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I want to create a container community in Seattle

 
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Seattlesam



Joined: 06 Jan 2005
Posts: 2
Location: Seattle WA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 12:03 pm    Post subject: I want to create a container community in Seattle Reply with quote

I am interested in actually building three to four single family units on a large lot in Seattle Wa. I am trying to find a way for people like myself (working class single parent) to afford home ownership in a very expensive housing market. Finished units could not cost more than $150,000 each. Level lots large enough to divide by three or four are currently about $120,000 in Seattle. I will have approx. $30,000 in Spring of 2007. Any ideas on how to get started?
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eamesdaedelus



Joined: 28 Apr 2004
Posts: 263
Location: Austin, Texas

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sam,

That sounds like a great idea. I think it could be done for $150K per units but I'm not too sure about the Seattle labor market. the one thing I'd look into for the sort of land/housing sharing thing you are talking about is "co-housing", which is a sort of Co-op type situation where the group gets together, establishes a co-housing community where the group as a whole buys the land (condominium style) and build small condos. The difference is that in cohousing the units themselves are generally small and self-sufficient, but a greater portion is given over to communal gathering/cooking/dining areas where the "family units" share weekly duties. Child-care is also usually taken care of within the community. It sounds rather hippie, and maybe it is, but I harkens back to a simpler city life. I think it would be amazing to have a decidedly modern, sustainable co-housing community built from shipping containers. If you need help with the container ideas, let me know as I've spent an inordinant amount of time working with the idea.

Mark
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ezekieltattoo



Joined: 04 Nov 2004
Posts: 207
Location: jacksonville, fl

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

getting started in seattle:

-go to http://www.cargotecture.com <-in seattle, developing container buildings, when i spoke to them in August, they wanted to do the houses as "kits," but they were willing to work under the normal architect relationship to design me a container house, as well (i'm in FL, so delivery was going to be a long way) talk to Robert Humble (nice guy).

-go to http://www.designSTUDIOmodern.com (and call mark <-really nice guy) he has a few designs in the works that would probably meet your price range (a "stripped down version" of the s-con02 could be done for about $60k<<edit: in a reasonably cheap labor market>>, according to Mark)<<edit: mark posted b4 i finished typing my post>>

-call David Cross (dcross <-the current technical guru on containers for building -he has coined the acronym ISBU's)

-don't get your hopes up too much, because this idea is still kind of bouncing around, up and down, back and forth. i thought it was the magical solution to all future housing, but it still has some kinks to be worked out (David and Mark and others are hard at work to get them out, though).

-buy a bunch of containers, put them on the lot, and let them rust apart (a la "varp") Crying or Very sad


Last edited by ezekieltattoo on Thu Jan 06, 2005 1:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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dcross



Joined: 03 Jun 2004
Posts: 91
Location: SC, FL

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 1:21 pm    Post subject: getting started Reply with quote

Read through these posts. Engage an architect to design what you want. Listen to their ideas and make sure they listen to your ideas. If I understand correctly, you are looking to leverage $30k in the procurement of $120k lot and create 4 dwellings with a resale value collectively of $600K which I infer means these sublots are now $30k +$120K in Sale Value of building. Are my numbers skewed or in the ballpark?

In broad strokes
Sounds like you need a seller for the lot who will hold the note and take first position on a lien. Next you need a builder who is going to put it up for say $90k turnkey allowing you enough margin to flip the first 3 and ultimately have your 4th. So you also need a builder who is willing to hold a note in second position. All this is moot if you qualify for conventional financing.

In other strokes, it sounds like you need 3 customers, ideally pre-qualified and under contract for these homes.

The approval process should not be too hard but you may also want to start with that before a next step.

Where are the lots. Seattle, Fife, Kent, Tacoma? It would not be unheard of for you to sit with your appropriate City Councilman and freely discuss how you would like to build a better mousetrap, while engaging more modern building materials, providing an alternative to affordable income homes and participating in a process that rids the landscape of an urban blight. If you find that you are moving forward and need the ISBUs (which are containers that have been converted into ready to use Intermodal Steel Building Units) we may be able to participate in the PE, permitting, and ISBU requirements.

Read all these threads, gather your ideas, and speak to the architects that you learn about in here (we are not architects, ask anyone who has seen my stuff!).

Good Luck
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Seattlesam



Joined: 06 Jan 2005
Posts: 2
Location: Seattle WA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 11:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the ideas. I think co-housing would be a hard sell, though. In response to dcross, your numbers are right. I was not thinking of selling however, but of creating a co-operative of sorts with 3-4 other parties and pooling resources to make affordable housing on our own. It never occured to me to approach city government with my ideas... thanks for that thought.
In response to ezekialtattoo, I have already contacted both firms you mentioned, and will be setting up an appointment with Robert Humble soon. In response to eamesdaedelus, the Seattle labor market is PRICEY. This is one of the countries most expensive cities. A recent study put the 'minimum housing wage' ( The minimum hourly wage necessary to rent a 2 bedroom apt. and still eat) at $16.00 per hour. As I mentioned, I think co-housing would be a tough sell, but I hope that this venture would have some sort of communal aspect.
I will keep posting as I start my research to let you know if I am able to make progress.
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eamesdaedelus



Joined: 28 Apr 2004
Posts: 263
Location: Austin, Texas

PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2005 9:11 am    Post subject: co-housing Reply with quote

Seattlesam wrote:
I think co-housing would be a hard sell, though.


What makes you think that?

Quote:
I was not thinking of selling however, but of creating a co-operative of sorts with 3-4 other parties and pooling resources to make affordable housing on our own.


That is more or less what co-housing is. I know, its all semantics, but you may find some interesting information in some books on co-housing. Folks have paved this way before, creating affordable housing through pooling of resources. Call it something else, but I'm sure there is good info to be gleaned from any of the myriad co-housing books devoted to the actual process of creating a co-housing community.

Mark

p.s. Sam, I don't think you've contacted me, and if you have and I forgot I'm sorry, but I'd be interested in talking to you about your project.
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byoung7546



Joined: 04 Mar 2005
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Seattlesam,
I'm a relative new-comer to Seattle, and I too am very interested in container housing. I am currently in the process of securing work (with one of the shipping lines actually, maybe I can get employee discounts on containers Very Happy ). I'm not ready to jump into anything immediately, but would love to throw around some ideas with you.

I have some serious questions about the feasability of the container houses. First of all, would the city or neighborhood even let somebody start a project? I could imagine lots of public outcry. Also, what is the expected life span of a container house? What are other considerations to take into account before dropping a cool half million?

What areas are you thinking about. I always think container houses would look great in the little industrial area between Fremont and Ballard (FreBall for those with less discriminating tastes). There is a great empty lot just southeast of the 15th and Leary intersection. I think the property value in that area would be high. I've also heard good things about the artist community in Georgetown, though I've yet to explore the area.

Anyway, I'd love to keep the conversation going. I'd also love to hear about the viability of container houses in seattle and in general from the folks at cargotecture or anyone else.

BTW, My name is Brian Young and you can email me at byoung7546@yahoo.com or via this forum.

Later,
B
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puget



Joined: 01 Apr 2005
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2005 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great thread and great forum Very Happy
We're a couple, no kids, also looking into the possibilty of container housing in Seattle and think this might work for us as well. It seems like a realistic solution to a housing pinch that only seems to get worse with the limited geography, constant immigrants, and a general avoidance of hi-rise density outside of a few downtown neighborhoods. Best of all imho, they seem aesthetically appropriate around Seattle because containers are such a common part of the landscape anyway in many areas. We're probably looking to get started this year though. I shrug to think what that 120 lot will cost in 2007, and how many will still be available in the city limits.
I've read through most posts in this forum, but left with a strange impression since there are posts going back >2 years ago from people seemingly on the verge of container living yet no one seems to have accomplished it yet? Or are the people doing it just not at a stage where they're sharing photographs/stories yet? All i can seem to find are galleries, demos, work stuff, nobody actually using containers as their primary dwelling apparently.
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paulsaw



Joined: 08 Apr 2005
Posts: 17
Location: Olympic Peninsula, WA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2005 5:15 am    Post subject: Container Residences - Seattle Reply with quote

Seattlesam wrote.... I am interested in actually building three to four single family units on a large lot in Seattle Wa. I am trying to find a way for people like myself (working class single parent) to afford home ownership in a very expensive housing market. Finished units could not cost more than $150,000 each. Level lots large enough to divide by three or four are currently about $120,000 in Seattle. I will have approx. $30,000 in Spring of 2007. Any ideas on how to get started?



I'm sure all who post here would agree that there is a low risk of a dangerous structure being built with containers ... as each unit or 'building block' is built to the ISO 668 standard as we know it, designed for stacking, and able to support as many as ten loaded units on top in a land based placement. So, safety of the resulting structures shouldn't be a problem. You should be able to pass all structural, fire, and safety tests imposed, but how much will Seattle drain from you in this process?

Seattle does not rate the building of low income or even affordable housing very high on it's priority list. From what I can see, a disturbing trend of walking the border of fiscal collapse has begun in small and large cities nationwide. If the city does permit a container made residence, they will surely find a way to bring the amount you pay in fee's and finally taxes to that of a traditional stick built home. The bulk of the funds you might find yourself putting in could come in the form of a feasibility study or other research required before you can begin building. Also, you might be shut down by neighbors concerned about the possible decline of their high property value, flexing their muscle by forcing a city council vote. People paying a $2400/ month mortgage will most likely become agitated when they learn you set up shop in their neigborhood for a fraction of their cost.

Consider the large amounts of money local municipalities collect from traditional builders pulling permits. Making it easy for Joe Q Public to construct a low cost container building without the need for these builders is not in the best interest of their bottom line. Capitalism is the key word here, it controls most every aspect of our society.

Many local municipalities are struggling financially and are not apt to open the doors for a flood of new low cost builders, especially when the material is shipping containers and the city is a large port. The timber industry might also have something to say about this. A fitting side note to mention is that I once lived in a city that did indeed go bankrupt (Hamtramck Michigan), it was an interesting experience (no police, no fire dept, no trash pick-up, etc).

I'm not trying to crush your idea, I would just hate to see a single parent such as yourself hand your 30k to the city only to end up with no results.

The container bay website is the best and only real container building online information depot, but sometimes it leans too much on the side of architectural innovation, and less on real world use. I realize that the websites entire point is modernist prefab buildings, but I think posters like seattlesam and others (myself included), interested in not so engenius design plans, can find lots of information here regardless.

My personal premise and point for shipping container buildings would not be to force acceptance of these style structures at any cost, but rather to fit them into the current framework of our society at a low cost. If that means erecting your container building on low cost acreage in Jefferson County ... so be it. You can always commute. There are container buildings here (Olympic Peninsula). People live in RV's out here. I hesitate to call it a free-for-all, but it is much less regulated than King County. Port Townsend has a better policy when it comes to unique residential building within city limits, but admittedly, I have yet to see a container home there.

These are the same old uncertainties that have plagued the alternative building community for twenty years. ISO 668 is the key to acceptance in my opinion.

puget wrote... are the people doing it just not at a stage where they're sharing photographs/stories yet? All i can seem to find are galleries, demos, work stuff, nobody actually using containers as their primary dwelling apparently.

People are constructing container buildings. Most of these folks are people that need a secure small steel building fast, and at a low cost, to further their rural small business, or hobby. I would agree that very few residential container builders have advertised their project, probably because they are built as non-conforming structures on private rural or semi-rural acreage. I took the photo (below) of a local shipping container building here on the Olympic Peninsula... it has one door... could be just a shed or workshop... or it might be fitted out with underground wiring, plumbing, sewage... the whole nine yards. If this is the case, the builder probably chose to avoid the process of seeking approval from the local municipality.

Taken from http://www.lulu.com/paulsawyers


With that said, it is amazing to me how many forward thinking urban builders there are out there. It's refreshing to see a desire for use of container buildings in large American cities by this demographic, instead of the trend to design them just for aid to third world countries ... we do need to think more about us ... and less about everyone else. This selfish stance may sound uncaring, but if our country continues to consume a third of the worlds oil, and I believe we will until forced to do otherwise, most North Americans will move into a mode of self preservation naturally. I read a disturbing article in this months Rolling Stone entitled 'The End of Oil' (adapted from "The Long Emergency" by James Howard Kunstler). He makes some scarey predictions regarding the end of the global oil supply. It seems we have just passed global peak oil supply in 2004, like the oil producing fields of texas did in 1970, and it will be a rapid decline of supply from here. Such a scenario would find a large intermodal port like Seattle / Tacoma overflowing with dormant containers. With no fuel to power container ships or the timber industy, stock piled containers would make for a very sensible building material in the puget sound, but they might need to be transported to your lot by horses.
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dcross



Joined: 03 Jun 2004
Posts: 91
Location: SC, FL

PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2005 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul Sawyer wrote what clearly is something he has given a great deal of thought to. Utilizing Heavy Gauge Sectional Intermodal Building Units and systems which started off their former life as containers will not have to worry about matching in appearance a neighbors house while being a fraction of the cost. Most of you know that we have put up a home here in N. Charleston, SC that was required to blend into the neighborhood.

That experience and the new ISBU homes being discussed and ordered now are basically of the same concept, to appear like the homes around it. To do this it ultimately will be about dollar for dollar equivalent to conventional built or "true" modular. All things being equal we may be able to reduce the costs to some significance but for right now, costs are equal when you hand over the key.

So whats the big story. As Paul pointed out, its structural, taken further, its sustainablity. Reduction of moisture, rot, and termite related trouble. Go back to stackability. After you establish the first floor, If the foundation is designed for it you can more easily expand into a second floor as years go by if that was a goal.

Neighborhoods are not the worry, any neighborhood wants good housing and good design in it. All to often a concept like this can be tagged NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) where the enhanced system we are currently providing and constantly moving toward further improvements is being designed as a PIMBY or (Please In My Back Yard).

What I get a sense of from your comments if you allow my above statements to be considered reasonably accurate would be that the system of building with ISBUs 'containers" is applicable to all frontiers of pricing. From a simple mobilehome RV park corrugated exposed clad ruster through mainstream america hardiplanck lapsiding up to the most incredibly priced "modernistic" structure available. We can build from cinderblock to hit all those pricepoint frontiers the same as we can from ISBUs.

So it all comes back to market perceptance which will be our task to educate. I ordered your book, look forward to the read, mine is in progress under "1001 things to do with a container". I am in the 800s now.




The sectional building block shelter
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ubercrap



Joined: 09 Jun 2005
Posts: 8
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2005 12:22 pm    Post subject: Re: Container Residences - Seattle Reply with quote

paulsaw wrote:
Seattlesam wrote.... I am interested in actually building three to four single family units on a large lot in Seattle Wa. I am trying to find a way for people like myself (working class single parent) to afford home ownership in a very expensive housing market. Finished units could not cost more than $150,000 each. Level lots large enough to divide by three or four are currently about $120,000 in Seattle. I will have approx. $30,000 in Spring of 2007. Any ideas on how to get started?



I'm sure all who post here would agree that there is a low risk of a dangerous structure being built with containers ... as each unit or 'building block' is built to the ISO 668 standard as we know it, designed for stacking, and able to support as many as ten loaded units on top in a land based placement. So, safety of the resulting structures shouldn't be a problem. You should be able to pass all structural, fire, and safety tests imposed, but how much will Seattle drain from you in this process?

Seattle does not rate the building of low income or even affordable housing very high on it's priority list. From what I can see, a disturbing trend of walking the border of fiscal collapse has begun in small and large cities nationwide. If the city does permit a container made residence, they will surely find a way to bring the amount you pay in fee's and finally taxes to that of a traditional stick built home. The bulk of the funds you might find yourself putting in could come in the form of a feasibility study or other research required before you can begin building. Also, you might be shut down by neighbors concerned about the possible decline of their high property value, flexing their muscle by forcing a city council vote. People paying a $2400/ month mortgage will most likely become agitated when they learn you set up shop in their neigborhood for a fraction of their cost.

Consider the large amounts of money local municipalities collect from traditional builders pulling permits. Making it easy for Joe Q Public to construct a low cost container building without the need for these builders is not in the best interest of their bottom line. Capitalism is the key word here, it controls most every aspect of our society.

Many local municipalities are struggling financially and are not apt to open the doors for a flood of new low cost builders, especially when the material is shipping containers and the city is a large port. The timber industry might also have something to say about this. A fitting side note to mention is that I once lived in a city that did indeed go bankrupt (Hamtramck Michigan), it was an interesting experience (no police, no fire dept, no trash pick-up, etc).

I'm not trying to crush your idea, I would just hate to see a single parent such as yourself hand your 30k to the city only to end up with no results.

The container bay website is the best and only real container building online information depot, but sometimes it leans too much on the side of architectural innovation, and less on real world use. I realize that the websites entire point is modernist prefab buildings, but I think posters like seattlesam and others (myself included), interested in not so engenius design plans, can find lots of information here regardless.

My personal premise and point for shipping container buildings would not be to force acceptance of these style structures at any cost, but rather to fit them into the current framework of our society at a low cost. If that means erecting your container building on low cost acreage in Jefferson County ... so be it. You can always commute. There are container buildings here (Olympic Peninsula). People live in RV's out here. I hesitate to call it a free-for-all, but it is much less regulated than King County. Port Townsend has a better policy when it comes to unique residential building within city limits, but admittedly, I have yet to see a container home there.

These are the same old uncertainties that have plagued the alternative building community for twenty years. ISO 668 is the key to acceptance in my opinion.

puget wrote... are the people doing it just not at a stage where they're sharing photographs/stories yet? All i can seem to find are galleries, demos, work stuff, nobody actually using containers as their primary dwelling apparently.

People are constructing container buildings. Most of these folks are people that need a secure small steel building fast, and at a low cost, to further their rural small business, or hobby. I would agree that very few residential container builders have advertised their project, probably because they are built as non-conforming structures on private rural or semi-rural acreage. I took the photo (below) of a local shipping container building here on the Olympic Peninsula... it has one door... could be just a shed or workshop... or it might be fitted out with underground wiring, plumbing, sewage... the whole nine yards. If this is the case, the builder probably chose to avoid the process of seeking approval from the local municipality.

Taken from http://www.lulu.com/paulsawyers


With that said, it is amazing to me how many forward thinking urban builders there are out there. It's refreshing to see a desire for use of container buildings in large American cities by this demographic, instead of the trend to design them just for aid to third world countries ... we do need to think more about us ... and less about everyone else. This selfish stance may sound uncaring, but if our country continues to consume a third of the worlds oil, and I believe we will until forced to do otherwise, most North Americans will move into a mode of self preservation naturally. I read a disturbing article in this months Rolling Stone entitled 'The End of Oil' (adapted from "The Long Emergency" by James Howard Kunstler). He makes some scarey predictions regarding the end of the global oil supply. It seems we have just passed global peak oil supply in 2004, like the oil producing fields of texas did in 1970, and it will be a rapid decline of supply from here. Such a scenario would find a large intermodal port like Seattle / Tacoma overflowing with dormant containers. With no fuel to power container ships or the timber industy, stock piled containers would make for a very sensible building material in the puget sound, but they might need to be transported to your lot by horses.


Good to see people out there picking up on "peak oil." I too have thought about the "table scraps of the 20th century", as I believe Kunstler puts it, being picked through for future use. If international trade goes off of a cliff, you are right, we just may have a bunch of these sitting around and looking very attractive for the newly homeless. Funny you should mention it, as peak oil is actually my motivator for contemplating building my own container house that I can own outright here in my small midwestern town. I don't think we can definitively say we have peaked yet, but look for the new book by Matthew R. Simmons about the possible exaggeration, if not outright fraudulent representation, of the Saudi Arabian oil reserves and condition of their fields- and this is the country the world is counting on to be the biggest oil producer into the future! Shocked We don't know precisely when the decline will start, or how fast it will be, but it will come, and it will be a shock to the entire industrialized world. Some experts see peak this year, while some others think sometime between now and 2010.
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scott812



Joined: 11 Jun 2005
Posts: 2
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2005 7:44 am    Post subject: Seattle container housing community Reply with quote

I'm also interested in some kind of container (or pre-fab) housing community in the Seattle area (or anywhere in Western Washington). I can afford up to $150K. Keep me updated on your ideas.

Thanks,
Scott
Seattle resident
scott812@gmail.com
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ngreenlee



Joined: 02 Oct 2005
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Location: Denver, Co.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:45 am    Post subject: Seattle container development Reply with quote

I'm interested in doing a container development. I live in Denver, and don't think it's the right place for myriad reasons. I'd be very interested in getting together with some others who would like to build a container community. Seattle would be perfect imo. I don't know that market, but with you all doing some of the legwork (site selection, zoning approvals) - we could do something? I was in London and peeped the Container City @ Trinity Buoy Wharf, really inspiring. With some buyers lined up, I can kick in cash and would be willing to go on the line in a speculative manner, for the right project, not just in Seattle either.

I'm open to ideas. I'm swamped right now, but would like to start speaking with others and see if we can work together. Feel free to post or email me directly - Nathan - ngreenlee@oceandeko.com
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