A few years ago a friend of mine who owns a lot in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, NY (think hipster neighborhood for ultra hipsters) had plans to build on a lot he owned using shipping containers. For various reasons, not the least of which was that the property really wasn't zoned for residential he couldn't do it but I've been thinking about ultra modern shipping container homes ever since. One of my questions was compliance with earthquake codes but apparently this requirement can be met as we now see a shipping container home nearing completion in South Redondo Beach CA.
Why Build with Shipping Containers?
Shipping containers typically cost only $1800 – $5000 (some as little as $800) depending on their size. They are readily available for purchase as containers that are shipped to their final destinations are usually too expensive to ship back. These containers are also eco-friendly, as they are re-purposed into homes instead of being melted down when they are scrapped or shipped back empty.
Containers are also “virtually indestructible” . Typical homes in US seem like they are made of paper, they can’t handle extreme climate conditions. Containers, on the other hand, are tough. They are build to handle heavy loads, harsh climate conditions, and being handled by cranes. Containers can also be easily stacked to form multi-story homes. These sturdy houses can be welded together and built in a very short time, and handle just about anything that is thrown at them. Just like with any other irregular structures, container homes do have some disadvantages, so be sure to do some research. That's actually a topic for another post.
South Redondo Beach Container Home
As reported in Curbed LA, work is underway on an innovative residential project in South Redondo Beach that will use 14 “up-cycled” containers to create two connected residential units. It’s a sign that the building trend is catching on as a real option for permanent single and multifamily dwellings.
The project, called the Lucia Container Home, consists of two connected units that will house three generations of a single family. Homeowner Paula Dowd says her family “needed to find a way to bring together three generations ... into a home that provides space for each, meets our aesthetic aspirations, doesn’t break the bank, and uses natural resources wisely in the process.”
Using shipping containers allowed the Dowds to achieve those goals, with AIA architect Peter DeMaria creating a design that fit their specific needs. Relying on shipping containers for the home’s skeletal structure kept project costs down and will result in a home that the Dowds say will be significantly more durable than a more traditionally constructed residence.
Completed with 85 percent recycled steel, and including solar power and sustainable finish materials, the home also projects to be a bit more eco-friendly. “We envision our container home project as an unmatched opportunity to show our children how important it is to care for our family and inspire them to be great stewards of the Planet” Dowd says.
Construction on the home is expected to wrap up in spring.
Not The First in Redondo Beach
In addition to the Lucia Container House there is already another one in North Redondo Beach (picture above).
The existing property is made up of eight containers of varying sizes bound together by conventional building methods. The metal container walls define service spaces while wood and steel frame the living spaces, including an artist’s studio, master bedroom, and spacious living room with 20-foot ceilings. A smartly placed below grade container forms a swimming pool. Doors and windows are cut through the walls, but beyond that no effort is made to conceal the industrial aesthetic of the containers.What, you may ask, is environmentally friendly about this home besides giving the ubiquitous shipping container a second life as part of a luxury home? The prefabricated nature of the containers allows 70% of construction to occur off site, greatly reducing construction waste. The resulting home is also extremely strong, mold-free, and fire- and termite-proof. This particular home also features prefabricated metal roof panels, multi-skinned acrylic sheets, formaldehyde-free plywood, natural ventilation instead of air conditioning, and efficient tank-less hot water heaters.
This particular property is he first in a line of homes that will be available from DeMaria Design’s “packaged architecture” affiliate, Logical Homes. DeMaria has said that he considers shipping containers the icons of the global age: “stacked containers create a powerful imagery on the landscape.” With that, we can certainly expect to see more recycled shipping container architecture to come from this Manhattan Beach-based design studio.