A small fleet of modified shipping containers outfitted with adjustable solar panels will soon serve as mobile emergency power supplies for the city of Houston. City officials are currently negotiating a contract to purchase 25 of the units, which are based on a prototype originally deployed as the green-themed sales office of a Montrose condo project. The solar-powered containers, called SPACE (“Solar Powered Adaptive Container for Everyone“), were created by a joint venture of local architecture firm Metalab, Joey Romano’s Harvest Moon Development, and design firm ttweak (best known for the popular “Houston. It’s Worth It.” marketing campaign). City sustainability director Laura Spanjian announced at the opening of the University of Houston’s Green Building Components Expo last month that SPACE and energy company Ameresco had been selected through a public-application process to supply the city with the mobile “solar generators.” Spanjian now tells Swamplot the contract should be complete “in a few weeks.”
After a hurricane or during any prolonged power outage, the containers would power medical devices and refrigerate and store medicines in various locations throughout the city. They’d also be used to charge phones, computers, and communications equipment. The units were built to withstand hurricane-force winds (as long as the panels are folded down). When off-duty, the SPACE units would hang out at fire stations (providing them with a little solar power on the side). Metalab’s Joe Meppelink tells Swamplot the units will be built in the new Campo Sheetmetal Works shop on Telephone Rd., and that several of them will be finished out for use at festivals and city events.
The earliest versions of the SPACE units were deployed as sales centers for Harvest Moon’s Mirabeau B. condo project at the corner of Hyde Park and Waugh in Montrose — where they handily survived Hurricane Ike. With support from the UH College of Architecture’s Green Building Components program, the team later developed an off-grid version that includes a battery backup, allowing the mobile offices to maintain power for several days without sun.
- Solar Powered Adaptive Container for Everyone [SPACE]
- RFQ for Design-Build Mobile Solar Generator Project (PDF) [City of Houston]
- SPACE [Metalab]
- Previously on Swamplot: Solar-Powered Shipping Containers Flee; It’s Apartments for the Mirabeau B., Green Sales Offices for Sale: Solar Powered Shipping Containers for Everyone, The Solar Powered Shipping Container Sales Center for the Mirabeau B., Cisterns and Balcony Bikes: What You’ll See at the Mirabeau B.