This kind of shipping container housing makes sense.
When I was back in architecture school playing with shipping containers, it never occurred to me to treat them as empty boxes. Shipping containers were designed to move, and to be full of stuff besides air. Also, the interior dimensions were designed for freight, not people, and were too narrow. So all the designs I worked on had walls that folded down and out and basically, looked almost pretty much like what Konbuild is doing in China right now.
What Evana Yim and her team have done is squeeze a two-bedroom house into a single custom box with the dimensions and corner castings of a 20 or 40 foot shipping container. It's a remarkable achievement. And they have big ambitions:
We have a dream to create affordable, well designed and practical homes for those in need. Our designs are inspired from modern Scandinavian design. Pure clean lines, honest materials, but functional. Our unique design is able to be shipped worldwide as it fits directly into a shipping container. This allows us to utilize existing logistical infrastructure. Upon its arrival it can be folded out into a new home. Gone are the days of waiting for a large construction crew and high cost. Konbuild is the IKEA of the construction industry.
They are also surprisingly affordable, US$ 18,900 FOB Schenzhen fully equipped 20-footer that folds out to about 450 square feet. Being a shipping container folded up, shipping won't be crazy expensive either. There are bigger models and even a "tiny house" model on a chassis "that is movable and to make it easier for those with strict planning codes."
Exterior walls are steel clad EPS sandwich panels, but upgradable to non-combustible silica rock panel. Other upgrades may be necessary to meet local codes and approved fittings and fixtures.
There appears to be some recognition that quality varies in Chinese manufacturing.
Quality control is a big issue with manufacturing. However, we have an international team; our quality control person is from New Zealand. Everything must be built to, or exceed your country’s building codes. We have strict oversight in all in construction. Our homes are also finely engineered and tested.
In fact, watching the video a few times, the quality in these prototypes is a bit rough in places, as is the video. I worry about airtightness and thermal bridges. But conceptually, it is brilliant -- big rooms folding out of a little box.
Konbuild notes that they "take advantage of the huge cost saving opportunities that China allows." Construction has been just about the last industry to be offshored because of the cost of shipping. Containerized design reduced the cost, but they were still shipping a lot of air and were stuck with shipping container dimensions, so it didn't make much sense. That's why low-cost and emergency housing was often little more than a trailer.
Now you can ship a whole furnished house in a box, handle it like any shipping container, drop it on the ground and unfold it. This is going to be a big deal.