The Quad 48 Project – 4 Houses – 1 Container

I was recently approached (yet again) to tender a view on how Emergency Shipping Container Housing (Medium to Long Term) could be provided to places that already had shipping ports in their immediate vicinity.

Remember that there are many situations beyond the:

“Oh My Gawd, Martha… RUN! A Twister is coming!”

Our forefathers moved out into the middle of nowhere, and started new Towns, Cities, States, and Nations…

… simply by establishing a secure starting point, and then scratching at the ground until they started seeing something that looked like progress.

Let’s say you were somewhere like… Port Au Prince, Haiti. And, let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Mother Nature got mad at you, and then knocked the stuffing out of you. And let’s say that you were bringing people in, to help re-establish the infrastructure, and you needed to house them quickly and securely.

These guys who called me (from Washington, D.C.) wanted:

[quote]“some kind of cheap, sturdy, housing with a roof system that could ‘catch water.’ And Oh Yeah… each unit has to have it’s own kitchen and bath. You know, like a camper or a FEMA trailer.”[quote]

That was the extent of the criteria. Seriously. No;

[quote] “I want X square feet, hot and cold running caviar, satin sheets, and a butler… “ [unquote]

Here’s my response;

(Please accept my apologies in advance… no butler or satin sheets.)

The QUAD-48 Project:

Question: How do you provide “all-weather” worker housing in an expeditionary setting?

And, further… how do you provide “emergency housing” in a high speed mode, once safety zones have been cleared, established and secured?

Answer: The same way. But not with FEMA trailers, unless you like formaldehyde.

You use insulated steel shipping containers.

The above is a really straightforward “Little House on Corten Steroids” design.

Take (1) 48′ High Cube ISBU Container – 8′6″ wide, and section it off into (4) small residences.

Starting at the top;

Let’s address the roof first, since we’re going to “inhabit” it…

There are 2 main kinds of shapes that a roof can assume; gable or hipped.

The difference between them is pretty easily explained: The difference lies in both the “slope-line” of the sides of the roof, and the “roof-to-wall junction”.

Gable shaped roofs are probably the ones that you’re the most used to seeing. They are defined by the meeting of two straight slopes from the ridge of the roof, falling all the way to its eave. The result is the creation of a peak or triangular shaped structure on either the side or face of the facade. It’s just a “big A”. The side of the gabled house on which this peak is seen is called a “rake”, and the side on which the slope is seen is called an “eave”.

In contrast, hipped-roofs have an even roof-to-wall junction, as the roof plane is broken along the slope line, allowing for an easy wrap around the building’s structure. As a result, hipped shaped roofs also have eaves on all sides. This is good, and you’ll see why later.

On a hip roof, all the sides of its roofing slope down towards the walls of the building. The hip itself is “the angle at which the slopes of the roofing meet,” and the degree of this angle is called the “hip bevel”. The triangular slopes that meet the rectangular ones at the roof’s ridge are known as the “hip ends”, and these are actually by the hips themselves. Hip roofs can be tailored to many differently shaped structures, yet their ridges will always be central to the rectangular building below it, and the four faces of the roof will always have the same pitch.

Look at the difference in the framing.

Hipped roofs are highly suitable for extreme weather conditions, because the shape of a hipped roof, along with its complex internal framing, braces it against strong winds, snow loads, and even hurricanes.

And, you can change it up just a little bit, if you want. In our case, the use of a “modified hipped” roof also creates more comfortable usable space in the sleeping loft area of each unit. Essentially, we’re going to slice the top of the roof off, to make it flat. This creates a broad surface on top of the structure that can be utilized.

So, we install the “modified hip roofs” on top of the ISBU, with a 2′ soffit overhang on each side. Then, we use a SIP/SSMR (Structural Insulated Panel/Standing Seam Metal Roof) system for a high speed and extremely tough roof. Why a big overhang? Well, that 2′ overhang protects the structure against both AND and rainfall. AND, it gives us a strong mounting point for hanging garden containers.

The top of the roof structure (we sliced the top off, remember?) is going to be used to create a solar/PV (photovoltaic) farm. This placement prohibits theft or damage, and optimizes exposure to the sun.

Note that the sloped surfaces of metal roofing are to be used for water collection/retention.

This design provides independent housing for 4-8+ people with sleeping lofts accessed via a rolling “bookcase” staircase housed in a notch by the sofa. Clothing storage is incorporated into the loft area.

A couple with a small child could also be housed – per unit – by simply using a convertible sofa/storage combination as a bed.

The use of the “Modified Hip” roof creates a volume ceiling in the main area, giving the unit an airy ambiance, and it provides ample room for a ceiling fan.

Sofa back table provides “hidden” storage, and a place to set drinks, plants, et all…

Swing out wall mounted LCD TV’s allow entertainment.

“Dual Striker door” allows bathroom to be used conventionally. A second striker plate is provided at ninety degrees, at the entrance to the kitchen. By doing this, if someone is in the kitchen, you can still close and lock the bathroom door.

However, if you need a place to get dressed or need to use the sink for shaving, etc… you can close the door at the kitchen opening, in effect allowing the entire floor area of kitchen to be closed off and used as an annexed “dressing area.”

A small “shelf-type” pull-out table forms a “laptop desk” workstation by the front door.

A wall mounted drop-down table forms living room table/eating area.

Stateside, a group of “sweat-equity contributing” families could build these for under $30,000.00 (USD) a piece, easy…


Desired but not shown – A bay window in each unit would allow the personal growth of herbs for food/medicinal purposes.

Also not shown – a Utility/Laundry Room is to be added to the East end of Container Housing Module under a covered porch structure. The existing Bathroom provides service access and hose bibs. If you used a 53′ ISBU, you’d get an additional enclosed space at the end of each container that could be used as a common utility/laundry facility, at minimal cost. Hot water heater and mechanicals could easily be located here. The original “cargo double doors” would secure it.

Reinforced Soffit Hooks/Hangers to allow “Hanging Gardens ” made from 5 gallon buckets, to produce tomatoes, herbs, et all…

Alexander Klein: Principal, Container Home Consultants, Inc.

17 comments for “The Quad 48 Project – 4 Houses – 1 Container

  1. JAysun812
    February 26, 2010 at 1:39 am

    My name is Jason and I am trying to plan a garage with an opening between two ISBU containers sitting on concrete pillars around 12 inches off the ground with a roof over the top with attic trusses. I have called the building inspectors and they haven’t returned my calls. Any help with footer or Attaching a roof would be greatly appreciated . Thanks Jason My email is

  2. Adaline Averbach
    March 26, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    This is interesting, post more often!

    March 29, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    It is simple to see that you are ecstatic about your writing. Looking forward to future posts.Thank you.

  4. pole pruners
    March 29, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Love the design.

  5. March 31, 2010 at 11:44 am

    My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

  6. fendi casa
    April 1, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    I’ve been reading a few posts and really and enjoy your writing. I’m thinking of linking to your posts from my site , just let me know if it’s feasible , thanks !

  7. April 2, 2010 at 1:23 am

    I’m impressed! It’s nice to see someone very passionate about what they do. Trust all your future posts turn out as well.Thanks!

  8. April 2, 2010 at 4:40 am


    We sweat and toil over every line! 😉

    (I know, it’s hard to tell!) 🙂

    The best is yet to come…


  9. April 11, 2010 at 4:10 am

    Pretty interesting post. Couldn’t be written much better. Browsing this post reminds me of my old friend. He constantly kept babbling about this. I will forward this post and I’m pretty sure it will be a good read for ’em. Thanks for sharing!

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    April 18, 2010 at 8:00 am

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  11. Jen Kruszewski
    May 7, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Fantastic article !

  12. Na Zdrowie
    June 1, 2010 at 4:00 am

    You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material

  13. July 15, 2010 at 7:00 am

    I have a few design thoughts on ISBU homes on my amateur blog.
    Just looking to throw out some ideas on affordable green homes and hopefully start discussions

  14. Rayford Duft
    September 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    It’s nice to see that at least a few people in this world have the same views as me. If we all would just let the unimportant things alone and concentrate on treating each other with love and respect, The world would be so much better.

  15. farm cheater
    February 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what they’re talking about on the internet. Keep up the good work and thanks!

  16. Dakota Leggo
    April 26, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Hey there! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

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