This is the first permitted shipping container house in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree, California, according to a statement by the architect, Walter Scott Perry, principal of ecotechdesign. The home, also known as The Tim Palen Studio at Shadow Mountain, was built with re-purposed shipping containers and some impressive green elements such as a steel shade system, a living roof, and a 10,000 gallon water storage tank.
The desert compound has 2,300 square feet with one bedroom, one-and-a-half bathrooms, and a studio. It was built like a kit house with prefabricated parts by ecotechbuild, a design-build subsidiary of ecotechdesign, in conjunction with 44West construction.
Tim Palen Studio is made with six ISO containers (five in the living area and one as an appendage to the studio to hold photography equipment) and a Butler pre-engineered studio building.
On one side, the studio is naturally lit with six, 22-inch, dimmable solar tubes, while on the other side, an 18-foot stairwell is clad in corrugated, recycled steel and a tall, slit window. The stairwell doubles as a gallery for the owner’s studio.
Other than the obvious reuse of shipping containers, this project has some unique and impressive green features. The roof is white in parts and living in others with 4′x4′ green modules. The 160-square foot living roof has native desert plants and sedums sustained with gray water.
A recycled tank harvests up to 3,000 gallons of rainwater from the roof for watering plants in the breezeway, while a 10,000 gallon tank holds water for potable water use or as a backup in the event of a fire.
The Tim Palen Studio has rigid-foam insulation in some of the walls and roof (Title 24+) and heat-treated, low-E, double-glazed windows. Otherwise — this is the desert after all — the project is heated and cooled with a mini-split heat pump system.
To deflect some of the Mojave Desert sun, a steel Unistrut structure is bolted to the house to secure a skin of modular, perforated, metal panels. These panels blanket the south, west, and breezeway portions and they’re transparent. Which is to say, the skin balances views, natural ventilation, and a 50% reduction in heat and glare.
The Tim Palen Studio was built for about $200 per square foot, including the foundation, according to an email from a representative for the architect. Ecotechdesign intends to design and build more container projects in the price range of about $150-250 per square foot, depending on the site and other options.