Puerto Rican company begins to manufacture “tiny houses”

In search of affordable housing options, Puerto Rican safe and sustainable design company Zero Damage began manufacturing cyclone- and earthquake-resistant steel-framed homes that ship ready to install on lots or patios starting at $32,200 plus taxes, reported its co-founder Wilfredo Méndez.

“We want to offer housing for the Puerto Rican market so bombarded with increases, where everyone is up to their necks, that can be offered for much less than $100,000,” shared the architect Méndez, who co-founded the company with his partner and wife, the engineer of manufacturing Esmeralda Niño.

The first model is Casa Boio, a type design 340 usable square foot tiny house, which includes kitchen, bathroom, space for queen bed, storage and roof terrace. To this basic design you can add living room, dining room and up to two additional rooms.

The first unit was installed on the premises of his company in Isabela and the public will be able to see it at an open house event on July 10, Méndez announced.

At the same time, the architect stressed that this compact model is approached as a prototype in continuous improvement “because we are observing what it costs and where it can be saved”, even in a scenario of increases in construction materials and hauling.

“We understand that the units with two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bathroom and terrace would be close to $75,000 and our idea is to lower it”, advanced on the plans to scale to generate greater savings for customers. “Anything I can give at no extra cost, I do.”

The bathroom equipment, which is accessed with a sliding door, is included.
The bathroom equipment, which is accessed with a sliding door, is included. (Supplied)

What includes?

On the base price of $32,200, Méndez indicated that it includes the duly approved design and plan, the steel structure, the walls, the plumbing, the electrical infrastructure (including the connectors to install air conditioners or photovoltaic system, in case upon request), bathroom equipment, floor finishes, lighting, stairs to the roof terrace, which is delivered with an artificial grass carpet.

The exterior walls are finished in treated wood or fiber cement (plycem), while the interior finish is in gypsum board or treated wood, but it can be done in PVC panel if the customer pays for it. And, in case of ordering an additional room, he estimated that it is added for about $10,000.

“Kitchen equipment and on-site installation are not included,” he said.

Regarding the transfer, he indicated that it is quoted with logistics providers “the best that quotes it” and, in his experience, it costs about $500 when it is not to Vieques or Culebra.

To receive the modules, which are manufactured at the company’s headquarters in a period of six to seven weeks, the customer must have the ground ready and have built the four small footings that are required. To do this, Zero Damage provides the client with the specifications and plans so that he manages this step with a contractor.

The impact on the ground is less and it costs thousands of dollars less”Mendez stated. As an example, he stated that a concrete foundation for the “tiny house” could fetch upwards of $9,000, while the four supports they designed “require a maximum cost of $1,200″.

To this must be added the cost of the use permit and the installation of the septic tank, in cases where it is required, he added.

In addition to Zero Damage estimating at cost about $90 per square foot, compared to $200 for traditional construction, Méndez pointed out that the manufacturing model in a controlled environment allows precision, speed, not being at the mercy of weather conditions as is the case with concrete, and a higher level of safety, since the designs fully comply with current building codes.

“We already have the qualified and contracted workforce. Everything is done with strict quality levels”, he stressed about his seven-person team, which is fed with additional contractors as needed.

Three weeks after starting to take orders from Casa Boio, Méndez indicated that they are already manufacturing units for clients. In parallel, they are exploring the design of new models and “projects at various levels are already consulting us.”

Before starting this stage of housing construction, Zero Damage invented some structural steel connectors that they managed to patent, in addition to using them as a basis to market products that allow people with no experience in construction to set up their own pergolas, terraces or nurseries.

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