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Overall, I’m not a fan of the shipping container tiny home fad (read why here), but, damnit, these container homes do look great! If I was to buy one of these designs, Honomobo would certainly be in the running for a prefab home with a shipping container base structure and all for just under $80,000. Honomobo also make M-Series steel frame prefab microhomes, which are likely the more eco-friendly option and start at around $98,000.
What makes them green?
Some will argue that reusing shipping containers is eco-friendly, but I beg to differ, for a variety of reasons. However, if you’re going to go this route for your prefab home, Honomobo at least do a good job of making an energy efficient, eco-friendly container home. Honomobo’s M-Series homes have a rigid steel frame with insulation that makes the home impervious to water and flame resistant.
Honomobo homes are built from durable materials and run fully on electricity, with LED lights throughout, meaning that they’re simple to power off-grid. These homes can also be net positive, given the right set-up of renewable energy systems. Some of the Honomobo homes have an air-source heat pump and hot water heater to help reduce your energy needs. They also feature an electric hot water tank and energy recovery ventilator (ERV) and you can upgrade to include an HVAC system.
Windows are double pane insulated with fiberglass reinforced frames, and insulation is R24 in the walls and R40 in the roof, using EPS insulated panels for the M-Series and 2lb closed cell polyurethane spray foam for the H-Series. Neither of these are great from a materials perspective, but the insulation will help eliminate air gaps and air transfer to keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. You can choose to upgrade your Honomobo home with an insulated floor using R32 polyurethane insulation. For true energy efficiency, I’d want to see an insulated floor as a standard feature.
I’d also like to see Honomobo embrace more eco-friendly insulation options, but this would likely be tricky given the nature of shipping containers and their inherent thermal bridging downside. Of the two, the M-Series EPS panels are more environmentally friendly at the outset and, given that they provide the same R-value, there’s little to recommend the H-Series over the M-Series.
Energy efficient Blomberg, Milano, and Fulgor appliances are included in many models. Oddly, the upgraded appliances are from companies that tend to be less eco-friendly, so you’ll probably want to source your own for up-front and ongoing cost savings. A Nest smart thermostat is also one of the upgrade options and could help you reduce energy usage and save money.
Unfortunately, the standard flooring option is vinyl planks in light grey or light oak colors. These are highly durable but vinyl is still a petrochemical derived product, so not very eco-friendly.
Aside from the issues I’ve already mentioned regarding material choices, Honomobo may not be ideal if you live in the eastern U.S. The company is based in Canada, but also serve parts of the Northwestern United States. They are certified for California, Washington, Colorado, British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. Outside of these states and provinces, you’ll have to investigate permitting yourself, and the cost of shipping your prefab home may prove too onerous.
What else is great about Honomobo?
This could be either a positive or a negative, depending on your particular needs: Honomobo floor plans are more or less fixed, other than the potential to mirror the layout. This makes for a simple, streamlined, and cost-efficient process that is predictable and less likely to experience delays or problems with unfamiliar materials. They do offer some styling and upgrade options, but these are quite limited.
The Honomobo process is really rather simple and makes homebuilding a lot more predictable than a conventional home built on site. Basically, you choose your Honomobo model, they manufacture it, deliver it, and install it, and you’re pretty much ready to move in.
What kind of eco-friendly prefab homes do they build?
Honomobo H-Series and M-Series homes can be used as an accessory dwelling unit ADU) on an existing property, a carriage/laneway home, garage suite, lakefront getaway, tiny house, or stacked on a garage. They are built to meet the local building code wherever you are, and they take just 12 weeks from production start date to delivery.
The smallest model Honomobo make is the M0.5 (Mstudio), which measures 273 sq. ft. and is 12 ft. wide x 24 ft .deep. This model costs around $98,318. Slightly bigger at 419 sq. ft., the M1 is 34 ft. wide x 14 ft. deep, has one bedroom and one bathroom, and costs around $129,571. It has 31 ft. of floor to ceiling glass across the front of the home, which either makes it terrible for your location or a good option for passive solar heating. The M1 is a one piece modular home that can be installed quickly in one energy efficient package.
The M2 is a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home measuring 810 sq. ft., 34ft wide x 26 ft deep, and costs an estimated $186,080. This model has 29 ft. of floor to ceiling glass across the front of the home, and features a full sized living room, dining area, kitchen, two bedrooms, and an ensuite with two sinks. The M2 can be positioned at grade or over a garage.
Their largest design, the M3, is a three-bedroom, 1,201 sq. ft. home measuring 34 ft wide x 40 ft deep, and costs around $230,028. Incredibly, this model can also be positioned at grade or over a garage or other structure.
The H-Series also features models larger than the tiny homes, including the H03, which measures 24ft wide x 24ft deep and is made of three shipping containers knit together for a total of 534 sq. ft. at an estimated cost of $173,236. Other models include:
H04: 32ft wide x 24ft deep; 710 square feet – Estimated Cost: $193,537
H04+: 32ft wide x 40ft deep; 1,224 square feet – Estimated Cost: $252,207
H05+: 40ft wide x 40ft deep; 1,530 square feet – Estimated Cost: $302,768
Standard options for Honomobo homes include corrugated steel with marine grade enamel finish (H-Series) or magnesium structurally insulated panels (M-Series). These homes have a steel accent panel with clear coat for protection, wood soffits made with Canadian cedar 1×4 T&G micro-bevel (including a UV coating), and a 2% slope roof front-to-back w/white EPDM membrane.
The M-Series has 9’ ceiling heights and the H-Series has 8’8” ceiling heights with a 1×4 Cedar T&G ceiling finish.
Who are Honomobo and why should you trust them?
Honombobo build your home to meet your local building code, wherever you are. It typically takes 6-12 months from first contacting Honomobo to getting your home move-in ready. If you already have financing in place and you get your permits quickly, this process could be much faster as the home itself only takes 10-12 weeks for Honomobo to build.
Honomobo are keen to make things simple, offering help at every step of the way. They begin with a feasibility study and offer guidance right through to handing you the keys to your new home. They are very transparent about estimated costs for each step in the process, for feasibility studies and on-site visits ($450-$1,000), standard design and engineering ($4,750 plus $2,500), custom permit drawing and custom foundation engineering, and when you’ll need to pay a deposit to reserve your place in their production queue. If your permit is denied, costs are refundable, less a 10% processing fee.
Honombo homes are built to local building codes, are typically installed on a permanent foundation and, therefore, are eligible for a mortgage. The company is happy to talk directly to your bank to answer any questions if you hit a stumbling block.