Prescott designers turn railroad shipping containers into a home
Marie Jones went a tad off track with her new home.
Jones is a graphic designer living in the Phoenix area who is building a house out of old shipping containers on the south side of downtown Flagstaff. Construction of the roughly 2,000 square-foot home is under way using five, 40-foot long containers for the main living space and a separate 20-foot long container that will serve as a studio.
Jones said the idea to use the containers partially comes from growing up around railroads and watching the trains that chug three blocks from her lot.
"We were thinking about what to build there," she said. "It struck me that I had seen people are building with those containers."
After creating an initial design of the home, Jones said she went to the city's building department and got the green light.
"We went forward and that's when I got in touch with Ecosa (Design Studio)," she said.
Jones said building a shipping container home is something that fits with her emphasis on design and innovation.
"I've just always been interested in building materials and have renovated houses before," she said. "I've been interested in situations or when people build living residences out of unconventional materials."
Jones then went to two Prescott area businesses for help in building her dream home.
Antony Brown, a principal at the Ecosa Design Studio, said he first met with Jones in late 2007 about her unique idea, which was also new to him.
"Every house is unique, but this house is really unique," he said. "I wanted to do this for awhile because it's the ultimate in recycling. This is very much about sustainability."
Brown said this non-traditional home was a challenge to build.
"Everything in this building is custom," he said.
Tom Hahn, a principal architect at the design studio, said building the container home meant trying to figure out ways to keep water out, insulating the interior, meeting county sustainable building rules and joining the doors and windows to the steel.
"There are no detail books for how to put containers together," he said.
Hahn said the containers sit in a criss-cross plan that rises up into a two-story atrium space with operable windows that allow for ventilation. The home's interior boasts soy-based insulation, radiant floor heating, soy-stained concrete floors and low-water use fixtures and appliances. Solar-electric photovoltaic panels will sit on the pitched roof.
Jones also went to T. Barnabas Kane for help with landscaping her home.
Kane, principal with T. Barnabas Kane & Associates, said he spent time on finish grading and creating a rainwater and snowmelt catch system for the home.
"From a rainwater standpoint, containers don't have a drip edge, making a gutter system a challenge," he said.
Kane also said he installed a gray water system to grow fruit and used some of the steel cut from the containers for fencing and outdoor space.
Jones said the costs vary depending on the shape that the containers are in. That means they run about $2,000 to $2,500, according to Jones, who said she saw some online a little cheaper than that.
"We wanted to get used ones," she said. "That was kind of the thinking behind building something out of recycled materials as much as possible.
"There is a surplus of them laying around."
When work finishes next spring, the home will be environmentally friendly and it's the first of its kind in the city, according to Jones.
"It's very exciting," she said. "Aside from using recycled materials like the shipping containers, we are using as much as we possibly can, materials that are sustainable, low impact environmentally. It should be energy efficient as well."