Three Squares Develops Multifamily Shipping Container Construction

Three Squared is planning America’s first multifamily dwelling constructed from retired shipping containers in Detroit, which will help save money and environmental resources.

By Keith Loria, Contributing Writer

Detroit—Three Squares Inc., a real estate development company, is planning America’s first multifamily dwelling constructed from retired shipping containers in Detroit, which will help save money and environmental resources.

The planned 26,000-square-foot Rosa Parks condo community is considered “shovel ready” with an approved $603,000 tax credit. The 20-unit, four-story community will integrate 93 shipping containers with energy efficient systems include ductless heating and air system, tank-less water heaters, and other amenities that combine to reduce each unit’s energy costs by up to 80 percent.

“This project was approved three years ago in the city of Detroit but because of the real estate market, we decided to put it on hold. It’s perfect timing now,” Leslie Horn, Three Squares’s CEO, tells MHN. “We believe the best way to go is to create a model center not too far away from where our project is on Michigan Ave.”

The Model Center is scheduled to break down this month with completion slated for December 2012. Once the model center is built, it will be used to presell units for the Rosa Parks project, which the company plans to break ground on in April/May of 2013.

“There’s a lot of different types of energy efficiency that cargo container-based construction brings to the table,” Horn says. “With the U.S. new construction industry desperate for ways to cut costs without undermining quality, green home construction gaining significant momentum, and a growth rate from $49 billion to $140 billion forecasted over the next five years, shipping container-based construction is an extraordinarily well-positioned solution.”

Made of steel and wood, this product is stronger than conventional framing, stackable for creating levels and is readily available.

Currently, retired shipping containers are abundant in the United States with an estimated 21,000 shipping containers arriving in the United States every day. Port authorities estimate that over 700,000 used shipping containers are stockpiled on prime waterfront real estate without a significant use, purpose, or method for disposal.

Horn says that the containers’ modular design makes additional construction as easy as stacking more containers up to 12 high. The interlocking mechanism of the containers facilitates mobility so that structures made from them can be easily disassembled, moved and reassembled.

“In Europe, this type of technology is extremely common place, not only because of sustainability, but because of profitability,” Horn says. “We are saving about 60 percent on the framing of typical construction by using containers because we can build much faster and at a fraction of the cost.”

The company is slated to build over $109 million in projects over the next 24 months across the United States and at locations abroad.

“Our company marries the trend toward sustainable green housing solutions with the problems of escalating building costs and a surplus of unlikely yet durable, versatile, widely available, economical and code-friendly shipping containers, which we use as the primary material for construction framing of houses, condominiums, dormitories and other residential, retail and commercial structures,” Horn says. “We love Detroit and are thrilled to be building there and help lead turning both the city’s and our nation’s economy around.”

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