Container Commons is an affordable multifamily housing prototype consisting of 44 mixed size units totaling 36,800 square feet. The client desires to satisfy increasing demand for affordable housing in Florida cities and site the units close to jobs, amenities, public transportation and services. While this version of the design is sited on a block in downtown Davie, Florida, the design should be interpreted as a prototype that can be adapted to a typical block in many cities, approximately 2.25 acres. Currently, the development threshold unit count for affordable housing is 200. This precludes urban infill developments. This design is targeted to fill this development gap. This design was created for a recently completed feasibility study, commissioned by the client, that found the shipping container concept to be cost-competitive with housing built conventionally using reinforced concrete block with wood floor and roof trusses. This is an important finding because the benefits accorded to this project over conventional affordable housing designs are significant. Direct benefits to residents include community scale covered outdoor areas (sheltered courtyards), increased above grade outdoor spaces (terraces) adjacent to units, and low operating cost (energy efficient, low maintenance). Sustainable benefits include low carbon footprint due to upcycled and recycled material, highly durable building envelope, and design for disassembly and recycling.
Shipping containers provide a sturdy shell. The units are designed to be stacked nine high loaded with 65,000 pounds in storms on the open seas. That said they suffer most abuse at the port transitioning from ship to terminal. Most shipping companies count a container seaworthy for about ten years after which they sell them to depots that make minor repairs and sell the best of them to overland freight companies, etc. The very worst are scrapped. In between these are the containers we chose for this project, class 3 units, truly at the end of their original life-cycle. We upcycle these units, reaping the low carbon footprint benefit for the primary structural material of the project.
The project features a mix of unit types ranging from 320 square foot efficiencies to 1260 square foot 3 bedroom. These unit sizes are comparable to market rate units forming a clear basis for comparison.
Stacking shipping containers to create multifamily housing offers unconventional but socially valuable exterior spaces such as large outdoor covered breezeways and wide upper level decks. These adjacent outdoor spaces offer opportunities for community connection that are not offered in conventional housing.
In order to make use of the container unit for housing modifications must be made. Since a container is designed to do its job with the minimum amount of material, its loads are distributed over the chassis. Removing material compromises the structural integrity of units and requires reinforcement. Additionally, metal fabrication is expensive relative to other trades. Therefore container modifications must be strategic, systematic and minimal. Unit types are conceived with this in mind.
Because the design is based on modular units the number and type of units can be easily rearranged to accommodate different populations: low-income, elders, veterans, work- force, students… All units are designed to meet accessibility requirements.
There are only three primary modified container types used in the design: right side removed, left side removed, both sides removed. Wall panel is removed completely from the side, steel columns are added and the entire span is reinforced. The added steel shapes are chosen to combine with the existing container steel to create efficient stable bearing members. The reinforcement is strong enough to allow partially prefabricated units to be transported to the building site. Units arrive modified, insulated, and prepped for building systems.