Building a Shipping Container Home | EP01Permits and Foundation Design

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hi I'm Ben and this is the house I built out of shipping containers now I've been interested in shipping container architecture for quite some time but I had a really hard time finding good information about how to get building permits or how much would it cost well we did the research we documented everything that we did and now we're so excited to share with you what we learned so check it out this is episode 1 where we'll talk about buying containers getting building permits and pouring a concrete foundation in the spring of 2018 I bought 10 acres of land in Joshua Tree California it's a square piece of land about 650 by 650 feet and it has this nice little mountain right in the middle while I was waiting for the surveyor to finish up the site drawings I went ahead and ordered two shipping containers no I had heard like a lot of people have that you can get shipping containers for really cheap but in California you have to use a one trip conditioned container if you're turning it into a permitted house this is just so that you can provide documentation for what's been inside the container just to ensure that there hasn't been any radioactive or toxic stuff in there I also didn't order typical containers I ordered hi cubes which were a foot taller than a standard shipping container this is gonna give me more room for insulation running wiring and of course because we're in California sprinkler systems for fire suppression originally I was only planning on using one 40-foot container to build one tiny house but then I thought it'd be really nice to have a guest bedroom and bathroom for visitors and then when I checked in with my local building department they informed me that there was a 700 square foot minimum for houses which meant I would have to add a third container so I figured a home office and workshop would be great now even before I got the permit I was allowed to move up to 50 cubic yards of soil so I went ahead and started flattening out the piece where I wanted to place the house I rented a bulldozer and hired an operator to flatten out this whole area and it only took him two days we then started digging for the monolithic slabs which are going to support the containers originally we tried to do this with hand tools but there was so much rock in the soil was really slow going so we let the machine do the work and do we just use hand tools to clean it up afterwards not only are there big chunks of rock mixed into the soil there's hole veins of stone that go through it we use to buy lumber to define the perimeter of the slab and we drove stakes into the ground to hold these boards in place wood stakes kept breaking so we switched to these steel stakes that already had holes in them for screws and they worked really well [Music] we had a whole bunch of 20-foot long pieces of rebar delivered to the site and we began to reinforcement for the concrete the structural engineer had specified the size of the rebar and the layout so all we had to do was follow those drawings and wire it all together I focused on cutting all the short vertical pieces while the rest of the crew wired them all together this isn't the most difficult work but it does help to have a plan the whole thing starts to get pretty heavy because you're basically creating one big steel cage of rebar all wired together [Music] we spread out the 10-millimeter moisture barrier and then shoveled clean sand on the top of that I had always wondered how builders keep the rebar from just falling to the bottom of the formwork and they use these things called Dobies they're just little concrete blocks with wires embedded in them and they act as spacers this was a lot of work in hundred degree weather and it really made me appreciate all the stuff that goes on inside a monolithic piece of concrete originally we planned on embedding all of the drain pipes for the plumbing into the concrete slab but after laying out all the pieces and wrestling around trying to get them in the right position relative to the rebar we just felt we weren't gonna be accurate enough to line it up with exactly where the container would need to be so we just switched it out for a simpler option and just made the final drain go through the slab this just means we'll have to do the plumbing within the floor of the container itself now this is as far as we can go before having the building permits we certainly can't pour any concrete until we get the final sign-off California is a pretty regulation intensive state and here's the process we had to go through the process starts with getting the site surveyed in addition to measuring and marking out the topographical features which is really useful for showing how the site will drain the surveyor also researches the history of the site and defines all the boundaries and setbacks next up came the preliminary architectural design where we laid out all the spaces and features this design then goes to the structural engineer who creates a set of structural details and performs calculations to prove that this building will meet all the code requirements the building department gave us the option of either having the architect or engineer stamp the drawings we then compiled these designs into the construction documents and added in a whole series of reports and studies and forms that are all required by San Bernardino County is a complicated and expensive process because with each step you often have to go back to the previous one and have those drawings or documents updated all right done with permits time to have some fun and it's concrete day we have three separate slabs and the smallest one is inaccessible for a truck to pull all the way up to so we're gonna have to pump the concrete the crew got there a few hours ahead of the trucks just to make sure everything was good with the forms and to spray them down with water the first truck pulled up to the pump and started releasing concrete into the hopper it then gets pumped through the hose and delivered into the forms there was only the few guys standing around with shovels fill in the gaps with the form with dirt and rocks as the concrete levels rose this wasn't exciting but a little bit stressful today because you have to order all the trucks in advance and they kept coming about 15 minutes apart so we had to make sure we were emptying one so that we'd be ready for the next one the gray plastic pipes that are sticking up out of the forms are PVC conduit that will allow us to run electrical lines between the containers now the majority of these slabs are going to be covered by the containers but we still had them smoothed out a bit pretty other slabs the trucks could just back all the way up and the concrete could just come right down the chute [Music] altogether we used about six trucks and 45 yards of concrete in addition to smoothing out the top surface the guys also created some lines through the surface of the concrete these are to create control joints which will allow for more expansion and contraction of the concrete without creating unwanted cracks we also use some plywood boxes to create some openings in the slab and this is just giving us a little bit more room to line up where the drain for the toilet goes the last thing we did was to use an edging tool to do a little bit of a round over at the edges of each slab so the most common question I've gotten so far is why did I choose to do a slab on grade Foundation and I get it it seems like an awful lot of concrete for a container which is self-supporting well slap one grade isn't the first choice that I had I originally wanted to do sort of a pier Foundation and I was very concerned with how I would level it since I don't have a lot of experience sort of setting these things and so I was interested in doing some concrete piers with a steel beam that I could then level on site that I would weld the container to so that I sketched it out and sent it to the structural engineers well they were initially worried about lateral support considering seismic activity were in California we have to worry about earthquakes and with seismic activity you have to worry about the lateral load of the foundation not just about how it takes weight straight down so we then worked on a second version of this design where we connected the footings underneath the concrete columns so that it creates sort of a ring and that add would add enough strength and stability but when I talked to the building department they said that this would be classified as a crawlspace or at least at the area underneath the container would and if that was the case it would have to be at least 18 inches between the bottom of the container and the finished dirt and the container floor itself is pretty thick and so I didn't want to have my finished floor to be almost two to two-and-a-half feet off of the ground because then if I do any decks or staircases out I have to have all these rail which blocked the views so at this point considering both the challenges for what it was originally a really simple foundation adding in seismic support and then and knowing that I'd have to raise the finished floor way off the ground I scrapped this idea and started thinking about monolithic concrete foundations now first I said well can I just do a perimeter beam that goes all the way around it doesn't really need to have a concrete top right like the containers only sitting on those edges so the engineers worked it out but that concrete ridge beam because again it doesn't have the lateral support from the actual top of the slab what had to be pretty thick so it ended up not being that much more concrete than just doing an entire slab and when you actually look at how much concrete is per yard it was like a cost difference of like a hundred dollars per slab now that doesn't mean the slab is the best idea I'm sure there's a lot of other foundation types that would have worked on but with what we were working on here with this particular building department and maybe just the limitations of our structural engineering firm this is what seem to make the most sense across the most basis ease even though it didn't really seem perfect for any one thing now my architecture firms in Boston on the East Coast and a lot of our work is out there so we're used to doing basements or foundations that go well below the frost line but out here in Southern California that's less of a concern so at least we had that going for us which made the foundation a lot easier and relatively affordably priced I know there's a lot of Engineers architects and builders out there in the audience so let me know in the comments section below what you think would work or would have worked better for this type of foundation also any little tricks or tips that you might have for the rest of the audience about foundation design form work what to consider when doing big concrete pours like that would also be appreciated so I hope that clears it up why we ended up going with a slab on grade foundation I know when you see houses like this a lot so many decisions seem arbitrary and I'm looking at architecture all the time being like why did they do that but before you sort of assume that somebody's dumb although probably plenty of other reasons to do so ask them why because there's always these other considerations that we may not see just by looking at the photograph on the next episode of the modern home project we're in a renault crane moved the containers and start cutting out the holes for the windows and doors make sure you subscribe to this channel and turn on notifications so you don't miss an episode we'll be posting additional information including the architectural drawings on our website thanks for watching and follow us on Instagram if you want to see what we're working on next
Channel: The Modern Home Project
Views: 3,637,135
Rating: 4.8682051 out of 5
Keywords: how to build a house, building a house, shipping container houses, how to build a shipping container home, shipping containers, shipping container homes, shipping container architecture, tiny houses, diy tiny houses, building a tiny house, how to build, ben uyeda, building a modern house, the modern home project, homemade modern, container house, container architecture, container building, permits for a shipping container house
Id: QA5fh29rhLs
Channel Id: undefined
Length: 13min 0sec (780 seconds)
Published: Wed Feb 13 2019
Reddit Comments

I watched this recently, video is produced well enough and the topic is somewhat interesting, but I just got the feeling that the whole shipping container is massive gimmick and a regular house would have ended up being larger, more practical and cheaper.

๐Ÿ‘๏ธŽ︎ 44 ๐Ÿ‘ค๏ธŽ︎ u/burninater44 ๐Ÿ“…๏ธŽ︎ Mar 24 2019 ๐Ÿ—ซ︎ replies

To each their own but I have an irrational annoyance with the video series. They use a cargo container but they never utilized any of its advantages. It feels like an episode of iron chef and the contestant didnโ€™t really want to use the ingredient.

I mean first of all, itโ€™s a container home. You could have built this offsite in a warehouse or yard and then moved it to your property. Thatโ€™s literally one of the biggest advantage of container homes over onsite construction for remote locations. He could have easily built this in town, at the dock, or even in Boston. Any place that wasnโ€™t in the middle of a desert. Also, since he was building three of them and perhaps more in the future why not setup a container workspace?

Another thing that bothered me was he did the concrete foundation himself but hired out the drywall work. The foundation is the most critical component of the whole thing with zero margin for error and is super laborious.

Thereโ€™s more but I guess what Iโ€™m trying to say is this project was so impractical I canโ€™t believe it got off the ground. I wish nothing but the best for him. I hope he does some more research on how others build and design container homes and try to improve from there instead of literally starting from scratch.

Honomobo builds some damn beautiful container homes.

๐Ÿ‘๏ธŽ︎ 13 ๐Ÿ‘ค๏ธŽ︎ u/rabdas ๐Ÿ“…๏ธŽ︎ Mar 25 2019 ๐Ÿ—ซ︎ replies

I've been researching this kind of stuff for quite a while.

After a pretty long thought process, reading things written by people who've actually lived in them, and seeing the actual data I've come to the conclusion that a shipping container house is, 90% of the time, less economical and usable than a regular home.

As he mentioned, transportation costs can be extremely high.

What's more is traditional builders and architects aren't really used to working with this kind of structure so, for the most part, you'll be paying a premium for labor. You also generally have to scrap one of the key benefits of building a home; standardization.

A lot of what brings the price of home construction down is the fact that a lot of the things that go into the process are standard sizes/weights and so can be manufactured en mass and drive prices down. With a container home, things have to be custom fit or shaped which usually requires some specialized labor if you're not doing it yourself or else you're spending a lot of time making things fit.

What he has not yet addressed in this video is the paint. A lot of containers have chemicals mixed in with the paint to prevent corrosion and infiltration by insects. These chemicals are generally toxic and not fun to be around. They need to be removed, generally by sandblasting, before you can build with the container. You now have to either pay to have it done or do it yourself and pay to dispose of the sanding medium which is going to be considered toxic and has to be specially disposed of.

The same with the wood flooring. He didn't really address it (which irks me) but the wood flooring that's found in these containers is treated similarly and generally isn't something you want to live in/around. The flooring has to be removed and disposed of similarly to the blasting medium because of the contamination.

I also have serious questions about the insulation. In the third video he talks about it but I'm skeptical about the ability of a metal building in that environment (which I am familiar with, I grew up near there) to resist blasting sun and 110F+ temperatures. You really don't have a lot of room for insulation in a shipping container and the outer skin of the building is going to act like a thermal battery and soak up heat during the day, dumping it at night and keeping you nice and toasty throughout most of the night.

ISO containers derive their strength through rigid framing and the process for converting them into habitable spaces means that a lot of that strength is lost or just flat not utilized. If you chop a wall, you have to reinforce it so you're in essence kinda building it twice.

Overall, a container home works only if you have certain things already in place. Maybe you inherited the land or you found some containers local that you can score for cheap or you have a couple buddies who work construction and are willing to help out for pizza and beer.

If you just try to raw dog it, you'll probably end up spending as much for one as you would have for a regular home and end up with less usable space.

Some side notes:

"OMG California has too many building regulations!"

Yes, California has some extremely strict and voluminous building codes, especially Southern California.

SoCal contends with fires and earthquakes more than any other natural disaster. I lived there for 30 years, we learned the hard way what happens if your buildings aren't strong enough to resist an earthquake or handle a fire. The building codes are crazy but there's a reason why no one from California will get out of bed for an earthquake less than a 4.5.

I would never build a home there because of the codes but I understand why they're in place and I can respect that they do their job when something happens.

๐Ÿ‘๏ธŽ︎ 7 ๐Ÿ‘ค๏ธŽ︎ u/HeloRising ๐Ÿ“…๏ธŽ︎ Mar 25 2019 ๐Ÿ—ซ︎ replies

As an architect, could we please let this container thing go? It doesn't make any sense economically or environmentally.

๐Ÿ‘๏ธŽ︎ 5 ๐Ÿ‘ค๏ธŽ︎ u/NotFallingInTheTrap ๐Ÿ“…๏ธŽ︎ Mar 25 2019 ๐Ÿ—ซ︎ replies

The local University architecture department built a container home in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

They kind of stretched the definition though, by using pieces of three different containers, and by framing and insulating the outside instead of the inside.

The net result was neat, but, yeah, conventional framing would have been cheaper.

An article about it here

๐Ÿ‘๏ธŽ︎ 3 ๐Ÿ‘ค๏ธŽ︎ u/atchafalaya ๐Ÿ“…๏ธŽ︎ Mar 25 2019 ๐Ÿ—ซ︎ replies

I see it was recommended to you too.

๐Ÿ‘๏ธŽ︎ 2 ๐Ÿ‘ค๏ธŽ︎ u/SteadyShift ๐Ÿ“…๏ธŽ︎ Mar 25 2019 ๐Ÿ—ซ︎ replies
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