Monthly Archive: August 2011

Shipping Container House, New Haven, Connecticut

Connecticut Container House - Shipping Container Units

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.

 

 

Second Shipping Container House, Atlanta

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.

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.

Click here to see a video:

The House of Pain

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Every now and then you come across construction that is so bad it takes your breath away.  This house is the most extreme example that I’ve seen.  It’s not uncommon to see shacks out in the woods put up in a haphazard manor, usually that’s because the people that are putting them up have very little money, so they get stuff to build with as they can.  They also have little in construction skills and can’t afford to pay contractors to do the work.  This house was in a very nice suburban neighborhood, and actually looked somewhat OK from the street with the exception that it was on temporary power.  It hadn’t gone to permanent power because it hadn’t passed any inspections and there was no certificate of occupancy.

The homeowner called me because the county had shown up with an order for them to vacate the property.  Apparently they had bought the property “as is”, and they wanted to sue the seller.  I was asked to do a report on the property, and I knew immediately after I entered the house that I’d never get paid for my work.  However, curiosity took over and I did the evaluation, wrote a lengthy report, and of course got stiffed for the fee.  I never did find out what the final disposition of the house was.  I talked to one of the senior county inspectors about it, and he said the house had changed hands numerous times and the ownership wasn’t too clear.  That should be expected, because it’s hard to believe any financial institution would lend for something like this.

While this is an extreme example, there are a fair number of houses out there that have similar defects.  Towards the end of the housing boom a lot of people jumped in to build houses that shouldn’t have, and many of the foreclosures on the market have very significant construction defects.  What looks like a bargain price may be in the end an expensive transfer of misery.

Let’s start from the outside:
Rear of House

This is in the rear of the house – where do you start?  The stucco is totally jacked up, look at how it’s peeling from the house.  There are no joints in the stucco.  The deck is made from untreated lumber and is not supported correctly from the post.  There should be a concrete landing outside the door, and there is no drip edge under the stucco.  The paint is peeling off the windows, there is excess erosion, and it’s not a good idea to leave trash around your foundation, it attracts insects and vermin.

Garage entrance
No gutters, the roofing is sloppy, look at the garage door opening, it’s a mess too.  The difference in color of the stucco is due to lighting, it doesn’t actually have multiple tones.  Here’s a close up of the electric meter:
Electric meter
The holes are supposed to be sealed to keep the weather, insects, and rodents out.  I don’t think that meter was hooked up by the way.  Let’s go inside, it gets much worse:
Living room
Ok, the wallpaper is peeling off.  It also is two clashing styles.  The house was moderately messy, I’ve seen worse.  It was the rotting garbage in the sink that made it uncomfortable, but we’ve only just begun.

Let’s go up into the upstairs:
Yes the wires are hot
Yes, those wires are hot.  In the upstairs they didn’t finish the wiring, and it was hanging out of the junction boxes and fixtures.  By the way, the wires aren’t supposed to be all the same color.  Typically black is hot, white is neutral, red is hot, green is ground.  That’s so the electrician can wire things right and you don’t get electrocuted in your shower because the wrong wire was grounded.  Now we better go up and see what awaits us in the attic:
Attic 1
No junction boxes, the condensate piping is all wrong (note the tees are in for some unknown reason).  The framing is chopped up, and water damage is apparent in the right side.  How do you like the way the wiring is wrapped around stuff?

Attic 2
I couldn’t for the life of me figure why the vent pipe had the tee in it and branched out through two different outlets on the roof.  Note the wire that was used as a support.  The framing is completely wrong, and space doesn’t permit me to outline everything.  Note how the rafters aren’t properly supported at the bottoms, and the purlins are wrong too.
Attic Framing
Look in the rear of the photo wher the braces for the roof come down onto the beams.  There is nothing to keep those beams from twisting, which they will ultimately.  The framing is more or less randomly done.  Note the orbs in the center lower right – some believe those are spirits caught on film.  I think they’re dust particles, but maybe being confined to this attic is some poor soul’s punishment for misdeeds in a previous life…

More Random Framing
More random framing in the attic.  Note the ceiling joists seem to be placed with no rhyme or reason.  Also, look at the lower right and see the water damage.

Really Bad Wiring
We can’t stay in the attic forever, so we’re going downstairs.  But first, look at this wiring – it is sandwiched between the floor sheathing and ceiling joists.  That will wear the insulation off the wire and start a fire ultimately.  Although it will be a race between that and all the other wiring misdeeds to see which one will ultimately burn the house down, if it doesn’t fall down first.

Now, before we go in the basement, I want you to look at this shower:
Shower
This is the shower.  I’ve seen worse, but usually in places where the people are really poor, or in third world countries.  I wouldn’t step in here barefoot though.  However, look at the underside:
Under Shower
The shower doesn’t connect to the house sewer.  It just drains into the basement.  That sewer line slopes upward by the way.  They kept a plunger by the toilet to help things on their way.  Now, even though the shower didn’t drain into the sewer, the people here in this house were very clean.  Look:
Basement
They showered and bathed anyway!  Look at the water in the basement, AND the black mold.  The sheet rock was put up to cover worse mold behind it.  I am highly allergic to black mold, and I should have left.  However, like watching a train wreck, I couldn’t turn away.  I ignored my sinus pain and kept on…

Bathtub
While bathing may be healthful, it probably is risky in this house.  The rotten floor joists are under the tub and you might make a very quick trip to the basement.

Rough in Plumbing
Ok, they were roughing in a bathroom in the basement.  Look how close the sink drain is to the toilet.  That way you can sit on the throne and do your business while you brush your teeth.   The pipes were above the floor slab, so they never finished.

Water heaterWater heater 2
Part of the basement was bare ground, and that’s where the water heater was set.  The installation wasn’t quite completed.  Note the there is no pipe attached to the temperature and pressure valve, and the panels were left off.

Well, we’ve been here long enough, and just looking at this makes me have an allergic reaction, so let’s go, but…
The Stairs
Be careful going up the stairs.  These look like something you tried to climb in college after a night of heavy drinking, don’t they?

I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit in the House of Pain.  Please don’t buy anything like this.  If I find out what happened to the house, I will update this page.

George

House Design Project

House Design

This interesting project was for dencity design in Atlanta, GA.  It’s an interesting house with multiple cantilevers.  Here is a rendering of the house:

Rendering of proposed house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The items in red are the steel beams.  Notice we have a cantilever deck on one side, and we are cantilevered over the garage.  This is not an easy thing to design, the beam sizing is hard, the connections are hard, and so are the baseplates and foundations.  To design this, we used Bentley RAM Elements.  Here is the rendering from the software:

This is a rendering for the steel cantilever structure in our structural software.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the analysis process, RAM Elements solved 132 equations.  I could have designed this by hand, but figuring about 15 minutes per solved equation, it would take me 30 hours.  Considering I tried numerous alternatives, triple that number, it would be more like 90 hours.   Since you can’t just sit and solve equations day in and day out, humans did not evolve to do such things, we’re talking about month to do this design by hand.  That’s for an experienced engineer.  Of course the chance of error is extremely high in such a complex undertaking too – typically on projects this complex in the days before computers another engineer would have to be assigned just to go over the calcs done to make sure everything was done right.

What was the biggest hassle?  There is a bit of a gotcha in the way this house is built.  In the first run of calculations, I had all of the deflections (bending) of the beams in accordance with Code, but the end of the house dipped down a couple of inches, which is not a good thing.  What happened was the beam deflected ever so slightly, and so did the columns, and it all added up. So, I had to make the beams and columns really beefy to make sure there was next to no deflection.  The beneficial effect is the floors feel really solid, which is important in a house with this type of architecture.

Here are some of the pictures of the house under construction:

This picture shows the cantilevered deck in the front.

The house is nearing completion – the sheathing is up, and the contractor is putting on the vapor barrier.

Rear of House

This is the rear of the house – the temporary posts are still in place. This part was harder to engineer than the front part oddly enough.

Rounded Windows

View down the left side (from the street) showing the rounded windows.

This is a good view of the second floor cantilever – the floor feels as solid as concrete when you jump on it.

This walkway crosses a two story foyer to get from the front to the rear of the house. It looks different, but actually this was one of the easier things to design.

 

Ground Water Reclamation Facility Container Building – City of High Point, NC

IMG_2023

This container building is composed of shipping containers that were modified to contain equipment for processing contaminated ground water.  The containers are stacked side by side to make a one story facility.  The foundation is a simple turn down slab with grade beams under the corners and center of the containers.  The challenge in this project was that the equipment was installed in the containers up in Canada and transported down to North Carolina.  That meant that after modification (removing much of the sides),  it would be necessary to lift the containers to place them on trucks, and remove them from the trucks and set in place with a very heavy load inside.

This container had most of its sides cut out, but had to have the strength to be lifted with the equipment inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to be able to accomplish this, the bottom rail had to be stiffened, and we had to stiffen the top of the openings so the forces would transfer.  Since the container had to be shipped, and the containers were to be placed side by side, we had very limiting constraints on what we could do.  So, what we did was stiffened the bottom rail by having a plate welded to the channel to make a box section, and welded rectangular members around the openings.

The bottom rail of the container has been stiffened with a steel plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For setting the containers on the pad, we really didn’t need to tie them down since the weight is great enough to hold them in place.  However, during placement it was important to tie them in place so they wouldn’t bump each other out of position.  Also, local inspectors expect to see a tie down to the foundations, and it is easier to get along in such cases.  So to tie the containers down to the foundations, we simply anchored steel angles to the concrete and welded them to the container corners.  Here’s an example:

This is how we tied the corners to the foundation slab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the containers all set in place:

The containers housing the groundwater remediation equipment have all been set in place.

 

 

This is a view of the inside, notice how we stiffened around the openings - this was critical, in order not only to stiffen the container in place, but to allow lifting from the corners.

 

This was an interesting project because we normally don’t have to design modified containers that have to carry almost their full design load while being transported and put in place.  It went very well, with no small thanks to the work from Piedmont Industrial Services (the contractor placing them), and Jamestown Engineering (civil engineer, surveyor, and construction manager), and of course Purifics, who fabricated the containers.    It was a great team to work with, and they made this a success.
 

Here is the completed building:

This is the completed treatment building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a view of the inside of LS-2

Hotel Structure

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"Hotel" Building, Muscatuck Urban Training Center, Indiana

 

This structure is a five and a half story building that is a simulated hotel for urban warfare and law enforcement training at Muscatutk Urban Training Center, Indiana.  It was built for the Indiana National Guard by GroupVTI, we performed the structural design.  The primary issues with this building were the foundations, at this kind of height it wants to roll over in a wind storm, so massive concrete foundations were required.  We originally had the design for 7 stories, but we reconfigured because additional bracing issues appeared at that height that were easily eliminated by widening the building and lowering it one and a half stories.