At first glance, most people would not notice anything unusual about this small contemporary house in California. With the ends clad in lap siding, you have to look closely to see that it is constructed from recycled shipping containers. A roof with wide overhangs, a feature not often seen on container houses, further helps to disguise its origins. Leger-Wanaselja Architecture designed the house based on three 40-foot containers. Two are stacked on the left, and a third was cut in half and stacked on the right. The two stacks are joined by a double-height atrium-like space with walls of glass on the front and back.
This is a small house suitable for a family, with a total of three bedrooms in its 1,350 ft2 (125 m2). The lower level has the kitchen and dining room in the full-length container, and a bedroom/office in the half container. The open area in between functions as the living room, an entrance foyer, and a stair hall. The stairs lead up to the two upper floor bedrooms, with a bridge over the atrium space providing access to the master bedroom suite. The downstairs bedroom has its own separate entrance, so it would work well as a home office for someone who has clients dropping by.
One problem with using shipping containers for housing is that they are quite narrow at only 8 feet wide. Subtract the space needed for insulation, and the resulting width is less than the minimum room width in a conventional house. The result is that container homes often feel cramped and closed-in. With this house, Leger-Wanaselja Architecture has used several strategies to avoid that. On the lower level, the container wall was cut away at the dining room to open it completely to the living room with its high ceiling. As a result, the dining area feels cozy but not cramped. Upstairs, each bedroom was given extra width by the addition of a bay window with large window seat. And, throughout the house, large windows open the rooms to the outdoors.
Besides making use of unneeded shipping containers, the home has a number of other sustainable features. The concrete used in the foundation contains 50% fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants. The house was designed for passive solar heating in the winter, but with deep overhangs to shade the windows in summer. The many windows provide daylighting and were placed taking cross-ventilation into account, with most rooms having windows on at least two sides. And, there is a system to collect and store the rainwater hitting the roof.
One of our first posts here at Small House Bliss was about another container house. If you missed it, be sure to check out Containers of Hope, a low-cost home by Benjamin Garcia Saxe.
Photographs courtesy of homeowner Jan Grygier.
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