Island architect designs luxurious container shelter

A finished three-story Eco-Pak - Courtesty of Coates Design
A finished three-story Eco-Pak
— image credit: Courtesty of Coates Design

The newest home coming onto the market may have gadget geeks drooling. And it comes delivered in a pretty impressive box.

The Eco-Pak is a container shelter, though calling it a “shelter” may be an understatement.

Shipping container shelters have been used across the globe for temporary to emergency housing. The container, which is commonly seen traveling behind semi-trucks or being shipped on train tracks, is simply modeled on the inside to create a studio apartment or a small travel trailer.

But with the Eco-Pak, Seattle-based engineer James Green and island Architect Matthew Coates have taken the seemingly simple shelter and transformed it into something a bit more luxurious.

The Eco-Pak ships all necessary materials inside the container itself, which then acts as a base for a much larger structure. Building off the container, an Eco-Pak can expand from a small single-story home, up to three stories with 1,300 square feet.

“This house is built to last,” Coates added. “It is not a temporary structure.”

Green came up with the idea while working on a project in Turkey, where he had to build a structure with no concrete foundation.

There, he began to form the idea that would grow into the Eco-Pak. Back in the United States, he called upon Coates to help with his architectural skills.

“His idea came down to the fact that the structure would be shipped in the container and the container becomes part of the base,” Coates said. “So it is integrated into the structure. You build on top of the container and around it.”

Coates got to work creating the floor plans and other designs for the Eco-Pak. In the end, the two men had a structure that could be used for multiple purposes around the world.

“There are all kinds of opportunities for marketing for different needs around the world, from emergency housing and affordable housing here in the United States,” Coates said. “What’s great is you can ship this anywhere, or even air drop it, and two people can erect a house in a day or two.”

To add an extra bonus to the Eco-Pak, Coates incorporated his experience with sustainable design.

The container is made from light-weight steel, which according to Coates is generally recycled. And because the structure is steel, it experiences much less rot or decay.

Coates also designed a roof that incorporates solar panels to provide electricity for the structure.

“It has the potential to be near net zero in terms of its energy contribution depending on where it is placed,” Coates said. “And everything inside will be non-toxic.”

Heating for the building is intended to be electric, but it can be altered depending upon where and what it is used for.

Coates also notes that shipping containers are piling up all over the world. Many are put out of commission after a certain amount of time, despite being structurally sound. This leaves plenty of available containers just laying around, and the Eco-Pak can give them a second life.

The shipping container shelter has been used to help house people after Hurricane Katrina and in Haiti after disasters. With the Eco-Pak, Coates hopes to provide something a little better for people in need of a home.

“Something like this is long overdue,” Coates said. “There have been lots of attempts at efficiently building housing for this type of thing and none of them, to my knowledge, have provided great living conditions, or living conditions that could persist.”

The Eco-Pak has only just made its design debut, and is expected to be ready for the market by early 2013.

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