Container Homes USA
Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Container Homes USA is delivering an out-of-the-box housing solution, using ISO-shipping containers as the building blocks for any number of housing types and residential needs: single-family homes, residence halls, apartments, and even an array of commercial and industrial applications.
“If you can think of it, there is a container construction application for it,” says Derrick C.W. Childs, director of design and construction and co-founder of Container Homes USA. “Many people just don’t know these solutions exist or have never thought about it before.”
A general contractor by trade, Derrick has been in the construction business most of his career, but began working exclusively on container dwellings in 2014. His inspiration for the business began in 2014 when his wife, Monique Childs, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). “She couldn’t do the stairs in our home anymore,” he recounts. “We needed a design with a single-level ranch style and I saw a container home and thought it was a chic and innovative idea. I had my general contracting experience, so I decided to put this to work and start the business.”
Getting into the business was a good move for Derrick and Monique. Since starting Container Homes USA, the company has evolved and grown rapidly. Today, Container Homes USA offers a wide range of container designs and affordable options.
“We are bringing the future into the present, addressing all vertical markets,” says Monique, president, principal and co-founder of Container Homes USA. “Our target markets are the baby boomers and millennials. We have more than 18 designs completed, using containers for a tiny home, no more than 320 square feet, all the way to a three-bedroom, two-bath, single-family home. We have also designed charter schools, daycares, restaurant space, residence halls, office buildings, emergency relief housing and housing designed specifically for those with disabilities.”
As part of their mission to help build affordable, repurposed housing and construction that does well by the environment and the community, Derrick and Monique have worked with the Veteran’s Administration to find housing solutions that meet the VA’s unique needs. “We have designed homes for the VA to be presented in Cleveland, including a series of handicap-accessible buildings designed to fit their needs and increase their quality of life,” says Derrick.
“This is the perfect home concept for our veterans in need,” adds former Ohio Senator Patrick A. Sweeney, who has followed Container Homes USA closely since inception. “There are many female veterans with children who cannot find adequate housing after they come home from service. Container Homes USA is offering a solution. This company truly has a great vision.”
Part of Derrick and Monique’s vision is addressing the homeless population in Cleveland and beyond. “We’ve worked on housing for the homeless, building single units so people can have their own personal space,” says Derrick.
While the majority of the company’s business is offering affordable housing solutions, Derrick says his homes are also fully customizable and scalable. “Some of homes are no more than 320 square feet; others are more than 3,500 square feet; it all depends on the customer,” he says. “Monique and I designed our own home, which is made of 15 containers. We also recently finished designs for residence halls as an option for Cleveland State University.”
A new home on land
So where exactly does a container home originate? Derrick sources his new and used containers from shipping ports all over the U.S. “This is green construction at its core because we are taking something that exists — and exists in abundance — and repurposing it,” he explains.
The containers come in a range of sizes, some 20 feet long, others 40 to 53 feet long. The cost for a container starts at approximately $2,000 and can move up to more than $6,500 for a large, brand-new container.
Starting with the container as the building blocks, each unit is designed and fitted to the client’s specific needs. Derrick then begins assigning a select group of subcontractors Container Homes USA works with to the job and the container home gets outfitted with full mechanical, electrical and plumbing, just like a regular home.
The container — or in many cases, multiple containers — are placed on a foundation. Container Homes USA offers different foundation types, including slab, crawl space, sonotubes on five-foot pillars, and an option for a full basement with or without underground parking.
Efficient and extra durable
Derrick has worked to incorporate efficiency and energy-saving features as options for his container-homebuyers. “We’re using a highly efficient insulation process with CCSF insulation, which goes on like water and becomes 2.5 inches think,” he says. “This insulation makes the homes super airtight and saves a lot on cooling and heating costs.”
Derrick is always looking for ways to make the end product more efficient. He is currently studying to become a LEED AP and stays affiliated with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
Beyond efficiency, container homes are superior to stick-built construction in terms of durability. The container home will never mold and is 100-percent termite and insect proof. “We’re using a metal roof that never needs to be replaced and we offer a 12- to 15-year marine-grade paint job in a variety of colors,” says Derrick. “Also, the exterior cladding comes in a variety of textures so you can customize your home or facility.”
The container-home structure is also weather resistant and able to withstand hurricane-force winds. “They’ve done tests in Florida in hurricane winds and our permanent foundation units are much safer than stick-built options,” says Derrick. “Our container homes on sonotubes or pillars are ideal in areas such as Louisiana that are prone to flooding.”
Another factor is the speed of construction. Once the containers are secured and prepared, Derrick’s project team can install the units in a matter of hours.
“We just did a project where we installed six containers in just eight hours,” he says. “We use a crane to set the unit in place and then we get to work on the finishes, but a lot of these modifications are done beforehand, off-site in our prefab shop, which also accelerates the timeline. All mechanical will be installed on-site so it can be inspected by local building departments.”
Increasing affordable housing, one container at a time
After two years in operation, Derrick says the demand for his homes has skyrocketed and he gets more calls day after day. He sees container homes as more than a chic, efficient form of construction, but also a way to help end the housing crisis in the U.S. and in poor countries. “My biggest desire is to improve living conditions for people by giving them access to their own home, even if it’s only a few hundred square feet or a few thousand square feet,” he says.
Container Homes USA’s architect, Elzabeth Ahren, weighs in on the company’s impact on the Cleveland community and beyond: “Many of the current projects on the books are going to revitalize inner-city neighborhoods, providing solid, cool new housing for a community that might not have access to this level of quality financially,” she says.
“Container Homes USA’s mission is also important because we are reusing materials, minimizing the energy and resource consumption used to create framing and sheathing materials,” adds Elizabeth. “We’re saving the enormous amount of energy it would take to convert containers back to raw materials and preventing them from wasting away in landfills.”
City of Cleveland Councilman Zach Reed also commends Container Homes USA for its recent work and the potential the company has to reshape the city: “Container Homes USA is building new and exciting, unique, eco-friendly homes that will help re-establish the African-American families in the city of Cleveland,” says Reed.
With the community watching, Container Homes USA is putting a repurposed shipping box to good use, delivering an out-of-the-box alternative to stick-built construction, as a more affordable, long-lasting form of housing.
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