Start Garden invests $5K in container homes


The container homes are built using recycled materials. Photo via

Using new and recycled shipping containers, a newly invested idea by Start Garden is redesigning cost-effective modular homes.

Start Garden, the $15 million seed fund located at 50 Louis Street, Grand Rapids, recently invested $5,000 in Quo Domum, a quality mobile dwelling created from shipping containers enabling future home owners to tailor their home to financial and personal needs.

Casey Rife, founder of Quo Domum, said the name is derived from Latin meaning “container homes,” and the houses are built using recycled materials, such as steel shipping containers, to cut building costs, and provide longevity and durability.

“It utilizes a lot of recycled materials, such as shipping containers that come over from overseas and then they just get dropped off at our port, because it is too expensive and not cost-efficient to send it back to their home port empty,” said Rife. “We also plan on using a lot of recycled stuff inside the house for it to decrease building costs.”

Quo Domum’s online software program allows users to build their own homes by dragging items onto a floor plan, and keeps track of materials used to construct the modular structure. The system provides the future home owner the ability to create an affordable house based on spatial and financial needs. Rife said a photo-realistic rendering of the schematic would be sent to the individual to then post it on social media to gain feedback from friends and family before a final commitment is made.

“It will be a simple drag-and-drop system that allows individuals to pick where and what amenities they would want,” said Rife. “As they drag and drop, the cost for the objects will be shown right up front so they will not be surprised about the final price, because it will be shown throughout their building period. From there we would utilize our software to develop a blueprint to send to builders and (to secure) the correct building permits.”

He said the cost-effective home design using recycled materials is targeted for young business professionals or retired couples, and the idea developed when searching for an affordable and durable home with his wife.

“We are pretty far along. We have talked to a few different sources about what it is going to take as far as building materials and what the current Michigan codes are looking like,” said Rife. “And some of the main aspects of design, too, as far as space and how to make it so then your home footprint, even though it is smaller overall with smart storage solutions, it can be the same size as any other house.”

Rife said the houses not only are durable and cost effective, but also have the ability to be easily transported upon construction using rail systems and highways. The initial $5,000 investment made by Start Garden will go toward funding the completion of a prototype of the modular home using a shipping container framework.

“We were ecstatic to have not only the money to work with for our prototype, but also the connections and everything that they are connected to,” said Rife. “We have already put some money toward it, but it would help us a lot to get our prototype done even faster than originally planned to develop it. It is almost like putting a jet pack on our future design plans.”

Quo Domum was selected for investment based on public endorsement and by the team at Start Garden, as part of its weekly investment program to foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region. After initial funding, the team from the invested business has a couple of months to conduct a marketing experiment before returning to an Update Night event to present the results.

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