As published in the Bloomington Herald Times, September 5, 2020. Story by reporter Jackie Finch.
Imagination is what conceived this unusual Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County project. And hard work is what is making this dream come true. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the first time in the history of any Indiana Habitat affiliate, the Monroe County organization is converting a shipping container into a home.
“One of the most challenging and most exciting parts of building a shipping container home is how to design it in such a way that the small space is maximized for quality living,” says Wendi Goodlett, president of Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County.
With a total of 320 square feet, the shipping container will be transformed into a one-bedroom, one-bathroom home with a living room and combined kitchen/dining space. The home also will have a covered outdoor deck.
“We expect this style home will help provide a long-term housing solution that is especially beneficial to low-income households on a fixed income, such as seniors and those with disabilities,” Wendi says.
“The size is honestly most suitable for a single person but could work for a couple,” Wendi says. “We will learn more about this once the home is completed.”
Construction started July 8 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. Work has been slowed by COVID-19 as Habitat has not been using groups of volunteers who usually step up for speedy Habitat builds.
“For a traditional home build, we rely on volunteers for the majority of labor to build houses, saving us costs normally associated with construction,” Wendi says. “The shipping container project is no different in that sense — we are using volunteers to build helping us save costs on construction.”
However, due to the pandemic, Habitat has not been able to use volunteer groups because of safety concerns. “Habitat has relied on a select group of crew leaders, staff and subcontractors to build the shipping container,” Wendi says. “The crew leaders are primarily retired individuals that have some construction knowledge and skills.”
Each week since the project started, between 10 to 15 volunteers have come to the site to help. “We are only building one day per week,” Wendi says. “Habitat is also requiring anyone on the work site to follow all CDC safety guidelines.”
The shipping container is being built at the site of Habitat’s new neighborhood, Osage Place, directly east of RCA park on the southwest side of Bloomington.
“This isn’t the final location for the home though, we will move it to its permanent location once complete,” Wendi says. “We are currently working with the city to purchase an empty lot suitable for the shipping container home.”
A potential homeowner also hasn’t been identified, Wendi adds. “Since this is a pilot right now, we don’t yet have an individual identified for the shipping container home. Once it is complete and the land purchase finalized, we will identify someone to purchase the home.”
When it is complete, the estimated cost for the shipping container home, excluding the land, will be about $40,000. “That is roughly 40 percent of what construction costs for a traditional three-bedroom Habitat home which is around $85,000,” says Nathan Ferreira, director of land production and development for the affiliate. “This is a pilot project for us though, so everything is essentially an estimate and we expect to learn as we go.”
The container home idea was born in early 2019 when the Indiana University Kelley Institute for Social Impact held its first Kelley Impact Competition. “Student teams were challenged to create an innovative project that would advance the mission of a local charitable cause,” Wendi says.
“Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County was selected as the nonprofit and student teams proposed projects to help analyze our current model for construction and housing and recommend ideas for future development,” Wendi says. “The winning team developed a plan to construct homes from recycled shipping containers, lowering the cost of construction and the homeowner’s subsequent mortgage payment.”
Shipping containers are built as reusable transport and storage units for moving products and raw materials around the world. “They can be recycled, but more and more often they are being repurposed as housing, offices and permanent storage units,” Nathan says. “We are excited to be able to reuse and repurpose something that may sit in a storage yard otherwise.”
The Habitat container came from Container Management, Inc., a local Midwest distributor.
“Shipping container homes are extremely durable as shipping containers are designed to endure very heavy weight and resist extreme weather,” Nathan says.
The containers are constructed from COR-TEN steel, a type of corrugated steel designed to resist atmospheric corrosion making them much stronger than a traditional stick-built home.
“The inside of the home will be built out with traditional building materials — 2-by-4 framed walls, drywall, vinyl flooring, cabins and countertops,” Nathan says. “On this version, vinyl siding and a steel roof will cover the exterior. The outdoor living deck will be built of wood.”
The local Habitat is contributing a parcel of land for the shipping container’s final location. But the build is being made possible through an award from the Kelley Institute for Social Impact’s Case Competition of $10,000 and a generous grant from the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County for $41,420.
“As material and construction costs continue to rise, Habitat is dedicated to finding innovative ways to make homeownership more accessible to more people,” Wendi says. All Habitat homeowners earn 25 to 80 percent AMI and pay back an affordable mortgage which is less than 30 percent of their income.
“As affordable as Habitat homes are, most people at the lower end of our income guidelines are still unable to afford a mortgage,” Wendi says.
“The shipping container home, with its substantially lower construction costs, will allow us to serve that population for whom homeownership has been out of reach.”
You can see the full article (and images) online here: https://bit.ly/3jS6VIM