ARCKIT Model 37 - Containers of Hope

People ‘over-produce’ pollution because they are not paying for the costs of dealing with it.
— Ha-Joon Chang

Case Study

At 100 square meters and completed in 2011, this $40,000 container home was designed by Benjamin Garcia Saxe Architects for clients, Gabriela Calvo and Marco Peralta. The vision was to create an inexpensive house made from discarded shipping containers, which would allow the couple to live debt-free in a natural landscape less than 20 minutes from San Jose, Costa Rica. With an orientation aligned toward sunrise and sunset, the home offers spectacular views of its surroundings while emphasizing feelings of comfort and freedom.

The idea and statement are simple: build a high-quality home cheaper than the cost of social housing provided for the poor in Costa Rica. This project highlights the importance of design as a tool to achieve both elegance and comfort on a very low budget. Using their creativity, Benjamin Garcia Saxe Architects were not only able to redefine a ubiquitous scrap material, but also show that there are viable, cost-effective means of adapting passive design strategies to an intensely tropical climate.

The construction begins by separating two, side-by-side, 40-foot shipping containers, which are then offset laterally and shifted so that the home aligns from east to west. The container doors are removed and both ends of the home are glazed in glass allowing light to flood the interior. The inner walls of both containers are also removed and used to fill the space between them, creating a central corridor with rooms on either side. A slanted roof, made from scrap metal left over from the exterior window installation, shelters this new area. Raising the roof higher than the surrounding containers, with their clerestory windows, not only creates an internal sensation of openness but also an outlet for cross ventilation.

The design for natural lighting and natural ventilation have had a significant impact on the home’s performance, such that electricity for day lighting and interior conditioning is rarely necessary – a huge accomplishment considering Costa Rica's climate!

After the home’s design was completed, the clients went on to build the home themselves. This “Containers of Hope” project was an experiment for both client and architect, and since its completion has become an internationally-renowned example of beautiful container architecture. As I always say, keeping things simple is key.

Project Details

Today, I present Arckit Model 37, a physical model representation of the 'Containers of Hope' project. Container architecture is extremely easy to build with Arckit, so I could build this model quickly! Containers typically come in two sizes, 20 and 40 feet, which are 5 and 10 Arckit units, respectively. As shown in my video documentation below, I began drawing out the floor plan, making a direct conversion to Arckit units. I started this project by laying a large base plate and placing columns down to outline the foundation. The existing home sits on a raised foundation of 12 columns about 2-3 feet off the ground. Unfortunately, with the base Arckit components currently available, there are only 8-foot columns. To solve this problem, I needed to build a base foundation that would submerge the standard Arckit columns halfway underground. To accomplish this, I brought the floor halfway up by using 4-foot half-wall sections and stacking floor plates to expose a small portion of each column to elevate the home aboveground. While very component-intensive, this method represents the model and actual construction process very well.

From here I laid down the walls, creating rooms on either side of a long corridor spanning the length of the structure. The space is divided into public and private sides, with the former containing (pun intended) a living room, dining room, kitchen and office, and the latter containing a master bedroom, large walk-in closet and bathroom. Stairs were added to the front and back entrances to meet the ground, which was then tiled to represent grass.

To complete the model, I roofed the two container sections flat and placed a slanted roof in the central corridor, which was achieved by creating a height difference using the glass half walls and roof extenders. Overall, this was a great build and extremely easy to model with Arckit. A less component-intensive version of this model can be made by switching out the columns for the standard solid half section walls, making this a fantastic weekend project to try out.

Photo Gallery

Video Documentation


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