Library Exhibit Offers New Housing Solution
by Tracy Bueno


The subject of shipping containers as forms of housing came to mind when I took Writing 109V a few years ago with Amanda Stansell. One of the projects was creating a program proposal benefiting the local community here in Santa Barbara or back where we lived. I remember a couple of students gave a PowerPoint presentation about using shipping containers as a place to live. At first it seemed like a crazy idea, but after hearing how eco-friendly it is, I became totally convinced. More convincing were the design submissions included in “Open Up The Box,” an exhibition in the Faulkner Gallery in the Santa Barbara Central Library that I witnessed this past weekend and let me say that this can be the next thing to save the housing problem.

This exhibit, on display from April 1st-30th, showing how some of the shipping containers could be transformed into a houses was incredible and definitely worth seeing. Contestants built these houses out of two 20-foot shipping containers that can be affordable, mobile, and cost and energy efficient. Clearly each entry focused on all of those factors and some of the materials used were so unexpected that it made me say, “Wow!” One of them that struck me was the entry by #007, called simply “The Container Project.” The house resembled a greenhouse and in the sketch included solar panels for energy, sliding glass doors, and a plant wall. This project incorporated not only nature, but also the environment.

J. Staal Storage Solutions provided and transported the containers. Everything is recyclable, such as the flooring (made from rubber), solar panels as power sources, and LED’s that don’t take up too much power. The containers even featured a composting toilet by Envirolet that recycles waste, turning it into usable compost. The most unique aspect of these containers is how they are shaped and stacked on top of each other. If one wants to move to another site then these containers can be taken down and transported, kind of like Legos.

But constructing and installing these features come at a heavy price. An estimate for all materials put into the containers cost $11,700, which is $34 per square foot, not to mention labor, which totals up between $23,400-$26,300, but is worth the investment. The winner is expected to be announced at the end of April with the grand prize consisting of $10,000 and two 20-foot containers to be used in making their designs a reality. A demonstration of the shipping containers is going to be shown this spring near the Art Department within UCSB’s West Campus.