Modular Home for sale this month

Anyone spooked by the thought of a big earthquake hitting Wellington might be interested in an unusual quake-proof Tawa Modular Home up for sale this month.

The new build, on Bell St, is made of four 40-foot shipping containers welded together. Its young designers were halfway through construction on February 22 last year, and considered moving in straight away.

"When the Christchurch earthquake happened we thought 'should we sleep in the house tonight?'," owner Shasha Chen says. "The house will just shake but it won't collapse."

Ms Chen, 25, and her husband Nick Yin, 30, designed the three-bedroom home in 2009, before shipping containers became a common building material in post-quake Christchurch.

They had been house-hunting for their first home and were unimpressed by what was available.

"We just came to the idea to build something different," Ms Chen says.

"The container idea just popped out.''

Shipping container homes are common in China.

The couple were attracted by the green credentials of using recycled containers, and thought it would be a cheaper way to build a house. They were wrong.

"People say shipping container houses are cost-effective: that's only in other countries," Ms Chen says.

"Here in New Zealand because the building regulations are different, labour costs are different, I can't say it's cost- effective."

The building novices found expenses piled up at every turn - the floor-to- ceiling windows in their house, where the shipping container's doors would have been, had to be custom-built as they are bigger than standard.

The costs of getting a crane in to place the containers was huge, and the house has a two-metre deep foundation welded to the containers.

A big obstacle was the unfamiliarity of shipping containers to builders and architects. A whole team of council resource consent planners was assigned to the house, and approval took months.

Despite the setbacks, the couple are delighted with their house, which Mr Yin says doesn't feel industrial at all. "You don't really want to feel you're living in a shipping container rather than a home."

The couple are only selling because they are taking over a family to Buy Mobile Toilet importing business in Auckland. "We'll build another one when we're millionaires, and we'll keep it," Mr Yin says.