Box cars to bedrooms: Frisco may use recycled shipping containers in employee housing project
March 18, 2009
FRISCO ” Homes built from box cars? It may seem low budget, but the town hopes to build employee housing north of Main Street with shipping containers ” metal boxes often associated with trains.
According to architect Darrick Wade with Bostad International, building with recycled shipping containers is a growing trend. The website http://www.weburbanist.com, for example, documents numerous examples of using shipping containers for offices, residences and even alleyways. The containers themselves are cheap to purchase, the website says, and even free in some cases when they’re used and unwanted.
“The town wanted to use recycled material whenever possible,” Wade said. “I think (shipping containers) fit the requirement to use recycled materials. They sit in junk yards all over the place and can be re-purposed for construction offices on-site.”
Frisco’s idea is that homes built from the containers could be used as additional temporarily housing for town employees while they seek permanent homes.
Frisco already has four employee units, three on Granite Street and one on the 306 Galena St. site slated for new “box-car” development.
The Bostad International architecture team, hired to design the new housing development, “chewed on the project quite a bit” to create innovative neighborhood housing on Galena Street.
Bostad designed one unit as pro-bono work with its staff and two Summit High School interns in 2008, and the company has since been hired by Frisco to develop up to four units for the Galena Street site.
Shipping containers are “neat building blocks,” said Wade, owner of Bostad, at last Tuesday’s town work session. Solar roof panels and green building practices will also be used to create an economical neighborhood for town employees.
Site research influenced Bostad’s choice to use recycled box cars ” a railroad ran down the alley behind the project site at one point, and architects found old pictures of a train depot made out of a box car in the area.
According to Jocelyn Mills, Frisco’s senior planner, a container will be placed on the site in the next few days.
Wade plans to test out a box and cut holes in it for windows.
Bostad suggests building the units on the Galena Street lot by clustering the structures around a “pocket park” for the residents.
Multiple shipping containers may be used in building a one- or two-bedroom home. Depending on how the homes are insulated, the metal can be left alone or cloaked in siding ” potentially beetle-kill wood, another recycled material.
Wade is proposing to leave the box-siding exposed.
“Who knows what will happen,” Mills said. “It hasn’t got planning commission approval yet.”
According to Wade, the architectural form of the units has been a big challenge. His team put in long hours into developing a look that’s aesthetically pleasing.
“Everyone is pretty excited on how they’re looking,” he added.
There’s a two-story element with a gable feature similar to historic structures of the area. The second level has a roof-top deck.
“We’re really trying hard to make sure that we’re not placing something in a neighborhood that’s out of place,” Wade said.
The project will be discussed at a planning commission meeting set for April 2.
“Council wants additional affordable housing” for employees, Mills said. “They want to stay with sustainable building codes ” efficiency is important ” and it’s an opportunity to use ‘cabin’ zoning and provide an example of how it can work.”
Historically, Frisco’s homes have had a small cabin feel, Mills said. With cabin housing, one can build detached, single-family cabins in higher density on a single lot. When using the town’s cabin zoning regulations, 30 percent of the cabins must be deed restricted.
Council said they still had concerns about parking, snow-stacking, storage and construction methods at last Tuesday’s meeting.
“We’re working on design phase,” Mills said. “Nothing is set in stone.”
Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.