This time of year I’m always reminded of a bit from the movie “Good Morning Vietnam” with Robin Williams where he’s giving the “weather report” for the day and says:
“So Reginald, what’s the weather like out there today”
“It’s HOT, damn HOT. It’s so hot, I saw this dude in orange robes BURST INTO FLAMES!”
“So, what’s the weather look like for tomorrow?”
“HOT and WET. That’s alright if you with a lady, but it ain’t no good if you in the jungle.”
Friggin hilarious movie. I could watch it again and again and again…it’s that funny! 🙂
So what does this have to do with architecture or container architecture? I’m so glad you asked, cause I’m gonna tell you.
The most common critique that I find, and the most common internet search aside from “container homes”, is how to practically insulate containers for hot weather. Recently I was asked to submit a design and fabrication proposal for a 8 unit dormitory in Puerto Rico to be constructed out of 40′ High Cube ISO shipping containers. The number ONE concern of the client was quote “is it possible to insulate these containers to ensure a comfortable interior living temperature?” The answer is YES.
But first, the program. I was asked to provide a design proposal, originally, for a minimum of 12 dorm units on a single piece of property in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The lot, being only about 300 square meters is…let’s say it’s “small”, and unfortunately shortly after I began the design process, the client informed me that there is a 2 story height limit, which totally cut down the number of units we could have. That being said, we’re left with the 8 units. Each unit is to have a bedroom with a storage closet, a full bathroom, a kitchen area, study area, dining area and living space. All within a 40′ x 8′ x 9′-6″ space. Yeah, it’s a little tight, but I made it work. And I think it works quite nicely. Obviously we’re not talking about a ton of space to party in, but it certainly functions the way a dorm needs to. This is the typical unit plan.
The bedroom is probably larger than it needs to be, but then if you used a Murphy bed, you could have a bedroom and office space in one.
So, how do we take this single plan and make a multi-unit structure? We stack them horizontally and vertically, 4 across and 2 high, giving us the 8 units. Circulation to the second level is made by a simple prefab metal stair and balcony. The entire building will sit on poured concrete pad foundations at the 4 corners and intersections of the units. This GREATLY decreases the need for lengthy site work and coordination. This is the first floor plan showing the horizontally stacked units.
In order to insulate these big steel boxes and provide comfortable temperatures inside without completely breaking the bank with our electric bill, we’ve insulated both the interior and exterior wall faces with 2 1/2″ of closed cell SPF insulation for a total thickness of 5″ or about R-30. Basically, we created a cooler with a steel core structure. Oh yeah. 🙂
In the rendered images below you get a feel of the simplicity and scale of the structure. While shipping containers are small, you can see that they can be modified and designed in such a way to provide adequate living space for almost any building type. Think for a second that we needed 2 bedrooms units. We simply remove the demising wall in the main living and kitchen area, modify the kitchen to be larger, possibly with an island, and we’ve created a double unit that is more open and inviting than just the single unit. Small changes make a big difference in this type of structure.
So, if you’re considering a multi-family structure, or even a single family, think about containers and then give us a call. We can save you time, save you money and build something that will last.