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NICK SOCRATES

CONTAINER HOMES

2012

NICHOLAS SOCRATES

Introduction
There is growing interest in the use of shipping containers as the basis for habitable structures. These icons of globalization are relatively inexpensive, structurally sound and in abundant supply. Although, in raw form, containers are dark windowless boxes (which might place them at odds with some of the tenets of modernist design...) they can be highly customizable modular elements of a larger structure.

Shipping Containers as Building Components for Home Construction. No two building projects are the same. Even with modular kit applications, variations due to location and climate, site factors such as grading and slope, and home owner preferences (to name a few factors) create substantial differences between projects. There is no single perfect shipping container home design solution, and the most important thing in any home building project is preparation. Preparation, preparation, preparation. Ever hear the old carpenters axiom measure twice, cut once? Did we mention preparation is important?

There are what to do and how to do it articles for container home and non container home applications. Bear in mind, that a shipping container house is just a small steel building and much of the information/ detailing of steel buildings (and wood framed as well) is applicable and relevant to shipping container home building as well. The details of the steps and stages require to turn recycled shipping containers into shipping container homes and buildings. Including (but not limited to) feasibility, budgeting, scheme design, technical hurdles, site concerns, foundation, envelope, modifying structure, passive enhancements, construction documents, and permitting. Many are looking to containers today for their building projects.

Conceive It. Establish planning and design goals. Define and evaluate space requirements. Review benchmark standards, codes, and guidelines. 90% of good architectural design is planning - knowing what you want from your home, what you can afford budget wise, and what the external factors (site, code, costs, etc..) are. Preparation is an important part of the design process. As you start to design your shipping container home, the limitations brought about by site, code, and budget can serve to inform many of the necessary design decisions along the way. Being aware of these issues and how they could potentially impact (productively or negatively) the design and budget, will keep the design economical and efficient. And buildable.

This is a critical phase where expectations are set, and budget ceilings determined. The primary objective is to establish a conceptual design with input from design professionals, potential contractors, modular suppliers, and material/equipment suppliers. A comprehensive budget and schedule are also developed so a true profile of scope, budget and risk can be understood and assessed early on.

Container Architecture

Concern yourself with big picture issues. Like, can you build a house(s) on the land/site, and what is the maximum square footage you can build. It is also important to get a list of what drawings, permits and inspections, including fees, will be required. Find out what drawings must be professionally stamped as well. You should also check if their are any deed restrictions on your title. Some jurisdictions dictate zoning and planning in deeds, especially subdivisions.

This is a critical phase where expectations are set, and budget ceilings determined. The primary objective is to establish a conceptual design with input from design professionals, potential contractors, modular suppliers, and material/ equipment suppliers. A comprehensive budget and schedule are also developed so a true profile of scope, budget and risk can be understood and assessed early on.

Passive vs. Active heating and cooling

There are two types of building designs. Those that embrace the site, and those that impose themselves on the site. The house pictured above on the left is Frank Lloyd Wrights solar hemicycle Jacobs house. The house on the right is Mies van der Rohes Farnsworth house. Both are icons of 20th century modern architecture built/designed by masters. They are both comparative in size, use, and initial project budget. The maintenance and yearly energy expense for the two however, are substantially different. The contrast is due to the buildings different shapes, orientations, and wall/ surface materials.

Picking where to build on site

There are many factors to consider including grade, soil bearing, existing landscaping, potential views, and proximity to easements/ site boundaries/roads. Generally speaking, if soil bearing capacity is consistent throughout the site, flat/level areas are best suited. They require less grading/excavation, and allow for the most economical foundation designs for shipping container homes.

Landscaping and shading are very effective passive design strategies. When you consider where to locate your house/ building on site try to take advantage of as much existing greenery as possible. The location of dense, coniferous trees on the elevation against the prevailing wind (usually west or northwest) may decrease heat loss due to infiltration and wind chill factor in the winter. Sites with deciduous shade trees can reduce summer solar gain if positioned properly on the south and west elevations of the buildings.

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Views and privacy will also be important things to consider. Every site is different and has its own potentials. If you don't already have a land survey of the site, it's probably a good time to get one done. They're full of relevant information and could bring things to your attention (like easements and utility access locations) that you're unaware of. If you are lucky you received one when you purchased the land or will be able to get one from the record files of your building department.

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Approach
You should have a good sense of your site, your budget, and a rough conceptual design for your shipping container home.

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Designing Your Shipping Container Home

Finalize building location on site. Remember, flat sites are best as they require minimum excavation and grading. If you are planning a build which consists of more than one container, you should talk with an engineer or contractor early. Foundation costs are potentially very expensive, especially if the bearing capacity of the soil is poor or land substantially sloped.

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Drawings and Documentation


The drawings of a typical home construction project evolve through each of the design milestones - Conceptual/ Scheme Design, Design Development, Permitting, and Bid/Construction Documents. Conceptual/Scheme Design and Design Development drawings are important to develop the necessary design, floor plans, elevations, and the budget square footage takeoffs. Typically, they are a communication tool between the designer and client as they vet through the design of the home. If you are the designer, you will develop these drawings loosely yourself as you outline/document the design. You can use hand sketches or utilize one of the many consumer modeling and drafting applications. But, they are for your own reference and not necessary for filing.

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Permitting Drawings
If for what every reason you are not subject to any building department/ jurisdictional approval (very rare) you will not need to assemble a Permitting Drawing set. If you are, which is most cases, first thing to do is call the building department and get a permitting submittal checklist. Things typically required will be plans (site, foundation, floors, and roof), elevations, land survey, water treatment (septic and run-off), energy code compliance, structural drawings, and soils report. Also make sure to check which of these documents will need to be stamped by a licensed professional.

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Build Strategy
Regardless if you are going to bid the project out to general contractors (GC) or build yourself, you should speak with as many potential GCs as possible throughout the design process. Having done this prior to bidding the project will do three things; help get accurate pricing for budget development, assemble a list of general contractors to bid competitively for the project (if you are not building yourself), and problem solve the design. If you go the GC route, there are fundamentally three project delivery methods: Design/Bid/Build, Construction Management, and Design/Build. The different methods are distinguished by the way the contracts between the Owner, the Architect (if there is one), and the Contractor/Factory are formed and the technical relationships that evolve between each party inside those contracts. Typically, there is no single best method for all projects, and no method delivers fastest, cheapest, and highest quality simultaneously. What distinguishes each is the amount of design information and drawings available prior to construction and whether the build price is fixed or relative to actual costs.

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The design and manufacturing of shipping container homes is a viable alternative to conventional construction for many reasons, but despite a strong showing of successful container projects, building with shipping containers is still in its early stages. From the design perspective, there are many design entities with Kit shipping container home offerings. These however, are very far from turnkey. Virtual none of the design entities have shop/manufacturing capabilities. The ones that do, have very small custom shops with limited output which is highly customized and high in price. From the manufacturing perspective, there are more and more factories/companies building with containers. Typically, they have a stock catalogue of very base shipping container home designs to purchase turnkey. Some can provide customized solutions (design to your specs), at higher cost points.

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Foundations

Building a house is no small feet. Even a small one. There are thousands of materials, pieces, and tasks involved. Unless you are a builder or experienced its intimidating. But, what containers as perfect modules allow you to do, is simplify the entire process. Think of a typical 1,000 square foot house. Try and work through in your head the total length of timber for the framing, square footage of sheathing, number of floor joists required, and ceiling rafters. Cant do it. Not too many can. Now think about that 1,000 square foot house made out of shipping containers. Its 3 forty foot containers. By reducing the house into 3 base component pieces (modules), its much easier to understand, design, and build. This is a critical phase where expectations are set, and budget ceilings determined. The primary objective is to establish a conceptual design with input from design professionals, potential contractors, modular suppliers, and material/equipment suppliers. A comprehensive budget and schedule are also developed so a true profile of scope, budget and risk can be understood and assessed early on.

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Container Modifications
Shipping containers have monocoque bodies. The corrugation panels (roof, sides, and back), floor, purlins, front doors, frame, and rails form an integrated structural skin. They are strong and made to carry floor loads far in excess of what is required for typical home construction. But, when you modify them, cutting holes or penetrating members, they are weakened. Regardless of what level of modification your shipping container home design calls for, it is recommended to review with a structural engineer or architect. Steel cutting, framing, and welding is a large part of shipping container home design and construction. Typically, steel construction is not used much in single family or smaller home design because of expense. Cost of steel vs. wood/light guage framing is substantial and the labor cost for steel vs.carpentry is also higher. To combat this, it is best to have as much of the welding and reinforcing done off-site before setting the containers on site and starting the interior fit-out. Most (if not all) container re-sellers have the facilities to make these modifications. If you dont have experience in metal work, or are not hiring a general contractor, you should plan on doing most of the container modification work off-site prior to delivery.

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Set and Secure Containers to Foundation and Each Other

When the shipping containers arrive on site, they are cranelifted one by one onto the foundation, hooked into place, and welded down to marry them completely to the foundation. These heavy-gauge steel containers are so strongeach is designed to carry 57,000 poundsthat they need only be fastened at the corners to hold fast, much as they would be on a ship. In the example above, the shipping container bottom corner blocks are welded to steel plates imbedded in the concrete slab to secure the house to the foundation

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Install windows, exterior doors, flashing, and any sky lights

Windows are set into openings that were measured and cut prior to delivery of the shipping containers or roughed out on site. All openings for windows and doors should be framed with a steel section. Hollow rectangle sections work the best, but an L section will work as well. Images below show openings or sliding door systems in the end and sidewall panels of a container.

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Inspection and Sign-off


Staged inspections through the build with contractor and building official foundation, plumbing and electrical, architectural, and fire. Put together final check/punch list for contractor Review punch list with contractor Final inspection with building official for certificate of occupancy

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Cargo-containers

There is growing interest in the use of shipping containers as the basis for habitable structures. These icons of globalization are relatively inexpensive, structurally sound and in abundant supply. Although, in raw form, containers are dark windowless boxes (which might place them at odds with some of the tenets of modernist design...) they can be highly customizable modular elements of a larger structure.

Even though container modifcation-examples are abundant, just 3 are chosen here to give an idea of the range and variety. First the spacebox, designed by De Vijf and Holland Composites. Secondly the architecturefrm LO-TEK. These two examples show the manipulation of a sinlge container-box and the different spatial and conceptual possibiliites. Bluebase.MAS responds to issues raised by contemporary cities such as London, where our increasingly transient lifestyles are resulting in more work related communities in which living closer to the workplace and being able to move quickly a predominant factor in our choice of the home. This shift in emphasis will fundamentally change the way we view our cities.

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standard container

Standard containers are also known as general purpose containers. They are closed containers, i.e. they are closed on all sides. A distinc- tion may be drawn between the following types of standard contain- er: - Standard containers with doors at one or both end(s) - Standard containers with doors at one or both end(s) and doors over the entire length of one or both sides - Standard containers with doors at one or both end(s) and doors on one or both sides In addition, the various types of standard container also differ in di- mensions and weight, resulting in a wide range of standard contain- ers. Standard containers are mainly used as 20 and 40 containers. Con- tainers with smaller dimensions are very seldom used. Indeed, the trend is towards even longer dimensions, e.g. 45. The principal com- ponents of a standard container are shown above in diagram of a 20 plywood container .

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Corner casting Forklift pocket Bottom cross member Floor Bottom side rail Corner post Top side rail Front top end rail Front end wall Roof bows Roof panel Door header Hinge Door locking bar Cam Cam keeper Door gasket Door sill

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high-cube containers
High-cube containers are similar in structure to standard containers, but taller. In contrast to standard containers, which have a maximum height of 2591 mm (86), high-cube containers are 2896 mm, or 96, tall. High-cube containers are for the most part 40 long, but are sometimes made as 45 containers. A number of lashing rings, capable of bearing loads of at most 1000 kg, are mounted on the front top end rail and bottom cross member and the corner posts. Many 40 containers have a recess in the foor at the front end which serves to center the containers on so-called gooseneck chassis. These recesses allow the containers to lie lower and therefore to be of taller construction.

hard-top containers
The walls of hard-top containers are generally made of corrugated steel. The foor is made of wood. It has two typical distinguishing structural features. On the one hand, it is equipped with a removable steel roof. In some types, this roof has points for accommodating forklift trucks, allowing the roof to be lifted by forklift truck. The roof weighs approx. 450 kg. In addition, the door header may be swivelled out. These two structural features greatly simplify the process of packing and unpacking the container. In particular, it is very easy to pack and unpack the container from above or through the doors by crane or crab when the roof is open and the door header is swivelled out. In the case of transport of an overheight cargo, the container roof may be left open and fastened directly to a side wall on the inside of the container. To do this, the roof only needs approx. 13 cm (5 1/8) of space. Lashing rings, to which the cargo may be secured, are installed in the upper and lower side rails, the corner posts and the middle of the side walls. The lashing rings on the side rails and corner posts may take loads of up to 2000 kg. The lashing rings in the middle of the side walls may take loads of up to 500 kg, provided that the roof is closed. Usual hard-top container dimensions are 20 and 40.

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standard container
Flatracks consist of a foor structure with a high loading capacity composed of a steel frame and a softwood foor and two end walls, which may either be fxed or collapsible. The end walls are stable enough to allow cargo securing means to be attached and several fatracks to be stacked on top of one an- other. Flatracks are available in 20 and 40 sizes. A number of lashing rings, to which the cargo may be secured, are installed in the side rails, the corner posts and the foor. The lashing rings may take loads of up to 2000 kg in the case of 20 fatracks or up to 4000 kg in the case of 40 fatracks. Some types of 20 fatracks have forklift pockets. 40 fatracks have gooseneck tunnels at each end. In addition, they are some- times equipped with lashing winches with 2 metric ton lashing belts. For transport of certain cargoes, fatracks may be provided with stanchions.

Flatrack: steel frame with fxed end walls and softwood foor, 20 long and 86 high internal dimensions: foor length length between corner posts foor width widht between stanchions height height of foor max. gross weight tare weight max payload 5980 5698 2230 2245 2250 336 24000 2500 21500

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platforms
Platforms consist solely of a foor structure with extremely high loading capacity; they have no side or end walls. This high loading capacity makes it possible to con- centrate heavy weights on small areas. A platform consists of a steel frame and a wooden foor structure. Platforms are available in 20 and 40 sizes. 40 platforms have a gooseneck tunnel at each end. Lashing rings, to which the cargo may be secured, are installed in the side rails. The lashing rings may take loads of up to 3.000 kg.

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project examples

LOT-EK MDU LOT-EK is the New York based studio of Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano. LOT-EKs Mobile Dwelling Unit (MDU) began as an experimental design project in 1999. A constructed version features in a current traveling exhibition LOT-EK: Mobile Dwelling Unit which was organized by the University Art Museum at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in conjunction with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. MDU is a 40ft shipping container that has been modified into a relocatable dwelling. The container accommodates several modules for various functions such as cooking, washing and sleeping. These modules sit within the container so that during transportation the MDU largely resembles any other container sitting on a ship or a dock.Once the MDU has been delivered to a site, the modules slide out of the container like extrusions and create an inner hallway in the newly created void inside the container. The plan below shows the layout of the slide-out sub-volumes:

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BLUEBASE Modular accommodation system Bluebase.MAS responds to issues raised by contemporary cities such as London, where our increasingly transient lifestyles are resulting in more work related communities in which living closer to the workplace and being able to move quickly a predominant factor in our choice of the home. This shift in emphasis will fundamentally change the way we view our cities, which will need to become more adaptable to meet short-term change in demand. This more flexible approach will result in a less clustered, more efficient urban environment. Bluebase.MAS consists of two mass-produced elements: The accommoda- tion module, based on the external dimensions and performance of a 40ft cargo container, and the core module based on a 20ft cargo container. All elements can be easily plugged together and taken apart. A specialist lift / hoist is able to move individual accommodation modules on and off the core tower so a standard container truck can deliver a module with- out additional handling equipment. The construction and fnishes are com- parable to a yacht or high speed train.

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Key features: 10 No. one bedroom apartments - 100% factory built 26.8 m2 accommodation module passenger lift / escape stair 50m2 minimal footprint on 200m2 site fast and independent relocation sustainable technology use of existing global distribution system compliant to statutory requirements international patent pending external 10 unit tower dimensions: 19m(h) x 12m(l) x 7.5m(w)

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container art

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Bernardes Jacobsen
Architects: Bernardes Jacobsen Architecture Location: Parque Villa-Lobos, So Paulo, Brazil Partners in Charge: Thiago Bernardes and Paulo Jacobsen Collaborators: Bernardo Jacobsen, Edgar Murata, Daniel Vannucchi and Rafael Oliveira Design year: 2008 Setting up: 2008 Photographs: Leonardo Finotti

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Maziar Behrooz Architecture

Architects: Maziar Behrooz Architecture Location: Amagansett, NY, USA Project Area: 840 sq ft Project Year: 2010 Photographs: Dalton Portella & Francine Fleischer

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Benjamin Garcia Saxe Architecture

Architects: Benjamin Garcia Saxe Architecture Location: San Jose, Costa Rica Project area: 100 sqm Project year: 2011 Photographs: Andres Garcia Lachner

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Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects

Led by Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects in association with Nowhere Resort, the main purpose of the Ex-Container Project is to provide immediate housing for those who were displaced following the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 11th of March, 2011. Utilizing the format of ISO shipping containers the homes are easy to transport and offer a higher quality housing solution at an affordable price. Thinking beyond the short-term, the ExContainer Project can initially be built as a temporary house and then converted to a permanent architectural structure.

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Ex-Container Project Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects

Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects are continuing to move forward assisting those who have been displaced following the Japan earthquake and tsunami. The ExContainer Project, which we featured just last week, is one affordable design solution offering easy transport and installation without compromising quality.

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AnL studio

Architects: AnL Studio / Keehyun Ahn, Minsoo Lee Location: Song-do New City, Incheon, South Korea Planning & Producing: Chang Gil-Hwang, Kim Yong-Bae Construction team: Ju KwonJung, Choi Hui-hyun, Kim Chung-bong, Lee Seung-Ho, Park Kwon-ui, Kang Jung-Tae, Ham Yun-Ki Client: Incheon Metropolitan City, South Korea Site area: 350 sqm Building area: 91 sqm Project Year: 2010 Photographs: AnL Studio

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LOT-EK Young Woo & Associates


The Hudson River Park Trust has recently announced the winning design for New York Citys Pier 57, a long floating pier built on concrete caissons in 1952. The pier, located in Chelsea at West 15th Street and West Street on the western edge of the Meat Packing District, is part of the Hudson River Park development. New York firm Lot-EK with developer Young Woo & Associates are set to design a rooftop park crowning a small shopping center of local artisan stores built with recycled shipping containers. The center will also include a contemporary culture center with spaces for exhibitions, galleries, auctions and entertainment.

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The piers basic structure will be preserved, with layers of containers holding a mix of studio, retail and community spaces. Many of the small spaces will be rented to local artisans as a way to bring in revenue and give the pier street-credibility and community ties. The proposals emphasis on creating a niche for local artists and fusing an innovative mix of uses offers an attractive solution for the site.

The community working group liked the fact that the proposal generated fewer vehicular trips, explained President of the Board Connie Fishman. Others found the proposal attractive due to its estimated $191 million cost, as oppose to the other proposals that were estimated at over $330 million.

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Yet, before being selected, LOTEK had to prove to the jury that the shipping-container design would satisfy building codes and also create a high-quality experience. Although the jury was apprehensive about the containers, upon seeing LOTEKs earlier container projects for Puma City, the jury was convinced the project was feasible.

The pier design still has a long way to go before its visions will be a reality. The plan still has to clear the ULURP and environmental review hurdles before beginning construction.

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Platoon + Graft Architects


Concept Design: Platoon Cultural Development Location: Seoul, Korea Architectural Consultancy: Graft Architects + Baik Jiwon Executive Architect: U-il Architects & Engineers Prefab Engineering: Ace special container, Korea Structural Engineering: MIDAS IT, Korea Interior Design: URBANTAINER, Korea Main Contractor: Hyojung construction & development, Korea Program: Exhibitions, Bar & Restaurant, Event Hall, Artist Studios, Library Lounge, Office Studios, Workshop Room, Roof Top Bar Structure: M. Cabestany Footprint Area: 415 sqm Main hall Area: 272 sqm Project year: 2008-2009 Photographs: Platoon

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Architecture+Interior Designers, AnL Studio(Keehyun Ahn & Minsoo Lee) have designed a public observatory deck, called Oceanscope, in Incheon, Korea made of recycled materials, including old shipping containers.

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Hut at the Evergreens Brick Works Levitt Goodman Architects

Architect: Levitt Goodman Architects Location: 550 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Canada Project Team: Janna Levitt (Partner-in-Charge), Katrina Touw (Project Architect) Project Size: 96 sqf Project Area: 2010 Photographs: Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc.

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To greet visitors in the months before its official opening later this year, Evergreen Brick Works commissioned a temporary Welcome Hut for the 12-acre community environmental centre. Designed by Levitt Goodman Architects, this 96 sqf hut is provides an immediate node for visitors and to support the Evergreens mission to showcase for green design and environmentally sustainable initiatives.

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Elevated and painted Evergreens signature eye-popping green, the container commands attention while also providing barrier-free access and preventing flooding (the Brickworks is in a floodplain). Barn-like doors at either end of the container open it up to the elements and invite entry with a gesture like open arms. A bumped-out steel frame window gives the container a new dimension and transforms it into architecture. Adding to the huts purpose, a scupper on the roof funnels rainwater into an adjacent rain barrel.

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NICHOLAS SOCRATES Container Homes

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