Modular housing took another unique turn when construction began this week on
first residential complex made out of shipping containers. The project,
designed by local architect Travis
Price III, FAIA, will convert a
single-family house into an apartment building intended for 24 occupants in the
Brookland neighborhood. Washington, D.C.
The four-unit residence will accommodate recent graduates of the Catholic University of America (CUA), where Price teaches as an adjunct professor in the architecture and planning department and serves as director of the graduate concentration Cultures and Sacred Spaces.
The city issued a building permit to the Brookland Equity Group on July 11, called SeaUA—a play on the university’s initials, CUA.
The building consists of four levels, with each floor serving as an apartment with six bedrooms, six full bathrooms, and a shared common area including a kitchen, dining area, living room, and laundry room.
The project also addresses the region’s growing affordable housing concerns by “advancing emerging housing for growing Millenials” without government incentives, the release says. The firm reports that nearly all of the units are leased for expected occupancy in the fall of this year.
Among the questions raised by the effort: Can hundreds of thousands of discarded sea containers, long talked up by designers, really help create more affordable housing, or is it mostly a gimmick? And just how do you bring humanity to the confines of an 8-by-40-foot box?
If the economics work and people actually enjoy living in lovingly repurposed steel husks, the architects on the project have bigger dreams, including floating hundreds of sea container apartments on a barge in the Potomac and creating a homeless village on the river to serve Georgetown.