By Jeffrey Steele
KTGY Architecture + Planning has introduced designs for the first in a series of Los Angeles homeless developments using shipping containers as a primary building material. Hope on Alvarado will provide support services for people transitioning from homelessness.
Located at 166 S. Alvarado Street in the Westlake district west of downtown Los Angeles, the structure is moving rapidly through development and will be constructed in a six-month period early in 2018. The building combines architectural character with accelerated construction due to its leverage of the unique shipping container design.
The first in a series of Hope developments in Los Angeles to come online in the next 12 months, Hope on Alvarado is being developed by Aedis Real Estate Group.
The four-story development will offer 84 studios and one-bedroom units measuring from 400 to 480 square feet. Each apartment is created using several containers modified through removal of doors and portions of the exterior metal skin, with floor-to-ceiling windows and interior finishes and fixtures added.
Following their transport to the site, a crane will fit and stack them together in a single building. Appliances are furnished on site. Each resident will have a bike storage space, and parking spaces for social services staff will be situated within the building.
“Working with fixed container modules posed the biggest challenge at the beginning,” Keith Labus, AIA, LEED AP and principal of KTGY told MHN. “At 8 by 20 feet, it is a little like designing with giant LEGOs except every piece is the same size. On the technical side, there were a lot of questions about how the containers interfaced with each other and the rest of the building components. Clearly defining the responsibilities of the design consultants, the contractor and the manufacturer was crucial because a container project hasn’t been done at this scale and complexity before.”
A significant benefit of using shipping containers is a dramatic decrease in construction time, KTGY reported. The containers, including most interior finishes and fittings, can be manufactured off-site while sitework and foundations are being built on site.
The development, on a .44-acre site, is built around a central courtyard offering privacy and safety, while imparting a community feel. Street-level office space for support services is differentiated by floor-to-ceiling glazing. Though designed to LEED standards, certification for the development will not be sought. The project’s sustainable qualities include speed of construction and efficient use of building materials. “We’re not trying to hide the fact that these are shipping containers,” Labus said. “There would be great costs associated with creating the level of character they already have. Our approach is to work with what we have and develop something unique at each location.”
More in pipeline
The Hope Homeless Housing developments are financed by LSA Capital in partnership with project sponsor Jerry Jacobs with Scott Baldridge and Leslie Weiss, working with the Foundation for Affordable Housing. The shipping containers transformed into prefabricated residential units are obtained in Los Angeles.
Plans are being initiated to bring this progressive and cost-efficient affordable housing model to high-density urban areas from San Diego to Seattle.
“We have very creative, experienced design and technical staff at KTGY and have teamed up with excellent consultants,” Labus said. “It’s been a great experience so far and we look forward to applying the knowledge gained from Hope on Alvarado to the other container projects we have in the pipeline.”