With all the talk about prefabricated houses made from panels, there’s another option that many have ignored until recently. Readily available but often tossed aside shipping containers made from sturdy corten steel can become the building blocks or modules that are hip, sturdy, and almost ready to be used as a highly sustainable housing option.
A number of firms are doing so nationally and internationally, including Fredman Design Group and its Stone’s Throw Builders division with offices in Chicago and Michigan’s Harbor Country Union Pier. Company founder, designer, and chairman Susan Fredman and CEO and architect Terri Crittenden hit upon the idea after seeing some examples in a shelter magazine. “We had never seen anything like these homes and thought what a great idea for our clients’ homes,” she says. And it’s a good green way to build.
The boxes they purchase from Asia are as tall as 9 1/2′, 8′ wide, and 20′ or 40′ long, depending on which size container is used. An ironworking firm they’ve contracted with cuts windows, doors, and screen openings in the steel walls, according to plans Fredman and Crittenden–or their other colleagues–draw up for their clients.
The modules are shipped on a flat-bed truck to the site where a concrete pier-style foundation is constructed and several modules are strung together in a row or even stacked upon one another for a multi-level result. Then the sky’s the limit. A basement can be added if desired. Roofs can be made of almost any material–shingles, rubber, metal, tiles, slate, or a live grouping of plants. The interiors can have steel, concrete or wood floors, along with a variety of materials for beams and walls. Any type of electrical and HVAC system can be installed, including the most cutting-edge to pare consumption and decrease the carbon footprint. Amenities such as fireplaces can be added.
Once completed, these are luxury containers. Fredman, who lives in a two-story container house in Michigan’s Harbor Country, prefers using regional woods and other materials for the interior when possible such as oak for her own home’s floors and beams. And because she and Crittenden couldn’t find a faucet style they liked for the bathrooms and kitchens, they designed a new line, “Elan,” which is now part of Watermark’s plumbing collection.
The homes may take less time to complete than similar-sized stick-built homes, but they won’t be finished overnight, Fredman says. The typical time table is four to six months, from having a plan finished to turning on the lights, water, and heat. Prices are also comparable to traditional custom stick-built homes, about $250 a square foot. So, if building a 1,500-square-foot vacation home, the cost would be $375,000, plus the land cost. "These are not inexpensive homes. We were interested in developing a high-end option for full-time or vacation living, and this is what these are," Fredman says.
This is a whole new approach to the home design & build process. Some of these homes are architectural design and creative build masterpieces. These homes are hip, they’re unique and they offer two additional benefits; great acoustics and steel exteriors that to date are holding up extremely well to all sorts of inclement weather. Thinking "outside the box" now includes "in the box living solutions", a new meaning and new look for home owners.
Design & Build Team:
Fredman Design Group – Phone: 312-587-8150
Stone’s Throw Builders – Phone: (269) 469-9640