Cargo craze catches hold in Detroit

Cargo craze catches hold in Detroit

For nearly two years, Kris Wong scoured the market for the best options to buy a house. He looked at single-family homes and researched builders, but after meeting with a local cargo container builder he decided to make the deal to buy one in a week.

His new house in Ferndale, slated to be finished this month, is being constructed by C3 Ventures, a Flint-based storage container house builder, which is contributing to an uptick of storage container homes being erected in the region.

A first-time home buyer, Wong, 30, who started using Apple computers in grade school, says it made sense to buy a house, seamlessly equipped with technology that allows him to control lights, security and the thermostat with his smart phone or by voice command.

The two-bedroom house constructed from two and a half storage containers will be equipped with a storage unit he believes is the nation’s first structure made by a 3-D printer.

Kris Wong looks forward to moving into a two-bedroom, energy-efficient Ferndale storage container home built by Flint’s C3 Ventures. Photo Paul Engstrom

“I’m very excited,” says the hospital emergency room nurse. “These storage container houses are very high quality. Inside, they are very modern but still feel like a home, and they are so cost-effective. You pretty much have the ability to get a custom home for a fraction of the price.”

Across the country and around the world, the housing trend, dubbed “cargotecture” by Seattle architect Joel Egan, is being fueled by sustainability and artsy sensibility. Take, for example, a 16-unit apartment complex in Orange County, Calif., designed to provide homes for homeless veterans. The 54 recycled cargo containers have been fashioned into 480-square-foot apartments each with a kitchen, bathroom and living space to house veterans coming off the streets.

Earlier this year, the “Cargominium Project,” where 54 cargo containers were constructed into a 17,000-square-foot, three-story apartment building, went up in less than a week in Columbus, Ohio. The units are developed by Nothing Into Something Real Estate, a nonprofit housing group that previously focused on converting old, blighted houses into low-income homes.

In Detroit, Three Squared Construction is building multi-story condo complexes from shipping containers.

Reusing the containers normally stacked high along industrial riverfronts and seaports, reduces a project’s carbon footprint and stress on the environment, and they are strong enough to support green roofs and solar panels, says Bob Waun, president of C3 Ventures. Cargo containers for the houses were purchased in Detroit and transported to the warehouse where holes are cut for window and door installations.

Always on the cutting edge, C3 Ventures President Bob Waun believes that the “Cargo Craze” will only continue to escalate in concert with rising energy costs and environmental concerns. Photo courtesy of C3 Ventures

Last summer, Waun’s company said it wanted to hire nearly 400 Flint residents for its new manufacturing facility inside an old DuPont building. The company originally planned to launch as an environment-friendly injection molding company. That plan will come later, but the company, called C33D, created a 3D printing facility and the C3 UP warehouse, where several more shipping containers are being modified to become homes. The company built its first house on Rochester Road in Royal Oak.

“Keeping your home energy-efficient means lower energy cost, and means more money in your family budget to live with,” Waun says. “We’ve tried to create very eco-efficient houses. Our homes actually sit on four simple piers that barely pierce the earth. They are most eco-friendly and can easily accommodate solar panels, use LED lighting and new technologies, and quality American-made windows.

In Detroit, Three Squared Construction is building multi-story condo complexes from shipping containers.Photo Paul Engstrom

“Being made in Flint and being made in America, we are using sustainable woods, bamboo flooring, and different types of composite material in every aspect, down to the dual-flush toilet,” he says.

The houses also come with a rain barrel and compost machine.

Each container is modified for about $20,000, and most will be made from three cargo containers and will cut between two to three months off traditional construction, getting buyers into their new homes sooner. Including expenses for the land, and water and sewer hookups, costs for the 2,100-square-foot homes will be about $180,000. So they save some time, but not necessarily money, Waun says.

Future homes and other projects, such as mobile models and apartment complexes, will include even more high technology, says Waun, who adds the company is in talks with an automaker to include some of the latest tech features available in cars.

“We’re trying to use automotive technology to make a better house,” he says. “You can’t get in a six-year-old Cadillac and have your Pandora and your phone talk to your car. Soon, your car will talk to the street light. Cars are evolving quickly, but the homes have yet to catch up. This is a wonderful chance to disrupt the housing market.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.