After graduating college, young Egyptians Karim Rafla and Youssef Farag refused the notion of a 9-to-5 desk job and opted to become a part of something bigger. What was no more than an idea eight months ago is now known as Qubix Studios; a ‘cargotecture’ design company that builds customized offices and homes.
Cargotecture is defined as the use of recycled ISO shipping containers to partially or entirely build buildings. This makes the affordable form of architecture relocatable, durable and sustainable.
According to Farag, an American University in Cairo graduate, Qubix is a one-stop shop for designing, building and deploying customized office and home cargotecture designs. The process starts when the company is approached by a client. Together, the company and the client discuss the interior and exterior design and after the customer is satisfied with all aspects of the design, the company starts the implementation of the project.
“I got the idea for Qubix when I was still studying in London back in 2014 and I stumbled upon a place called Container City while online. It was a one-hour train ride away, so I got on the train and went there and I was amazed; it was an actual full-service community made out of containers with people living their day-to-day life in the containers. It looked amazing and there was a really cool vibe to it, and I immediately thought someone should do this in Egypt,” Rafla, who graduated Regents University in London with a major in Global Business Management in 2014, says.
“We started our research and development and training in early March 2016. We got a team of designers, builders and consultants and decided to jump in the deep end and try to build a Hydraulic System Resto-Container that we saw in Canada that was being sold for US $270,000,” Farag says. “A few months later, our training and our prototype product was complete which we sell for EGP 190,000- more than 90% cheaper than the Canadian version. The cargotecture restaurant container opens up to the ground at a 90 degree angle to serve as a seating area.”
Qubix started taking orders in August 2016 and have signed four clients since then, making “very diverse products.” On the expected demand for their product, Rafla stressed that the company receives calls on daily basis from clients and companies inquiring about different projects.
“So both interest and demand are high,” Rafla says. “We tell our clients that cargotecture is not just a trend or a fad or perk, its an real long-term sustainable solution to be used for years and years to come; it’s a better way of doing something that has always been done, and that is building.”
Once the product is built, the company delivers and spends between two to three days on-site to assemble the product. Rafla points out that the company offers “post-delivery maintenance service for electric work, plumbing and touch ups on paint jobs.”
Qubix also provides post-delivery logistics, which allows the clients to easily transport their cargotecture structure from one place to another. If customers require modifications to their products, the company can easily alter alter details and features within a container and use it differently.
The company currently has a 1,500 square meters production facility in the Abou Rawash Industrial zone, where the company builds its products and employs “12 highly skilled workers.” The staff will increase to 30 people by January 2017.
As Farag puts in, the concept of building cargotecture is not entirely new to Egypt. The company’s founder claims, however, that Qubix delivers the best quality and durability within the shortest time period. “Along with mobile offices, we build homes of any size, retail shops, gyms, pool houses, portable bathrooms. The applications of cargotecture are literally limitless, and, in that sense, we are the only specialized cargotecture Company in Egypt.”
Being a single operator that is attempting to create an industry in the country comes with its own challenges but the most immediate one is still consumer education. “We are trying to change peoples perception of what a shipping container is, its not just a metal box, it is actually the perfect structural building block that we transform into a habitable place of living or business,” Rafla says.
The company does not operate in any countries aside from Egypt but do have clients abroad who are interested in their products.”We are able to easily ship our product anywhere around the world,” Rafla says. “We have found a very interested clientele base in the MENA region, the Gulf countries and West Africa.”
For their future plans, the company plans on building the biggest private residential container home in the Middle East very soon.