The quest to transform shipping containers into inexpensive, serviceable housing has taken turns toward the starkly utilitarian (hurricane-resistant shelters, housing for homeless people) and the rambunctious (usually colorful, boxlike stacks). But architect Bernard Morin and his partner, Jocelyn Labelle, are trying to introduce enough ingenuity into container-based designs to make them palatable to a broad market.
The couple’s firm, Maison Idekit, based in Quebec, has been working with clients in North America and Europe on commercial projects and now hopes to expand into the residential market. Their first container home, in St. Adele, Quebec, has turned out to be not only a decent demo but also a publicity magnet – a 3,000-sq.-ft. four-bedroom duplex constructed with seven recycled shipping containers.
From the front, the building does indeed have an angular, modular look, but it also avoids shipping-container and trailer-home stereotypes. The exterior walls have been insulated with foam and covered with wood siding. It isn’t until you tour the interior and see the exposed corrugated walls that you’re reminded you’re surrounded by a lot of steel that probably has seen several distant ports (check out CTV news clips on the home here and here).
Morin and Labelle say hard construction costs came to $175,000 and that little of the 8×40-foot containers went to waste. The containers’ heavy-gauge wooden decks are, in this setting, the ceiling, while architectural cement was use to create smooth, even floor surfaces. Build time was about 10 months.
The firm says it has two more residential projects going in the ground over the next few months that will use a total of 12 containers.