containers get some local publicity news article – Shipping Containers Possible as Homes

some local students are making some big noise about shipping containers re-purposed for housing.  I hope the momentum continues.

domo 2×5

In my continuing quest to design affordable, easily constructed homes for the “little guy” (that would be people like me who make less than $200k a year), I came up with an idea for a 320 square foot home made out of two 20′ standard “high cube” shipping containers.  This is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath home completely paired down to the absolute essentials.  It’s not flashy, it’s certainly not a mcmansion, but it’s certainly enough to get started with.  In designing the floor plan, I used european design sensibilities to maximize the available space, since the square footage is limited.  The use of outdoor space to supplement anything lacking indoors is key in a new way of living that thinks outside the box – pun intended.

The roof is elevated in order to put any utilities above the cube so as not to take up precious space indoors.  The high pitch of the roof (5:12) would allow for construction in nearly any climate and also takes advantage of water reclamation for use in washing dishes/clothes and flushing toilets to minimize the need for city services.  Obviously plenty of daylight is let in via operable awning windows that also aid in passive ventilation thus reducing the need for hvac and electric lighting during the daytime hours.

Below are some preview images of the model without any material rendering as of yet.  The real purpose of these designs is to convey form and intent.  Material and color is all up to the client/homeowner.  Finished floor plans are under development, so stay tuned for updates.

[editor’s note: after starring at my “unrendered” images for a while I got tired of the blandness of them and decided to add some texture, material and color.  below you’ll see the posts are 6×6 pressure treated wood, the roof is standing seam metal with integrated solar cells, the cladding is a combination of stucco (at front entry) and vertical siding. The windows are designed to be either wood, vinyl or aluminum storefront as budget would allow.  Finish off with simple concrete piers and wood decks and you’ve got yourself one sexy “Corten Castle” (term copywrited by renaissance ronin).]


front entry and porch doubles as outdoor living space - copywrite r | one studio arch 2010

side of building at front and rear porches - copywrite r | one studio arch 2010

ISBU prefab outsourced to China?

repost from bitchin architecture

Over at Treehugger there is an article about a Canadian firm, Meka, that has outsourced their prefab container homes to China.

image courtesy of inhabitat via treehugger

What I’m thinking is…..WHY?  There are literally thousands of shipping containers sitting unused right here on our own shores in port cities spanning both coasts.  Why would you outsource to China?

image courtesy of inhabitat via treehugger

Obviously cost would be the biggest issue, since everything coming out of China these days is cheaper.  But is it a better quality product?  Treehugger gets the last word with this brilliant line: “Modern prefab is now affordable, but at what cost.”

image courtesy of inhabitat via treehugger

a changing role for architects – repost

repost from bitchin’ architecture

Tara Imani, at AIA, published this post on the AIA Knowledge Net blog in late October titled The Changing Role of Architects: Can Traditional Practice Continue to Survive and Thrive”.  In the article she asks the question: to what extent is an architect needed in today’s society?

This is the kind of question I’ve heard often and have even asked myself time and again as I look around at the state of our industry in these tough economic times. And over the last 3 years of this recession, Architects and architecture firms have been going through something of a “rebranding”, in the sense that we’re faced with finding new ways to market ourselves to clients who perhaps would not normally seek out our services as well as finding new services to offer the traditional clients we do have. Some friends of mine at Content Design Group discovered a new service to offer, it sometimes seems, accidentally. Called the Urban Facelift Project, they began experimenting with derelict buildings in the downtown core of Jacksonville and proposing new facades/uses for them via digital renderings.  This eventually turned into a small design competition hosted by the local Emerging Design Professionals chapter and then into some paid projects for Content Design Group via clients who wanted to “facelift” their homes and/or businesses (you can see some examples on their website).

While I personally think this process of “rebranding” is a good thing for the profession, I also think architects are pushing themselves in the wrong direction.  With each new project that I work on the goal seems to field more and more responsibility AWAY from our profession and into the hands of consultants and/or contractors.  Where previously architects were the Master Builders, at the tip of a very exclusive pyramid, we are now becoming little more than graphic designers for the construction industry.  This is not good.

And I can hear the complaints already: Why should I take on more liability than is necessary?  The obvious answer to this question, in my opinion, is: “It’s your project.  You should be taking as much responsibility for it as you can get your hands on because at the end of the day it’s your vision for your client becoming reality.  Why wouldn’t you want more of the responsibility for the project?”  I can’t tell you how many projects I work on where I’m responsible for the envelope only; where the structural system and all support systems are designed solely by the consultants and an interior designer (nothing against interior designers here) is responsible for all finishes, appliances, lighting, etc.  Why is the architect not an important consultant in the design of all these trades or even the DESIGNER?

So, to ask the question again: to what extent is an architect needed in today’s society?  The answer is, I think, the architect is needed ever more in today’s society.  Architects need to retake their places atop the pyramid as Master Builder’s and not just cad jockeys that make pretty pictures for the magazines.  When an architect has to rely on the contractor’s insight on a particular detail in the field that the architect did not properly think through, there is a level of prestige, and respect, that is lost by the architect.  Obviously mistakes will happen, and contractors do come up with some very creative solutions in the field (speaking from experience), but it is, and should always be, the role of the architect to step up and take ownership of all aspects of a project from conceptualization to completed construction.  Otherwise the project will suffer, the client will suffer, the architect will suffer and ultimately the profession will suffer.

why I hate the A.R.E.

you’d think it would be obvious.  and most of my reasons probably are, but I’m going to list them anyway.

cost – the price keeps going up (arbitrarily it seems), making it harder and harder for recent graduates and interns to even sit for the exam.  this is perhaps my biggest gripe because it has nothing to do with ensuring the best and brightest get licensed, just the ones with enough money at their disposal to get in the door.

ARE 4.0 – I’ve been a practicing intern architect since 2004 and in that time the ARE format has changed 3 time, from 3.0 to 3.1 to 4.0.  So, in 6 years I’ve had to essentially “start over” 3 times because the format of the test keeps changing.  This does nothing but make the process of test taking unnecessarily complicated and again has nothing to do with ensuring competent architects come out of the exams.

rolling clock – while I understand the need for this (I actually had a professor who waited more than 12 years to finish his exams), if you’re going to have a rolling clock then the format should not change every year, it should change in respect to the rolling clock schedule – every 5 years.

Finally, dear NCARB, STOP SCREWING AROUND WITH US!  Work with the AIA and NAAB to develop a system where licensure is congruent with education.  And some mentorship accountability would be nice too.


I’ve got a couple of upcoming competition entries that I’ll be posting in the next month.  A bus shelter for Creve Coeur, Missouri and a single family residence at the Rivertown Development in St. Johns County Florida.  Gonna be a fun November.