Tag Archive: container construction

The Oscar – Phoenix Arizona

The Oscar Under Construciton

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.

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Research Project on Shipping Containers for Modular Buildings, Columbia University, NY

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.

The DC Container Apartment Building – Final Product

SeaUA  Housing  Travis Price Architects24

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

 

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.

 

Shipping Container House in Washington DC

Setting First Container

Our latest project is  in Washington, DC at 3305 7th Street NE, near Catholic University.  It’s a four story building made from 18 containers, it will have 8 apartments.  The architect is Travis Price Architects and we are the structural engineers.  The project moved extremely fast, we started design in April 2014 and by the first week of August 2014 the structural part was just about complete.  The media attention has been extensive, here is a link to one of the local newscasts.  We also got front page treatment from the Washington Post.

Structurally I am using the containers to do most of the work, there is very little extra structural steel added.  The biggest hassle was to provide the wind bracing in the basement, I have some massive foundations.  Here’s a couple of pictures:

To lift over neighboring homes and trees, a very large crane was required.

Placing Shipping Containers

 

Here we are setting the first level containers. Note the wrecking bar is being used to pry these into place.

Here is a photo where the container is being lifted into place. If you go through the web, there are more than a few sites that claim a container house is a great DIY project – I hope this shows why that is a bad idea. This takes professionals.

 

Cutting bolt holes with the plasma torch.

The balconies are being fabricated using structural steel and the containers themselves.

The interior is taking shape.

All three levels are up.

 

 

 

Shipping Container House, New Haven, CT – The final product

The shipping container house that we designed in New Haven, Connecticut is now complete. Below is an excellent video that was produced by the builder which shows how the houses turned out. We’re beginning design shortly on the next house in that area, and were hoping the lessons we learned on this one can be applied to lower the costs and make it even better product. In previous posts of expressed a lot of skepticism about the costs of building shipping container houses. However, based on the lessons we’ve learned on this house and as we move forward I believe we can keep the cost down significantly below conventional construction.

The key is to proceed just how we have done. Build a prototype unit see what went wrong.and you are a there is the rare as see what went right and then build again.I’ve seen a lot of projects on the web and been contacted by a lot of people about a lot of projects that proposes very grandiose structures without first working on prototypes. The problem with doing this is there is not a large body of experience available on container housing construction, it’s  till somewhat experimental. So attempting a large project to start without first working out  he bugs and the smaller prototype is a huge  error in my opinion.

So, here is a video showing the house has its constructed and its interior.

Pictures of Our Projects In Canada

Lifting Into Place - Note supports at ends.

These projects in Canada are in the northern part of Saskatchewan Province and were designed for 3Twenty Solutions.  3 Twenty Solutions provides prefabricated buildings for remote sites that are used by oil companies and mining companies.  These sites are inaccessible most of the year except by plane, and the only way to haul supplies up is during the winter over ice roads for many of the sites.  Since it is hard to get construction equipment to these sites, and the weather is far from perfect, as much as possible must be assembled prior to transport.  So, modified shipping containers fit the bill perfectly in most cases.

Inside a Typical Bedroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifting Modules Into Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hallway View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Kitchen – This was more difficult to design because of the open area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

End View of Completed Building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another View of the Containers Being Lifted Into Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifting Into Place – Note supports at ends.

Shipping Container House, Connecticut

The Final Product

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:

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