New Shipping Container Apartments Bring Market-Rate Rent to Downtown Phoenix

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By Ian Spula / Published by Dwell
Containers on Grand puts Phoenix in the vanguard of shipping container rental housing. To see more shipping container architecture, pick up our issue dedicated to prefab, on newsstands now.

A rare multi-unit shipping container building is ready for occupancy in downtown Phoenix. Containers on Grand, designed and built by StarkJames, forges eight one-bedroom apartments out of 16 standard 40-foot-by-8-foot containers.

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The eight container apartments, huddled together in a wise use of the space, are situated on an old used car lot in downtown Phoenix. A decommissioned container costs between $1,800 and $5,000, says architect Wesley James. Transportation, handling, and site assembly run at least as much.

Hundreds of thousands of shipping containers sit idle in port cities, prompting their rediscovery by architects as a highly dynamic and interchangeable medium. But, says architect Wesley James, they are usually applied to single-family homes.

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The apartments face a landscaped common courtyard. The site is an irregular trapezoid, a fact the zig-zagging sidewalks reflect well.

"Containers aren’t expensive or difficult to work with in and of themselves," says James. "But it gets expensive and complicated bringing them up to code. It’s not yet an accepted building material." Extra caution was taken during planning to satisfy codes. The containers were then joined and retrofitted with insulation, wiring, plumbing, windows, and drywall.

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Floor-to-ceiling windows front each unit, with sections of container wall folded out and fixed in place as part of the shading strategy.

The apartments are 740 square feet and will rent for about $1,000 a month, beginning December 28. "We’re proud to have kept costs in line with conventional construction," James notes. "It’s enabled rents to be at or even slightly below market-rate for the area."

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The containers are fused side-by-side, giving each apartment a 16-foot width. They are then stacked in four pairs with wrought, industrial-style exterior staircases in-between. To spare living space and installation headaches, a cinder block core houses utilities and a bathroom for each unit.

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The living room of an unoccupied apartment showcases refinished original hardwood flooring. The joint between the two containers is left exposed.

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The lone furnished unit, which is slated to be an Airbnb rental, features a RAR rocker and two LCW chairs by Charles and Ray Eames.

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The galley kitchen, which includes a washer/dryer combo, separates the living room and bedroom.

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Nine-foot ceilings, white walls, and IKEA furniture define the bedroom, located at the back of the container.