Architects have long experimented with using different materials to build houses. Even in that light, however, a recent building project by architectural firm StarkJames Architecture is a surprising one. Using 16 decommissioned shipping containers, architect Brian Stark has created a complex of eight apartments in Phoenix, Arizona, complete with all the expected modern amenities. Measuring 740 square feet, these unexpected apartments rent for $1,000 a month, and have a wait list at least 150 names long.
A Solid Foundation
While some people might reflexively balk at the idea of living in a discarded shipping container, the idea isn’t as questionable as it seems. According to architect Brian Stark, the outer shell of the containers is much stronger than a typical housing construction. Thanks to their sturdy construction, these shipping containers provide a higher default level of protection than standard house building materials. In fact, Stark says that shipping containers have already found use as housing spaces in Europe; his is simply the first instance of their being converted to apartments in the U.S.
Aside from that, the interiors of the apartments are hardly lacking compared to modern expectations for what a livable housing space should include. Aside from the bathrooms, which are contained in an attached structure to allow for easier plumbing installation, each apartment is formed from two shipping containers, the thick walls of which provide a level of insulation beyond that found in a typical house.
An Affordable Housing Solution?
According to Stark, his plans did cause some puzzlement and trepidation at the City of Phoenix Development Services before the plans were finally approved. Now that they’ve been installed, however, these offbeat housing units have met with approval from both city mayor Greg Stanton and local residents who are now neighbors with people living in shipping containers. Additionally, StarkJames Architecture has already begun drafting plans to build another similar structure even larger than the current one.
Now that the idea has proven usable, the idea of using existing shipping containers to construct affordable housing units may gain more traction. According to official reports, port cities across the country house hundreds of thousands of decommissioned shipping containers. If every set of two of those containers were combined to create a new apartment like has been done in Phoenix, it could create thousands upon thousands of new housing units, each of which could be installed with less work and resources than building a new structure from scratch.
Is Phoenix’s new shipping container apartment complex a part of a trend, or just an architectural curiosity? Only time will tell. Even if the idea never catches on, however, it still presents an intriguing look at how a little ingenuity can lead to creative advances in architectural thinking.
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