Zazzle Shop

Screen printing

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MEKA Prefab Takes Manhattan, Raises Questions About The Future Of Housing

by Lloyd Alter

meka house prefabricated container housing 320 photo exterior 1
Image Credit: Inhabitat

Since the invention of the shipping container and the revolution in transport it caused, the globalization of world trade has changed the face of manufacturing. About the only industry that did not move to China was housebuilding; It's hard to ship a house.

But now, the clever Canadians of MEKA have solved that problem; They have taken the incredibly logical step of designing a container home and manufacturing the entire thing in China. The result: an entire luxury modern modular house for US$ 39,000. The housing industry will never be the same.

meka house prefabricated container housing 320 photo exterior front
Image Credit: Inhabitat

Inhabitat has a lovely slideshow of the MEKA container house on display in the West Village of Manhattan. And it is a lovely thing, with bamboo walls and ceilings, a glass wall, a jazzy fully tiled bathroom and full kitchen with stainless steel counter.

meka house prefabricated container housing 320 photo exterior 2
Image Credit: Inhabitat

Elizabeth Pagliacolo interviews the designers for Azure:

And what sets this prototype prefab apart from others? "It's a new twist on the old story of prefab using shipping containers," says [designer] Halter. "The manufacturer is in China - which means a kit could be sent anywhere in the world because the costing is better. Of course, there's a premium service (and charge) for connecting with the architect for site assessment."

[Founder] De Jong's idea to place the prefab's manufacturing base in China is the key to the enterprise's viability. Part entrepreneur, part adventure seeker, de Jong had first worked with Chinese manufacturers when he designed a tent built for hanging off the precipices of mountains. Cheap manufacturing coupled with a strong design sensibility would surely get this prefab project off the ground where so many other, more costly and less practical, ventures have failed.

meka house prefabricated container housing 320 photo interior rendering
Credit: Meka

The co-designer (with Christos Marcopoulos), Jason Halter of Wonder Inc. continues in Azure:

"There's got to be a way to provide mass housing that's affordable," says Halter. "And we also wanted to benefit from notions of sustainability - like kitting it out with bamboo and building from minimally used shipping containers."

Indeed there is; manufacture it in China, like everything else. I should love this thing; clever neighbours of mine have taken the ultimate step in shipping container housing and globalized the entire thing, making modern green prefab affordable at last.

meka house prefabricated container housing 320 photo interior

They have a lot of style and wry humour too, filling their renderings with Canadian icons like checked lumber jackets, Hudson Bay blankets and Bruce Mau doorstops.

Michael de Jong and his team have also shown that housing is no different than any other product any more; it's cheaper in China. It is a formula that works not just for 320 square feet but scales; they offer versions up to 1280 square feet. They have done something that many have tried to do and and failed: to make modern prefab affordable. It is a formula that will be copied.

Modern prefab is now affordable, but at what cost.

More at Inhabitat and Azure and MEKA