The Oscar is a apartment complex in Phoenix, AZ that is built from 24 shipping containers. It’s three stories high, and is a hybrid structure with CMU structures between the containers enclosing the bathrooms. This allows easier installation of the plumbing. We had to use helical piers in one portion of the foundation because of nearby buried tanks. The Architect and Contractor was StarkJames in Phoenix, AZ.
Recently, I completed a paper and a presentation at Columbia University for the use of shipping containers for modular buildings. Here is my presentation that I prepared. It’s about 45 minutes long, and covers the history of modular buildings briefly, the history of containerized shipping, and how shipping containers have been used for a faster and lower cost way of building.
If I had to say what was the best project I have ever worked on as an engineer in the 33 years since I graduated from the University of Maryland, it has to be the shipping container apartment building on 3305 7th Street in Washington, DC. It was a rather unusual project in how it started as far as I was concerned. I was working on a job in New York, and I stopped in Washington, DC to visit my sister on my way home. While I was at my sister’s house, I got a call from a DC area code on my cell phone, so I went ahead and answered it – normally I don’t answer my cell phone when I am visiting people, but this seemed a bit different. The call was from Kelly Davies at Travis Price Architects. She had a shipping container building project that had an investor, and a contractor. Her firm was an established architecture firm in Washington, DC. Was I interested? Of course, and not only was I interested, I could meet with her that afternoon, since I just happened to be in the area.
We met in a conference room in the Acela Lounge in Union Station, and the meeting went very well. Travis Price came in and joined us, and we came to a preliminary agreement. A couple days later I had the contract and we began design. Since DC is fairly easy to get to from here in Atlanta, I went up to work in their office a couple of times. The design basically started in April, the house was permitted, and finished by October. For this size and complexity of a project I have never seen it done this fast. I’ve seen permitting take longer than this. Of course it took some very fast reaction times. One morning I was in Binghamton, NY waiting on the bus to New York City, and I got a frantic e-mail needing some sort of letter from me. I wrote the thing in the waiting room of the bus station and sent it back before I got on the bus ( I really, really hate airports so I will do anything to avoid flying, even if it means riding a bus – which is actually kind of fun ).
What amazed me is the publicity we got. The project got on page one of the Washington Post on the day the containers came in. We were featured on news outlets all over DC and covered nationally. Not all the reviews are positive for this project, which is expected. Many are ignorant – like comparing shipping containers to house trailers. Structurally this building is very stout and I thin has a life span of about 200 years. Others didn’t like the look, and aesthetics are a matter of personal taste. Others felt it somehow was wrong to live in a box originally designed for shipping goods. In such case, you don’t have to live there.
Anyway, here are pictures of the final product taken by a professional photographer:
View of House From 7th Street
Rear Bedroom With Balcony
My favorite part – the kitchen
The Building at Night
Bolting the Corners Together Was A Method I Used To Provide For More Capacity From the Columns
Here’s some pictures taken by the client for the shipping container house in New Haven, CT. This house was built from six containers, and features a more traditional architecture for the front. This project was built by Marengo Structures, and the designer was Christian Salvati. We worked closely with him to produce the structural design, and the intent of the project was to build an attractive house at an affordable price. The house was built on a vacant lot in an older neighborhood in New Haven, Connecticut. The builder wanted to make the house fit well into the architecture of the neighborhood, which consisted of houses built in the 1920’s. To make a container house do this, you have to cover the containers up to a certain extent, which was done in the front of the structure. Please see the video to get the best feel for scope and intent of the Project:
The front is being furred out to allow a more traditional siding to be placed over it.
The house is finally starting to take shape!
The Final Product
The final product is above.
The video below provides a very good explanation of the house and shows some interesting views of it while it was under construction:
This house was designed in the winter of 2010-2011, and is currently under construction. The containers have been fabricated and will be erected shortly. Here is a video showing where we are at:
The house will be two stories, each story will have 3 – 45′ containers. The containers were modified to have large openings between them and to have a stairway. The foundation is actually a deep crawl space, which we had to do because of site conditions. The site is a vacant lot where a house was demolished, and there is poor soil to a depth of 5′, so the easiest way was to build an uninhabited basement under the house.
These are the first two shipping container houses in Atlanta, the one on the left was the first. We performed the structural design of both.
The second house built of shipping containers in Atlanta was built next to the first one. The builder was g a d Design, the architect was Francis Kirkpatrick, and we were the structural engineers. This one was a little bit different from the first in that a balcony was put on the top floor, and there is a completely open floor plan on the top floor.