Fox Container Residence

Once again, I am a day late and a dollar short.  One of these days I will realize that the newspaper does sometimes contain information I would like to have, such as the fact that the Fox House had an open house yesterday.  Instead, I found out about that today when I showed up to take photos of it for this blog.  Apparently a lot of people missed it yesterday and tried to get in today.  Tom Fox, the owner, was very gracious about the intrusions, which I never intended to be a part of.  Today is one of those days that I wish I hadn’t sworn off PhotoShop for this blog.  There are days when I look at my photos and think I really know what I’m doing, and then there are days like today.

I first learned of this house when I was contemplating using containers for my thesis project.  Now that the building is substantially complete, I thought it was time to take some photos of it.  If you want to see it during the process, mwbender.com is full of them, none of which were taken by me.

Shipping containers have been used architecturally for years in Europe, and really are a great idea here as well. Although they can be used for shipping repeated loads, they often aren’t simply because the US no longer exports as many goods as it imports.  Shipping them back overseas to reuse is cost prohibitive unless they are loaded.  That means that there is often a surplus that could otherwise just become junk.

In addition to the reuse aspect, shipping containers are structurally sound and are meant to be stacked securely with minimal effort.  During shipping, they will be subject to high wind loads and turbulence, which means they are designed to resist these forces, exactly the forces that buildings must resist.

But enough about the generalizations.  Let’s get on to this house, which is what I want to show you today.  This particular house is a three-story house, made of shipping containers.  Most of the containers are standard 40′ long, 9’6″ high containers, but the stair enclosure is made from a 20′ long one, and the fence outside is made of 10′ long ones.  The house is over 2400 square feet.  You might think that a house made of these containers would be hot inside, but actually the inside is finished out with studs and drywall, with insulation between the walls and containers.  It is extremely energy efficient, and has preliminarily been certified LEED Platinum.  For those of you who don’t know, that means that it is as green as a building gets.

When I was wandering around I kept wondering what the chain link fencing was for, worrying a bit that maybe it was a Gehry-esque decorative accent.  Never fear, it does have a purpose!  It is a trellis for a vertical garden of flowering vines, which will increase the green appeal of the home, both literally and figuratively.

The neighborhood of the Fox Container Residence is an older one, full of  wood-frame, wood-sided, very small houses.  While there are certainly features of this house that stand out in such a neighborhood, in many ways, this is the perfect place for it. Like the well-aged houses of the neighborhood, the shipping containers have a certain patina.  I love the way the metal roof of the small house above echoes the rhythm and materials of the container house.  Right now, the exterior has not been completely painted, which I find appealing, but they will all be painted white eventually, which others find more appealing.

On this side of the fence, there is a small, old house that is apparently used as a church.  The tree screen between the two properties helps to both frame and obscure the views from both sides.  Tree screens are a beautiful way to do this, as well as to help create noise breaks.  This one consists of a variety of trees, unlike the ones often used on highways which are almost always made of just fast-growing pines.

The white coat of paint will make the whole house appear somewhat more conventional, but somehow, I’m not sure that this owner quite wants to be conventional.  After all, who else in town has a flaming fence?

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