Peter shares the company’s vision of becoming the leading modular supplier of container based housing in the United States.
Submitted by Land Betterment Corporation
Hello – I’m Stephanie Conzelman, stakeholder engagement director with Land Betterment. Recently, I met up with Pete Rodriguez, president of ekō Solutions. We had a lively conversation where I had the opportunity to learn more about Pete and his team. Pete is passionate about the company’s goal of becoming the leading modular supplier of container based housing in the United States. I think you will find this an interesting read. The full interview can be viewed here.
Q: You have not always worked for Land Betterment. I would love to learn more about your career leading up to today with you as President of ekō Solutions
A: My career started in the automotive industry where I focused on industrial engineering, efficiencies, quality control and ultimately the launch of products from conception to production.
For 15 years I worked in auto manufacturing and through that went into heavy truck and different product lines. I have worked with just about every type of material – designing pieces, putting pieces together, making sure they meet quality standards and then getting them to the plants and facilities to be launched. Additionally, I have covered just about every aspect of the manufacturing and development process in my roles as operations manager, program management director and quality director.
A friend of mine asked me to come run his new fabrication business in Decatur, Alabama where we made material handling racks that transport parts from one tier of a supplier to the end customer. While in this role, we had the opportunity to work with Land Betterment in evaluating how to convert shipping containers into homes.
So this is how we are where we are today with ekō Solutions. Our 1st build of our container homes took 6 weeks from initial design to completed home. From there, the rest is history.
Q: So you must be a tinkerer and have the ability to make really cool things in your spare time.
A: Well, yeah, I am working on a bunk bed for my son. My interest started in college working with composites and I even did mini Baha races.
Q: ekō Solutions is really growing and offering many different solutions for many different situations. Can you tell me more about both the commercial and residential divisions?
A: What is unique about the Land Betterment projects specific to remediation and bringing our own product into these areas, is we found it is more than providing one singular project and improvement. We are really good and efficient at making a well-built home. So we took it one step further and went into both Kentucky and Alabama to get our modular license, which allows us to sell our shipping container structures directly to the general public. This took us well beyond just building our residential structures ranging from 300 square feet to 1,200 square feet.
We are now making bathrooms next to state parks in Alabama, as well as mobile offices and command centers which can be used during construction. These also function as support for schools which may have been destroyed during a natural disaster. Bringing in infrastructure while rebuilding is very necessary during a time of crisis. We are starting to launch different avenues for our customers at both an acceptable price and certain level of quality.
Q: What are some of the greatest challenges you face in building out an expired shipping container?
A: What is unique in the shipping container building process is there are only a few suppliers who build containers. And the differences are so slight. Our biggest challenge, because it is a newer concept is the time it takes to educate. Everyone thinks these container structures are cool and want to do it. But working with local municipalities across the country can be challenging because of previous perceptions of container structures. So much of our work is educating. But folks want to learn more and that is a really good thing. It’s just hard to change how things have been done in the past and to accept something new – a true learning curve.
Q: There are plenty of other companies repurposing shipping containers into homes and offices. What differentiates ekō Solutions from all the others?
A: OUR PROCESS FROM CONCEPT TO IMPLEMENTATION. We can easily take a customer’s vision to fruition very quickly. And our team helps us do that. They come from a breadth of experience including custom home manufacturing, commercial construction and automotive. We bring a true factory feel in that our structures are built to a strict manner. But we can also build custom components in a mass manufactured way. For example, we have a trim for the exterior of our windows that is like a Japanese burned wood feel which is a process we designed in house. This can be seen on our recently placed Bowling Green Kentucky home.
Q: How are ekō homes different from tiny homes?
A: We are truly building modules. Some of our homes are in the tiny home realm of 320 square feet. Our units can go as big as we want because we are converting boxes and then joining them together as modules. SO WE ARE A MODULAR HOME BUILDER VS. A TINY HOME MANUFACTURER. In fact, we offer a stacked container model called the Two’s Company. We have one getting ready to ship to Pikeville, Kentucky next week.
Q: Where do you see ekō Solutions in 5 years?
A: We have 4 main divisions, so it really depends on the division.
ekō Disaster Relief
In the next few months we will be launching a completely mobile product on a trailer which can be deployed quickly. So when a disaster hits, we can move a sponsored home to a RV site within a day.
When we set a home onto a disaster site on a permanent foundation our ekō containers can meet sustained wind loads of 115 miles per hour and 3 second burst up to 130 miles per hour.
We have 20 – 40 foot shipping containers used for vertical farms. In the next 5 years this division will really get legs and rollout across the states giving people, who might not normally be able to grow, access to plants and growing. An example would be urban areas. We are also evaluating how we can use plants and sustainable life to build some construction projects. More to come on that in the near future.
From the mobile bathroom solution to job site construction offices, we see a wide range of applications in the commercial industry. We have also put specs together on a rural health clinic solution.
Our biggest focus in our homes division is to get our solution out to as many states as possible including, New York, Indiana and North Carolina. This will look similar to what we did in Kentucky and Alabama where we are now licensed. WE WANT TO BE THE LEADING MODULAR SUPPLIER OF CONTAINER BASED HOUSING IN THE UNITED STATES.
Q: What excites you most about ekō Solutions
A: All the opportunities and problems. We have a great team which is able to meet the needs of our customers and do so expeditiously. We hear too often of customers not getting what they paid for from other providers and that it not how we operate.
What’s really cool is our team is made up of folks from all walks of life, personalities and talents. And this team has created brand new solutions! This is what Land Betterment is all about! We help people who have lost homes and income and really their way of life due to the decline in fossil fuel mining. When Mark Jensen founded Land Betterment with his team, his vision was HOW CAN WE HELP. ekō mirrors this vision every day as we create unique working and living situations.
This past December when the tornados devasted western Kentucky, we all asked that very same question – HOW CAN WE HELP? So we reached out to every mayor in Kentucky and within days had 4 ekō shipping container homes deployed to Dawson Springs, Kentucky. THIS ATTITUDE ECHOES IN THE LAND BETTERMENT HALLWAYS MAKING IT AN AMAZING PLACE TO WORK!
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: STAY TUNED! WE COME UP WITH NEW COOL CREATIVE SOLUTIONS EVERY DAY AS ARE TRUE ENTREPRENEURS!
To learn more about ekō Solutions commercial and residential offerings please click on “Buy eko!”
About ekō Solutions
ekō Solutions, a Land Betterment Company, uses innovative ecological structures to replace legacy inefficient and ineffective methods of living, growing and working. We provide durable structures which are affordable to operate, inhabit while also maintaining the ability to be utilized in a mobile environment. ekō homes are designed to be high quality, durable and affordable to live in from 1- 10 years. The sustainable craftsmanship of our homes is what separates us from the alternatives. For more information visit ekosolutionsllc.com and connect with ekō Solutions on LinkedIn and Twitter.
About Land Betterment Corporation
Land Betterment Corporation, an Indiana Benefit Corporation and Pending B-Corp, is an environmental solutions company focused on fostering a positive impact through upcycling former coal mining sites to create sustainable community development and job creation. The Company utilizes a complete solution-based lifecycle program to restore and rehabilitate the environment and revitalize communities in need of change and opportunity. Land Betterment accomplishes this by identifying un-reclaimed, run-down and neglected coal mining sites, fixing the environment through reclamation and remediation, and then repurposing the land to support a sustainable business that serves the community. Land Betterment firmly believes that with real solutions it is possible for restoration of impacted areas to live side-by-side long term employment, while building sustainable and safe surroundings for communities and our planet. For more information visit landbetterment.com or connect with the Company on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
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Stakeholder Engagement Director
Land Betterment Corporation, an Indiana Benefit Corporation and Certified B Corporation, is an environmental solutions company focused on fostering positive impact through up-cycling former coal mining and industrial sites to create sustainable community development and job creation. The Company utilizes a complete solution-based lifecycle program to restore and rehabilitate the environment and revitalize communities in need of change and opportunity. Land Betterment accomplishes this by identifying un-reclaimed, run-down and neglected coal mining sites, fixing the environment through reclamation and remediation, and then repurposing the land to support a sustainable business that serves the community. Land Betterment firmly believes that with real solutions it is possible for restoration of impacted areas to live side-by-side long term employment, while building sustainable and safe surroundings for communities and our planet.
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