CALDWELL — In a warehouse just outside downtown Caldwell, old, rusted shipping containers are being converted into one possible solution to today's affordable housing crisis — modular homes.
The 21,000-square-foot warehouse is home to indieDwell, an affordable-housing manufacturing company that builds modular homes out of steel shipping containers. Since the full-scale factory became operational this summer, the company has been pumping out about one home every four days, shipping them to customers across the nation.
Founders Scott Flynn and Pete Gombert began manufacturing these homes in September 2017. Since then, they've been producing the energy-efficient, steel homes for customers hoping to live smaller, more sustainable lives, Gombert said.
The all-electric homes feature quartz counters, stainless-steel appliances and steel interiors and exteriors. Flynn estimates that full operation of the house will cost less than $50 a month. Because they use the walls and floors of the actual shipping containers, the homes are durable and long-lasting, Gombert said.
The idea behind indieDwell came when Flynn challenged himself to find a way to produce houses that everyone on the income spectrum could afford. He wanted them to be sustainable, durable, energy-efficient and healthy, all at an affordable price.
Of the roughly 50 million shipping containers worldwide, about 24 million have been decommissioned, which Gombert said he and Flynn hoped to capitalize on because they are so structurally sound. The company brings in surplus shipping containers from Oregon and Utah and reconfigures them into indieDwell homes.
"You can jump up and down on the floors all day long and it's not going to shake or anything," Flynn said. "That steel is just sitting around the world doing nothing and it's got all sorts of embodied energy in it and structural components that make it an ideal exoskeleton for a house."
IndieDwell is a public benefit corporation, meaning they are a for-profit organization with a social mission, Flynn said. That mission is to give back to society and try to solve a problem, he said.
"We are legally bound to serve our mission," Flynn said. "We're maximizing our societal impact, while still being profitable."
Modular homes are significantly different from mobile homes, Gombert said. Though they are both built in factories, modular homes are more similar to homes built on site, because homeowners can obtain a mortgage and must comply with normal building code, whereas mobile homes must comply with Housing and Urban Development building code, he said. While mobile homes depreciate in value over the years, Gombert said modular homeowners can build equity.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
IndieDwell plans to expand far beyond Caldwell city limits.
The company's only factory in Caldwell, which employs 30 people, is temporary, and Gombert said they plan to open a larger, 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Boise within two years but anticipates it will be earlier. The new facility would ideally produce up to one home a day.
Eventually, Gombert said the goal is to operate out of more facilities across the country in communities in need of economic development. The next facility Gombert and Flynn plan to open will be near Denver.
"We'll probably expand next year," Gombert said. "It's already underway."