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3 Story 12 Container Home Project: Interesting Design & Challenges

3 Story 12 Container Home Project: Interesting Design & Challenges

3 Story 12 Container Home Project: Interesting Design & Challenges

Greetings Comrades,

Former Army Engineer here turned Home Construction Architect/Engineer,

I'm working on a project some might find interesting as it involves a new trend of using shipping containers for modular home construction. This project also presents numerous challenges because of the owners design goals.

First, let me give you an idea of the planned home layout design.
The home is to be 3 story's (1536 sqft per level) of 12 total high-cubed 20' shipping containers, all properly stacked on top of each other, with each level comprising of four containers -2 per North & South walls, but w/ 8ft gap in middle for window (Length=48' -20+8+20), and wood decking supported by metal beams/studs for flooring. East and West main walls total width will be 16ft comprised of floor to ceiling acrylic or polycarbonate windows. Ground floor doubles as parking garage, fitness area, washer/dryer, work area, w/ each container doubling as tool/equipment storage and grow rooms for micro-green growing business. Each container on second level will double as walk in food pantry/storage, utility closet, guest room/bath, and man-cave. On top level both him and her gets their own walk in closet and bathroom. Decking will be built to walk up to the only entrance located in the back which joins the kitchen. The main level is just your open layout of kitchen and living room space w/ library nook. Top level is just your bedroom + baths + closets. Instead of decking/flooring the entire top (3rd) level, the 2nd level living room will be an open ceiling leading to roof skylight. The only cutting into containers will be done at top floor in middle of each container to provide 4' doorways (will be reinforced) to closets and bathrooms. The location for this project takes place in N. Florida. The one thing I really love about this design is that construction will be quick, easy, and VERY affordable considering we are talking about what will be a 3000+ sqft modern and very strong/durable home.

Now for 2 minor challenges:
1.) Home owner wants a very 'green' design, no AC. Towards that end, along with other minor energy efficient designs, elements will include A.) the adjacent perimeter lined with cypress trees keeping sun off sides, w/ wall garden covering several sections, B.) the outside will be stucco, and C.) each living space will have a ceiling fan w/ motorized skylight as exhaust vent. Solar roofing is being considered, and if we don't go that route we'll be some kind of slanted roof to keep water from sitting on top of the containers. But more to the point, the owner wants to do 'ground-cooled' air intake. We are aware of at least one builder who sucks in earth-cooled air from long buried pipe and boasts great results (on Youtube), but they sit on a hill. We are thinking about digging a large trench and forming a series of bends, like a radiator, which would allow for the air to cool before travelling what will be around 50ft to the home. Any thoughts or resources for information on something like this?
2.) Since stucco is wanted for outside insulation and aesthetic, this brings up an issue with securing the lath because we don't want to put anymore holes into the containers than we have to. We are planning on having the containers wrapped w/ a water barrier first, and I think we're going to have to weld the metal lath on. Any thoughts or resources for information on this? Maybe stone/brick veneer might be better?

Anyone have any other thoughts or recommendations?
Greatly appreciating any input!

RE: 3 Story 12 Container Home Project: Interesting Design & Challenges

Those shipping containers are only a type of thick gage metal decking with some small steel tubes on the base/top. I've seen them stacked on ships multiple "stories" high, full of product, so structurally they are fine if left as they are perhaps.

The challenges are analyzing their capacity once you start punching in door and window openings as well as the ability to fasten them together to work together as a structural unit to resist lateral wind forces.

Just a side note - I was asked to analyze a shipping container swimming pool that a local resident bought from a company - they had filled the pool and saw the side walls bow out about 1.5 feet before emptying again. The lack of adequate strengthening along the cut container walls was the culprit.

I assume you have (or are) a structural engineer looking at this?

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RE: 3 Story 12 Container Home Project: Interesting Design & Challenges

With regard to this forced-air cooling scheme..

Modern A/C systems are pretty efficient.

For this 'earth cooling' system to work, as far as I can tell you're still going to need ducting to run wherever you want cool air to go- just like you would for A/C.

In order to provide enough air for effective cooling, any duct which is buried will have to be relatively large. Add in bends and you add restrictions to the system.

In other words, instead of burning energy running a relatively efficient compressor, you'll burn it running a larger air handler than a correctly engineered A/C system would require.

I would consult with a reputable HVAC engineer before committing to this 'earth-cooling' scheme. On its face, to me, it does not seem like it would be more energy efficient than a state-of-the-art residential A/C system with a variable speed compressor would be.

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