We've all seen the ugly side of shipping containers, but now a Tauranga homebuilder is showing the world the true beauty of these ubiquitous boxes.
Designer Chris Brauchli of Tauranga's Earthcube Design, which builds high-end luxury homes whose bones are brand new shipping containers, explains that the container is a uni-body of amazing strength.
Matthew Brauchi, of Earthcube Design, shows an animation of a finished home while Neil and Daniel Menzies and Gonzalo Cicilo work.
“They are seamless, the joins which bind them are stronger than the pieces being wielded.
“An entire container house, if you had a big enough crane, could be picked up from one corner.''
“They were designed to move everything on the planet to everywhere on the planet, so it's had to take a huge amount of critical testing, and in a sense, that bumping and rattling is basically like an earthquake.''
Second hand containers are now harder to get for several reasons.
Production dropped from 4.8 million to 400,000 annually and there are only 12 of the original 96 factories still working in Japan, while the Christchurch earthquakes have dictated that much of New Zealand's recycled stock has since headed south.
The result is that Earthcube homes has imported new containers that are structurally framed with the high tensile Corten steel uni-body of shipping containers and lined with sustainable laminated timbers.
Little wonder then, that Raratonga, often ravaged by hurricanes, will soon have its second hurricane and earthquake-proof Earthcube container house.
Chris, who previously built luxury kitchens, homes and yachts, says the inside of the homes are extremely robust.
“Everything in there is built to a legacy standard. It's designed to last 100 years or more. There is no particle board, no GIB, no MDF…no-one has ever said to me ‘I'm doing a super yacht and I want to GIB it'.''
The homes are relocatable, modular and fully integrated, like a yacht in a box, and have been specifically designed and then built at the Tauranga site for the last two years.
Tauranga City Council has been extremely supportive and Chris says the mayor and several key staff have assisted along the way as they saw the wider impact these homes could have.
The company is consolidating its base - five homes are currently under construction, four more are waiting to be built and three others have been completed.
Chris says the key to building a successful business is to think globally and focus on what you can be the best at.
The company has refrained from following the worldwide trend of building low quality ‘hippie houses' and is instead targeting the discerning homeowner and the high-end market.
“We're the only people in the world, ever, to combine a luxury home with a shipping container. We do not make cheap housing - you virtually break your hand if you try to punch through a wall.
“Most of the other people have tried to take a container and finish it like a normal house. We approach it more like a yacht, combining best use of space with the best materials and craftsmanship.”
The boxy nature of containers made them challenging to work with, he says.
“It's like trying to be a genius with Lego. Having said that, I'll be showcasing projects at the Tauranga Home Show that you will never believe have containers inside them.”