We were also looking for a general storage container for the property, I began searching on craigslist for shipping containers. And found four on offer that were not the general size. I'd been contemplating a design with two 20' containers. My horizons opened with the possibility of four. Some were rather silly designs. Some required the use of deck material between them. Nick pointed out a) the cost of wood to create the structure and b) the cost of heating areas so far apart.
- 2 containers My first idea. Kitchen on 2nd floor, bedroom on first. This was before I knew about strength of corners.
- 3 containers At first, I thought I'd use the fourth as the ranch storage container. Then I got greedy with space.
- Simple stacking The containers with 4 stacked together. I wanted to see how much space you could have for decks.
- Creature This was using some elements from a burning man project. But they are better off as sculpture, not home ornamentation.
- Creature covered With the skeleton having some shade cloth. This clearly takes some cues from the scientists' place.
- Around a pentagon These were centered on a pentagon. I also tried one around a decagon. They would have decks between them.
- In a camo net Same shape and trees. Cables extending from the roof act as a trellis for beauty and shade. This got complex.
- The gerbil run Culverts create human-sized gerbil runs between containers. Then I thought about insulation.
- Almost there I played with this orientation for a while, with a separate study or guest house.
- Close to final Nick convinced me I wanted the bottom container doors all on the same side, to look down the valley.
Yes, I found them on craigslist.
Starting with graph paper, I drew out more realistic possible arrangements. Then I started playing in Google SketchUp. When I got the right design, it just felt right. I'm not sure how else to describe the feeling, other than instead of focusing on getting that right, a host of other thoughts then flooded my brain. That and Nick stopped asking me why I wanted/needed that feature and didn't have anything to say.
When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. Buckminster Fuller
I like the 24' length. It divides into spaces really easily - in half, thirds, fourths, sixths, and twelfths. A 20' container naturally divides in half, fourths, fifths, and tenths. I really like harmonic thirds. Having the high cube means 9' 6" ceilings. Many homes only have 8' ceilings in places.
Putting the four together, half the space is public, half private. The public half are two containers next to each other for living, kitchen, and dining. The private half are stacked on top of each other, for bedroom, half-bath, study and guest sleeping. The two sections are joined together with an 8 foot overlap, or, in thirds.
The long side of the house is then 40' long, and 24' wide, a nice 3/5 ratio. The long side of the house will face north-south, the short side east-west, for maximum passive solar optimization. Also the tall side of the house shades the living quarters for the better part of the morning.
When the containers were in transit, I took the opportunity to mark out the site with wood to see if I liked where it was. I'd seen Alexander do this in one of his books with some cardboard boxes delineating a path to a house.
A note on transit. I thought the containers would come over our hill even with a few sharp U-Turns, as our neighbor had used our road to get her 68' mobile home in. Turns out, she had a special trailer with a special tractor that did maneuvering every step of the way. My containers came two to a truckload, one that was designed to just dump containers off the back and not for off-road. The driver got about halfway into my property and balked. Said his tires would get no traction going back the other way. The last thing I needed was to tow a truck out of my place. So I let him dump them half-way in. He was not turning back.
I then hired the local tow company to use its 20' flatbed trailer to get them the rest of the way in. They barely went up on the bed, nearly lifting the front end off the ground, and then it took another hour to get them loaded off. I think it took about 6 hours total for the process.
I had plenty of time to arrange wood and contemplate the siting.