Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Founder Stephanie Cohen is revving up her modular construction company in southwestern Colorado.

Startup ModBox Builders aims to break ground by early 2024 on a manufacturing facility on land Pagosa Springs is giving the company.

ModBox, which plans to build communities of modular and container homes, is in the process of identifying parcels of land it can acquire with a developer to build affordable communities. “We’re exploring a lot of opportunities in the southwest part of the state,” says Cohen.

Cohen has spent the past few years figuring out what ModBox’s niche is and building relationships with communities like Pagosa Springs. Now, she’s pitching potential investors and applying for funding through programs like the Office of Economic Development and International Trade’s Innovative Housing Incentive Program, and New Market Tax Credits.

“We’re at this precipice where we’re about to get funding,” she says. “Our goal is to build communities more than one-off houses — even if it’s small, with 10 to 12 homes.”

A foundation of growth

A self-described entrepreneur, Cohen has latched onto a growing industry. The global container homes market size is expected to reach $73 billion by 2025, up from $44.8 billion in 2017 and growing at a compound annual growth rate of 6.5 percent from 2018 to 2025, according to Allied Market Research.

“In 2019, I bought land in Boulder County,” she says. “I had heard about container homes and modular building, but I wasn’t finding anyone who was doing it well. I started realizing what a need there was for housing. Period. I started the company and have been working to build it ever since.”

ModBox’s process starts with a feasibility study. The $6,500 cost includes a site visit, a meeting with the town or county planner, and research into local building codes. ModBox charges a $35,000 architect fee if the client wants a custom container home.

When construction starts, 40 percent of the cost of the home is due, and another 40 percent “progress payment” is due 60 days later.

The final balance is due before the home is shipped, delivered, and installed. Installation typically takes five to 10 business days.

While ModBox has not yet built any homes, Cohen is keeping cash flowing through other types of projects. Shaw Construction, for example, needed a facility where it can make panels for projects it’s doing in rural Colorado. ModBox used containers to build mini shops where the company can make them. “We’re hoping to do another round of those in the next month or two,” Cohen says.

Educating consumers also will be key. “People ask things like can it be insulated, can you meet local code,” she says. “Of course, we can. They also want to know the price. We build affordable housing, but it’s not cheap. We still need that educational piece.”