Repurposing shipping containers into buildings, so-called cargotecture, isn’t a brand new concept, but it’s groundbreaking for Habitat for Humanity of Collin County, which hopes to build 35 affordable homes in Cotton Groves, the nation’s first residential neighborhood built entirely from upcycled steel containers.
Habitat affiliates in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Ohio have explored building affordable housing from shipping containers. Collin County’s Habitat CEO, Celeste Cox, says the first model townhouse should be ready by the end of October or mid-November.
When complete next year, the Cotton Groves neighborhood will contain 35 shipping container homes, a community center, and a playground on the 2.75 acre plot near McKinney’s small airport on the east side of town. But first, Habitat must raise the $4.5 million during an upcoming capital campaign needed to fund the complete development.
So how do you transform a utilitarian box of steel into a cozy abode? Architecture, landscaping, and some great ingenuity.
Cotton Groves will contain several different model homes including three- and four-bedroom plans. To make these shipping container homes as affordable and low maintenance as possible, the homes will have solar panels on the roof that help keep energy costs low. The exterior walls will use fiber cement siding and reclaimed wood for balcony fascia, as well as a thin stone veneer for some walls, as Cotton Groves plans show.
Constructing a three-bedroom model is like building with life-size Lego bricks. Four 8- by 40-foot shipping containers will be used to construct 1,280 square feet, arranged in different configurations for different floor plans. It takes approximately six to eight weeks to construct this re-imagined version of a modular home.
Covered carports that can accommodate two cars will be attached to the length-ways side of the townhouse. Above the carport, a 36-inch-high metal railing will surround the top of the carport, creating a full-length patio on the home’s second story, though some models will share a patio railing with the home across from it.
The cantilever roof has a low slope to aid rainfall drainage on these otherwise flat-looking roofs, and provides some protection from the elements.
In June, Habitat for Humanity of Collin County received an $877,521 grant from the McKinney Community Development Corp. to complete engineering designs; construct roadways; and lay water, sewer and utility lines for the largely undeveloped land. The McKinney Community Development Corporation was formed in 1998 when taxpayers agreed to a half-cent sales tax to be used to enhance McKinney’s amenities and is lead by seven city council-appointed McKinney residents.
The new neighborhood is located on 2.75 acres in east McKinney, near State Highway 5/S. McDonald Street and Eldorado Parkway/Industrial Boulevard, situated northwest of McKinney National Airport (TKI). What was formerly McKinney’s municipal airport is now known as a general aviation reliever airport that handles business and personal aviation travel, though no scheduled commercial passenger flights fly from McKinney.
Habitat will sell the homes to qualified, low-income residents at 30 percent of their gross monthly income. Appraisals will determine the market value of these newly constructed homes, so an estimate for the cost is not yet available, Cox says.