker is born every minute and apparently this guy thought they were hanging out in “the city” looking for boxes they had no place to put.
    He goes on about some film director that feigned interest in the homes but it didn’t pan out, But mentioning the film guy publicly DID drive the media to talk about the “temporary exhibition.”
    He’s really clueless, and the outsourcing thing just drives that home further.
    A critic would say that the diminished labor costs would drive the idea, but I have to think that the shipping costs would overshadow it.
    And you’re right. We could do it here, with containers located HERE, much cheaper.”
    End Quote
    The writer will remain anonymous to protect the innocent. My own personal reaction is that when you begin “outsourcing” manufacturing and construction assembly in favor of price, what are you really saving on? We have thousands, if not millions, of containers right here on our own shores. We have drywall, lumber, paint, insulation and cladding distributors right here in the good ole US of A – what reason could you possibly have for shipping the manufacture of a container home overseas only to have it shipped back to you for assembly on site? This is akin to me driving to another state to go to walmart to save $5 on an item I found cheaper than the same one at my local walmart – no sense whatsoever. If the goal is really affordable modular/container homes then using local construction and materials will always win out not to mention the reduction in time required for shipping and delivery, customs, building code inspection, etc.
    While the quoted comment may seem “inflammatory” or “overly critical”, I happen to agree and think that some truly don’t think things through before jumping on the bandwagon. It’s sad too, because the temporary installation is quite beautifully designed and could make a good prototype for further exploration.

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  • Shipping Container Homes

    Wow your commentary really rang true for me.

    I would accept that these designs are quite “elegant” to look at but there are so many reasons that this is bad idea I was shocked it got picked up without critical review by the “green” building blogs.

    Haven’t they heard of embodied energy ? I am a huge huge fan of container homes, in fact I run a blog that teaches people to build their own home out of Shipping Containers but where I start is displacing the “myths” and “misunderstandings” about container homes and perhaps two of the biggest is that they are “cheap to build” and inherently “green” – container homes are a good framework around which to base this discussion but they should never be considered green by default.

    There are a ton of architects and builders doing this, building on brand new containers and shipping them from China and this practice is in my opinion about as green “unfriendly” as you can get.

    One day the US is going to wake up and there will be no jobs left, oh and BTW I am not an American.

    I have an hour of free video over at for anyone interested in more information.

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