Desert Shipping Container Home Flies Through Permitting

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It seems like just a few years ago shipping containers were all the rage as a building material (one of our friends used to joke “why live WITH the trade deficit when you can live IN the trade deficit?”). It seemed like a brilliant idea — they were abundant, inexpensive, and modular. And some of the houses made from shipping containers were truly incredible. Now we’ve found one more advantage, at least in the mostly desert communities of San Bernardino County.

Located in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree, the Tim Palen Studio, designed by ecotechdesign, was approved and permitted in just one week. Most housing projects in San Bernardino take one to three months on average to be permitted.

The house features six repurposed ISO containers (all made in China, natch), a 10,000 gallon steel water tank and a metal shade canopy. Designed by architect Walter Scott Perry, the house is also built to capitalize on the desert’s natural daylight and ventilation. A solar shading system provides 50% of solar heat, while the living roof is planted with drought-tolerant native plants (irrigated with greywater) to absorb heat and glare.

While the house has many of the eco-friendly design features of your typical pre-fab home and can be constructed on site quickly, it’s distinct from pre-fab in one important way: according to the designers, the finished construction costs were half that of equivalent pre-fab alternatives.

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