A Shipping Container Community, anyone?

24 Aug

As most of you know, I’m the guy building homes out of shipping containers. And, it seems that I’m not alone. Over the last several months, we’ve garnered a following of about 68,000 plus people, most of whom are looking to build a home of their own, without having to sell their souls to those blue-suited devils at the bank. 🙂

Building a home is an ambitious project, no matter what you use to construct it with. But, in the case of “Corten Castles,” it’s a place of mystery, and almost never-ending questions;

“Ain’t it hot in there?”

“Why’dya put yer kin in that there coffin box? Ya know, in a few years, we all end up that way… Why rush it?”

“Don’tya have no sense? Them’s fer packing stuff in!”

and it goes on and on…

As you can see, I live in the deepest, darkest South, “where change is BAD!”… 🙂

People just can’t seem to get their heads around using a steel box for anything but cargo. But these Corten Constructs are more… much more!

I’ve been beating you to death with my exploits, so as Char slowly recuperates from yet another hospital adventure… I’m gonna take a day off, and show you what some other people did, when they decided that Corten Steel was good enough to live in…

People say they don’t work. People say they won’t last. People say that it’s impossible… Yada, yada, yada…

Enter Esperanza…

Washington’s Migrant Housing Task Force was hard at work in the town of Mattawa on the Columbia River Valley.

I’ve been there… It’s in a BEAUTIFUL place that looked like G_d kissed it on the mouth! 🙂

Mattawa is a small rural community that had been about 2,000 people. Orchards that were established there during the apple crop booms of the 1980s, however, were finally coming into production in 1998 and migrant workers were flooding the town. The town’s population increased eightfold almost overnight and this growth so overburdened its services and infrastructure that it was declared to be in an official state of emergency by the Washington State government. Mattawa needed, among many other things, new schools, a new sewage treatment plant, and most immediately, a temporary housing community for these workers.

Like many others (myself included) Washington’s Governor Locke had seen shipping containers used as temporary emergency housing during his visit to China and Japan, and was intrigued enough to put the idea forward as one of the project parameters.

Imagine that! A Governor who actually saw the light, and then did something about it… I only wish that Mississippi was blessed with someone in power, with vision that clear.

A Yakima manufacturer who had experimented with the idea of shipping container housing partnered up with Grant County, a leader in affordable housing in Eastern Washington.

Esperanza 7
The need to house at least 300 migrant workers changed the traditional means of involvement to a research and consultancy agenda, which emphasized faculty expertise and student research projects on each of the phases. The focus of the consulting and research was on manufacturing processes and details, as well as the economy’s production, site deployment, and infrastructure (the area of most concern to the clients given Mattawa’s already limited capacity).
Esperanza 3
David Riley, an architectural engineering professor in the University of Washington CAUP Construction Management Department, joined the team. His own dissertation and research interests had been in lean production processes and the economies of construction sites.

In collaboration with Riley, a design for an efficient infrastructure layout for agricultural production in the region was struck, that would account for the basic needs and the social patterns of the labor force, which is primarily made up of migrant workers from Mexico.
Esperanza 12
Riley and others collected social pattern information in a “student powered research project.” The students fanned out among the camps along the Columbia River to interview workers about their living patterns, needs, short- and long-term goals, and resources.

Esperanza 5

This research turned out to be part of the most important contributions to the project. Much of Washington State’s earlier project programming turned out to be based on information that did not apply to the specific community the project was trying to serve.
Esperanza 10
See? if the research is there… you actually get something that you can use! Are you paying attention, Jackson? Hmmm?

As a result of this research, they discovered that that smaller groupings of containers—four as opposed to the service hubs of six or eight originally proposed by the county—were more desirable for the variety of social spaces they could establish on the site. To meet the State’s and Grant County’s desired density, they came up with a staggered pattern for the smaller hubs which proved to be more space efficient than the larger hubs, yet generated a richer social pattern of use.

Esperanza 6
They also discovered that car ownership among the migrants was much lower than originally assumed; smaller parking lots increased the common space available for social activities.

Esperanza 8

And, more importantly… families are living in safety and comfort, harbored in the arms of our Corten friends…

Okay, so they didn’t assemble ISBU’s like Lego’s, into McMansions… But…

In my opinion, they did even better…

And, this isn’t a ground-breaking project, folks. They did it YEARS ago… in 1998!

This is what I think ISBU’s are truly destined for. Mass housing, using recycled boxes, that protect and sustain… AFFORDABLY!

This is a “BIG Thumbs Up!” Project, if ever I’ve seen one. Add Solar Panels and Photovoltaics to this and you’ve got something very cool, indeed…

Next time, we continue to look long and hard… using Mother Earth to cool our Corten castles… Geothermal HVAC

Stay Tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin


3 Responses to “A Shipping Container Community, anyone?”

  1. solar energy panel August 27, 2009 at 8:20 am #

    Your site has been a great inspiration and the knowledge gained has gotten me past the obstacle blocking my way.

    • renaissanceronin August 28, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

      That’s what we’re here for… 🙂

  2. olivier September 3, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    hi there

    brilliant stuff i want one ISBU is the solution for me , and i am sure it could also be for thousand of peoples , love the blog , i will visit on the regs


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