about

This 2,000-square-foot single family-house in Flagstaff, Arizona is constructed from six recycled shipping containers and includes 2 loft bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 office/studios, storage room, and a green house/solarium. It received an award from the Coconino County Sustainable Building Program in 2010.

The house concept was designed by owner Marie Jones with Tony Brown, director of Ecosa Institute. The house is oriented due south for direct solar exposure and a better fit on the narrow urban infill lot. Because this area is a designated flood plain, federal regulations required the house be 3-1/2 feet above ground level. The concept was further developed by Tom Hahn of Ecosa Studio, providing detailed building plans with structural engineering that were approved by the City of Flagstaff building department. Construction began in June 2008, and the final inspection took place in June 2010.

The foundation consists of forty concrete piers. The containers were purchased and partially fabricated in Phoenix, then shipped to Flagstaff on trailers, lifted with cranes onto the piers, and welded in place. The interior was furred with steel lumber in the walls and wood lumber in the ceilings. Plumbing and electric is within the furred walls.

The inside walls and floor are insulated with closed-cell foam, and the ceilings with recycled denim, providing R values of 20-24. The exterior is coated with SuperTherm ceramic coating, which reflects heat and cold, helps prevent condensation, and provides a durable custom-color finish. The roofs were foamed and coated with an impermeable membrane and sand finish. The windows and glass doors are thermally broken aluminum dual pane. Kalwall insulated fiberglass walls allow additional daylight into the main atrium space.

South-facing windows and doors allow solar heat to warm the concrete floor in the main room. In-floor radiant heat using a high-efficiency dedicated gas water heater heats the main space. Heat from both sources rises to warm the lofted second floor through large openings. Several high-efficiency electric heaters located in key areas such as bathrooms provide additional warmth as needed. Windows, a skylight, shade systems and fans control overheating and provide ventilation and keep the temperature comfortable in summer months without air conditioning.

A water harvesting system directs water from the upper roofs into two large tanks which can then be pumped to landscape areas. The rest of the water from the site, including the lower roofs, is directed via the grading plan to landscaping areas, which feature indigenous, low water use plantings. Planting areas are defined by recycled broken concrete or urbanite, collected from this and other neighborhood construction sites. A 3.6 kW on-grid solar system meets all the household’s electric needs.