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Project Aims to Contain Homelessness

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Surplus shipping containers, which have been finding a home in a variety of architectural applications, are now providing homes themselves.

Sarah House Utah, a project of the Crossroads Urban Center in Salt Lake, repurposes the cargo containers as safe, affordable housing—benefiting the homeless and sparing the junkyard at the same time, officials say.

Adam Banks / Sarah House Utah

People call Jeffrey White's affordable-housing plan a "crazy-ass idea." That's not necessarily an insult.

"Our goal with the Sarah House project is to provide fast, green-minded, safe, affordable homes for the underserved," the group writes on its Facebook page.

The containers are renovated inside and out with electricity, plumbing and the latest green building technology.

Regular and Mini

The idea came from Jeffrey White, a 30-year volunteer with the urban center. White was searching for options after an encounter with a homeless artist in San Francisco, reports EcoBuilding Pulse. White built the prototype for the first HIP (humble, insulated and portable)  first prototype in his driveway.

Photos: Sarah House

The Sarah House Mini uses just one shipping container. The original Sarah House uses two 40-foot-long containers.

After surmounting the permit hurdles, the first house was put up for sale to low-income buyers in 2013 with an initial listing price of $135,000, The 640-square-foot house is made up of two 40-foot containers, officials explain in a video about the project.

(There is also now a Sarah House Mini, which uses just one container and traditional framing.)

Graduate students from the University of Utah's College of Architecture and Planning have also pitched in on the project.

'How Can I Get This?'

"We turned in, we think, a beautiful project," said White. "People are asking immediately, going, 'Where can I buy this? How can I buy this? How can I get this?'"

White also says that interest is not limited to the homeless. Many people today are looking for smaller living spaces, he says.

Many people want downsized dwellings, says White, who invented the 640-square-foot structure.

"What we're still hoping is that other people will look at this and say, 'Ok, this is what they did this in Salt Lake City; don't we have somebody here locally that can do that?'"

Now, says White, he fields questions about the project for two or three hours every Saturday from people all over the world.


Tagged categories: Adaptive reuse; Green building; Maintenance + Renovation; North America; Residential Construction; Trends

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