July 22, 2014
The Story Behind The DC Container House
Sometimes when you build a project the story behind it is interesting in itself. Right now I am sitting in a camp chair on 7th Street in Washington, DC writing this post. We’re putting up the second floor of this three story apartment building near Catholic University. How did this happen? It starts out with Matt Grace and Sean Joiner. Both are Catholic University graduates; who began investing in real estate around the university. They bought homes and rented out to students. The house at this address was in pretty sad shape, so continuing to fix it was not a great idea. It had cracked foundations and many other problems.
As luck would have it, Matt’s girlfriend, Kelly Davies, is an architect who works for Travis Price Architecture. Travis is a well known architect in DC and he frequently lectures at Catholic University, and makes yearly trips to Ireland for various projects. Matt met with Travis, and after some discussion the idea of shipping containers came up. Kelly started the design work and began searching for a structural engineer that does shipping containers. Kelly found me on the web, and gave me a call. As luck would have it, I was visiting my sister in the DC area, so we met about an hour later. This I believe was back in April. I began my design work immediately.
This project, like most container projects required a lot of back and forth work between myself and the architect. When I could work it in my schedule I went to Kelly’s office in Georgetown and worked there. My first iteration was rather expensive, but I didn’t get “do we really have to do this?” (I hate that question) Instead, I got – “what if we do this? ” We developed a number of cost saving innovations in the process.
One of the days I was at Kelly’s office we were discussing who should be the contractor to do the container modifications. The company Cube Box came up, and Kelly called them. It turned out that one of their representatives was in Baltimore, and he came down to see us about an hour later. They got the contract.
I had to get my license in Washington, DC which took about 6 weeks. If I had been one day earlier with my paperwork, it would have been 2 weeks, but that’s how things work sometimes. Still, the permit application went pretty smoothly. There were minimal design comments, which we responded to immediately. Matt walked the plans through the permitting office and got the permit last week. We started yesterday and all the units should be up today. The project is to be completed by mid-August, and Kelly and Matt get married in September.