One of Squamish’s newest one-bedroom rentals may have started life as an old shipping container, but reborn with airy open windows and modern style, it’s ready to “steel” the show.
The structure is the first of its kind built in Squamish, billed as “modern, beautiful, modular” by company Honomobo, which specializes in prefabricated homes, made of shipping containers.
“They are made to weather abuse and they’re meant to be moved, which is an advantage in itself,” said Devon Siebenga, cofounder of the Edmonton-based company. “The container is built from corten steel, which we build bridges out of. Its nature is to protect itself from corrosion, it’s a long-lasting product, it’s a modular product. Combine that with design and housing and it really fits.” Honomobo has installed houses across western Canada and the United States, but the pre-designed one-bedroom on Meadow Avenue is a new concept in Squamish. The finished structure bears little resemblance to endless rugged and colourful boxes stacked on top of barges seen in the Vancouver Harbour.
The exterior of the “HO3” unit – composed of three lightly used shipping containers – is black corrugated steel with modern wooden accents. The sleek white interior arrives almost complete, with pre-selected finishings and appliances added in a factory just outside Edmonton. “I’m really happy with it. I love how it looks,” said Squamish homeowner Ryan Johnson. When Johnson and his wife, Kirsten Sollid, bought the Brackendale property in 2011 they already had plans to add a laneway apartment that could work as a rental unit or in-law suite.
The couple wanted something basic to keep costs low since the purpose of the rental unit was to offset their mortgage. Originally, they planned to do a site build, but the simplicity of the shipping container structure caught their eye.
Johnson, a professional building technologist, acknowledges he was a skeptic at first. He had concerns about price, durability, and flexibility. Because they are prefabricated, the walls and windows in a Honomobo house are fixed and not customizable.
The unit ended up being a good fit for the space. Facing the quiet laneway, it has wall-to-ceiling mountain views and privacy for both the family and tenant. “Through the process, I became very confident with the product, and eventually decided to go with it…. It’s green, durable and energy efficient, all those things came together.”
Johnson said construction from start to finish – including the concrete foundation and getting services installed – lasted about four and a half months. The
installation of the HO3 unit itself took two weeks. “The rental market is zero vacancy, so this is providing a place for people that need to live.”
Inevitably, not everyone will love the modern style, but it hasn’t dissuaded tenants.
The homeowners easily found someone ready to move in just weeks after construction finished. Johnson said they plan to rent the unit for $1,600 a month.
“The rental market is zero vacancy, so this is providing a place for people that need to live,” he said.
Johnson said as communities like Squamish grow and the need for properties grows, different density options like laneway houses will become more and more popular – both as rental units, but also offering flexibility to families.“Our in-laws might move in there, we might move in there someday – our kids have already told us they’re going to live in the house and we’ll live in there,” he said with a laugh.
For now, Siebenga said that most Honomobo owners are early adopters – excited about the technology and modern design, whether they’re planning a tiny house or a large cottage. “It brings simplicity to the addition of a home or adding more density. You can literally go online and click buy. We’ve simplified the process. To me, that’s the future.”