ISBU prefab in China? – old repost

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

11 thoughts on “ISBU prefab in China? – old repost

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention ISBU prefab in China? – old repost « r | one studio architecture --

    • Matt,
      Yes, I agree, the design is pretty sweet. I disagree with exporting the manufacture of the containers to China however. Especially given the overwhelming surplus of containers right here on our own shores.
      I’ve checked out your website several times before as research on modular homes. You’ve got some great work.

    • Lee,
      Thanks for the comment. I agree that more progress needs to be made in the modular design area. I’m currently reading/reviewing “the not so big house” by Sarah Susanka, and in it she talks about a couple that approached her to help them design a home after they spent a half million on your typical cookie cutter McMansion and were miserable with it. This is far more the rule rather than the exception these days. The solution is for us (architects and designers) to offer more mainstream solutions to more efficient, sustainable and beautiful architectural homes at affordable prices and reduced construction times.
      Thanks again for your comments. I’ll be checking out your blog.

      • As much as I agree with your comments about China I also agree with…

        “The solution is for us (architects and designers) to offer more mainstream solutions to more efficient, sustainable and beautiful architectural homes at affordable prices and reduced construction times.”

        The real question is why are we still talking like this in 2011 ?

        Surely by now we all understand the outsourcing everything to China debate, including the long term consequences ?


        1, MEKA are manufacturing in China so that can make the most amount of money possible whilst masquerading as environmentally responsible.

        2, Most Architects and Designers “design” to make the most amount of money possible whilst masquerading as environmentally responsible.

        Whats the difference ?

        The few that truly want this started the moved 10 years ago, the balance will only do so because they are forced to.

  2. Jackson,
    I appreciate your comments, and, yes I think we all understand the outsourcing argument and the consequences associated with it…yet we keep doing it over and over again. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing something over and over again expecting a different result? Just a thought.
    I do have to disagree, however, with point #2 that architects and designers “design” in order to make the most money while masquerading as one thing or another. The majority of architects and designers that I follow and associate with are not in this game to make a mint (though that would REALLY be nice). Architecture is not a profession to get into to make money. We all know this, it’s been talked about ad nauseum for years and is proven simply by looking at one’s own paycheck…or lack thereof.
    Architecture is a passion, it’s a calling, it’s (in my opinion) the ultimate profession because it perfectly marries the science and art of creation and building. That to me is the difference between builders out to make a buck off the latest building trend and architects who have been pushing for more sustainable living their entire careers.
    In the end, decisions are made by the clients. But it is the role of the architect to educate and show that there are alternatives to the same old crap that clients see in the magazines that they bring to meetings with architects to point and say “I want this kitchen and this sitting room, these bedrooms and oh this bathroom over here. Now make me a house.”
    Ok, I’ve gotten off on a tangent. Sorry about that. My point is simply this: modular, sustainable, eco-friendly, affordable – these are not just the latest buz words. These are the goals of architecture – to create a better quality of life through architecture. Can you smell what I’m slingin?

    • Yeah I smell it : )

      We all have opinions and are of course equally entitled to them.

      Mine is that a significant part of “where we are at today” in any and every discipline has to lie with the thought leaders, professionals and engineers in that field.

      When they talk about the need for smaller, more fuel efficient cars – the car “designers” have to step up for a smack – its not good enough to say that the “consumer” is driving that discussion.

      When we talk about the move towards more energy efficient home appliances the consumer electronics engineers have significant responsibility.

      When we talk about water conversation – why aren’t all plumbing fittings and fixing low flow – by default ?


      When we talk about the mess that is Hosing Solutions most in the Architecture Community are a part of the problem, to suggest that all of the above are accountable but not the thought leaders, professionals and engineers in Architecture is just silliness, and perhaps a reflection on why there is still such a problem – no one wants to take on responsibility – its some one elses fault.

      • Correct. Responsibility falls on your entire list – start to finish, including architects. But, you can’t FORCE people to be responsible….unfortunately. In a market driven society, the customer (often times to the detriment) is always right. But the “thought leaders”, as you aptly put it, are in a unique position to facilitate the kind of change in thinking we’re talking about and we definitely need to step up more in that capacity.

  3. I guess that’s my point about most Architects being driven by money – like everyone else BTW

    If your good – as with any professional – your services will ( after some time in practice ) be in some measure of demand.

    Its been a long time since I cold called or solicited in the true sense for business, yes we actively promote and market ourselves but still most of my business comes from referrals and reputation and I interview new clients as much as they interview me.

    The client was always right in the 1950’s not today – I have a red rope around my business and you have to qualify as a client, supplier, partner – I don’t do business with anyone unless it fits my vision for what I stand for and I would hope its a two way understanding.

    I honestly would turn away a client that didn’t want to follow certain guiding principals.

    Don’t get me wrong I am NOT talking about ridiculous demands that will loose you clients I mean things like.

    I don’t take on a project that the clients are not going to agree that we will make the minimum waste possible.

    I don’t take on projects where the clients are not willing to provide priority to local supply – wherever we are – not my local supply – theirs.

    etc, etc, etc

    If all the best firms – not just a few – did that then over time the “status quo” would change and even those we turned away because they didn’t want to play would eventually “move” in the right direction, they tend to follow.

    Unfortunately what happens is there are a few Architects that hold by these principals, the majority cave in because they want the $ more than the value system and the system takes 50 years to evolve.

    Anywho an interesting discussion, thanks.

    • What you’ve described is a model to follow. Thanks for all your comments! If you’ve got a site, feel free to post a link. I’d love to add it to my list. Cheers.

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