Saturday, July 15, 2006

Recycling Shipping Containers

Speaking of the afterlife of shipping containers, the LA Times published a story about a house made up of recycled shipping containers going up in my neighborhood. Click here to read it. The Pirkl shipping container house is very close to my favorite jacaranda tree so I have many reasons to visit that street.

While I am proud to live in a diverse neighborhood that is open to new housing concepts, I do have reservations about the house. My first reaction when I walked by was, "It is so BIG." The house volume is huge; it might be even taller than the McMansion next door to it.

This was once a single story neighborhood. The newer houses are two or two and a half stories tall. The newest houses also have soaring ceilings of 9 to 20 feet. 8 foot ceilings are not good enough anymore.

Our city's building code constrains the square footage of living space and the peak height, but there is no limit on building volume. The new houses have so much bulk, they are houses on steroids. Suddenly, the neighbors' homes and yards are thrown into shadow by someone else's need for bragging rights to the most headroom. (Let's not discuss the height of SUVs.)

The media helps fuel this frenzy. I lost track of the number of times I have read stories in the LA Times magazine about homes built on tiny lots in Venice with 10, 12, 14 and 20 foot ceilings. If you do the math, a 3000 sf house with 12 foot ceilings has the same volume as a 4500 sf house with 8 foot ceilings.

Low ceilings in new construction signal considerate, good neighbors.

Addendum: I read in the article that the containers were imported from Florida. What's wrong with using some of the shipping containers sitting in our backyard? Or rather, the backyards of some of our poorer neighbors in Wilmington?

keywords: neighborhood, neighbors, architecture, shipping containers


  1. A growing (hopefully) trend in housing is to ditch the greater than 8' and vaulted ceilings. The argument in the many house magazine and books that I've read is mostly an aesthetic one: lower ceilings feel "cozier". Additionally, even small transitions in ceiling height can help define spaces, but this is lost if everything is high overhead.

    I sure it helps that lumber greater than 8' long is significantly more expensive per linear foot and heating costs are greater the more the volume.

  2. Low ceilings may be cozier but I want one area with at least ten foot ceilings so that I can have a library ladder.

    I saw some of these Venice houses this past weekend. Some were very nicely done. You do have to be creative with your built-in storage because there is not much floor space. (You also have to have at least two million dollars.)


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