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AHMM designs homes out of shipping containers in Oklahoma

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The $1.1 million scheme employs 16 reused shipping containers to make four homes on a central residential plot in Oklahoma City

AHMM has completed four two-bedroom homes out of the repurposed shipping containers as part of the city’s drive to increase low-rise density in central residential neighbourhoods.

The site straddles two city conditions: the typical residential fabric of 32nd Street and the commercial side of Classen Boulevard. The development entrance and car park sits towards the commercial side, tying the two sides together.

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The containers are set above the ground on piles to preserve the natural drainage of the site. Upper-floor units are shifted to cantilever 3m over the units below to create a covered porch. The way they have been orientated aims to encourage outdoor living and social interaction through the realisation of the covered front-facing porches and shared communal spaces.

The homes are spaced out in the park-like site creating a central gathering space featuring benches and a large fountain. Existing mature trees have been maintained along with new plantings put in to improve biodiversity.

Inside, the containers make a light, open-plan layout. The units’ windows have been carefully placed to provide privacy.

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Architect’s view

Oklahoma has an extreme climate known for tornadoes as well as intense sun and heat. The design responds to this – not only are the containers reinforced with additional tube steel, but the lifting hubs are fully welded to embed plates in the footings. The resulting structure far surpasses local residential building code tie-down requirements. Inside, metal stud framing is set 25mm off of the steel shell and encased in 130mm of closed-cell spray foam insulation, further isolating the interior environment. The extremely tight exterior envelope and a high degree of insulation allow a significant reduction in tons of cooling when compared to a conventional wood-framed single family home.

Since the Oklahoma climate is substantially cooling-driven, the white colour helps reduce heat gain and the use of mirrored reflective metal strips substantially improves solar reflection, thereby reducing energy use. Every room includes large operable windows strategically located to encourage cross-ventilation and passive cooling.

The site’s micro-climate was studied and enhanced by siting the buildings and locating windows with good solar orientation and shading. The shared gathering area is sheltered from the prevailing wind and shaded, while the fountain provides a cooling effect and calming noise.

Simon Allford and Wade Scaramucci, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

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Ground floor plan

Client’s view

Squirrel Park represents a unique collaboration between an architect and a client who is not a professional developer but is both user and owner/operator. We dreamed of creating a development of small homes in which we and others could live with a strong community focus, but also enjoy with a degree of privacy while having our own space.

Thus began a close collaboration which required rezoning a single-family residential lot to create a shipping container development which would allow for four single-family residences on the site.

One of the owners, who runs a local restaurant where the staff is made up largely of individuals who have been incarcerated, believes in second chances. ’It’s a way of giving back to the community,’ he says. This became a guiding principle in the design.

The goal was to take a vacant site that had been a magnet for crime and transform it, using sustainable principles, to create high-quality, efficient residences that could be rented at competitive market rates.

Peter Schaffer, Labyrinth, LLC

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East elevation and section

Project data

Start on site October 2016
Completion August 2018
Gross internal floor area 110m² per unit; 445m² total (4 x units)
Gross (internal + external) floor area 135m² per unit; 540m² total (4 x units)
Construction cost $1.1 million (including car port, all site improvements and landscaping)
Construction cost per sq ft $188
Architect Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Client Labyrinth, LLC
Structural engineer Obelisk Engineering
Civil engineer Wallace Engineering
Main contractor Smith Design Company
CAD software used MicroStation

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