05/09/12 4:09pm

The city recently bought 2 custom roll-off trailers so it could set up its brand-new fleet of 17 solar-powered shipping containers without having to hire contractors or cranes. And the method of opening the solar panels (or closing them before a hurricane hits the area) is now OSHA-compliant, says Andrew Vrana of Metalab, the local architecture and fabrication firm that designed them. (2 people on a ladder can do it pretty quickly.) The photos above show the unit installed recently at Fire Station 72 at 17401 Saturn Ln. just north of NASA Rd. 1, near the Johnson Space Center. “Yes they do produce a little power on a cloudy day,” Vrana reports.

All the units have now been delivered to their sites. In the event of a major power outage, the 140-sq.-ft. containers will become staffed disaster response centersair-conditioned information and water-distribution centers: a place to charge your cell phone or laptop, power a medical device, or keep medicines refrigerated. In short, the kind of space it might have been nice to have nearby after Hurricane Ike hit. (As long as the solar panels are folded in and latched, the units will withstand hurricane-force winds.) In the meantime, they’ll provide additional office space and power for the facilities that host them. The container at Lake Houston Park, for example, will become an office for the new woodland archery range.

Here’s a map showing the fire stations, schools, and other locations around the city where you can now find the completely off-grid structures:


11/10/10 1:42pm

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.”


06/26/09 5:15pm

Hey, what’s happening to those fancy solar-powered recycled shipping containers on the corner of Hyde Park and Waugh, meant to attract eco-minded buyers to the $400K+ condo units in the Mirabeau B.?

Up and away they go! Did the Mirabeau B. meet its sales target? Nope . . . but it’s time for construction anyway, developer Joey Romano tells Swamplot:

Our financing is in place and we have signed our contract with Mission Constructors who have commenced work on the site. If all goes to plan at the City, the building work will begin in the next few weeks.

How’d that happen? With a little switch: to rental. But Romano says none of the project’s “green” features will be changed:

We’ll still plant our green roof; our 15 KW solar PV system will still power all common areas; and our rainwater retention system will still irrigate our native Gulf Coast plants. Our units will be large, open, and spacious, offering unique, high-grade finishes, high-end energy efficient appliances, and natural light in every bedroom.

So where are the shipping containers headed?


02/26/09 10:57am

The solar-powered portable building fashioned from recycled shipping containers that’s been waiting patiently at the corner of Hyde Park and Waugh since last September isn’t just the sales office for the Mirabeau B. condo. It’s also a prototype.

Designers Joe Meppelink and Andrew Vrana of Metalab have teamed up with ttweak Renewables (creators of the Mirabeau B.’s sales graphics) and Harvest Moon (the condo’s developer) to market the structures, which they call SPACE. That stands for Solar Powered Attractive Container for Everyone — though more likely it’ll be for companies that want a sales center that also works as a big green sign.