- 4419 McKinney St. [HAR]
Local art guide Robert Boyd takes himself and readers on a photo tour of the outbuildings surrounding Nestor Topchy’s home “just south of the North Loop,” catching readers up on a few of the structures the artist has built since (or salvaged from) his residency at the legendary TemplO (earlier, Zocalo), the 6-acre arts commune he ran on a rented former truck depot at 5223 Feagan St. in the West End from the late eighties into the early aughts. And he finds much to impress, including the glass-walled tin-roofed structure pictured here, which Topchy pieced together from steel windows and doors salvaged from buildings in Houston and Argentina, and which fronts a pond on the acre-plus property. Topchy calls it the Crescent:
The epic Software Group is now passing around pix of the “creative co-op” building the company painstakingly constructed next to its Woodlands headquarters over the last 18 months — out of 11 recycled shipping containers and a slew of other recycled materials. The 8-ft. x 40-ft. x 9-1/2-ft. containers, explains company president Vic Cherubini, are each 8-9 years old and still rated “sea worthy.” Around that core, the animation, multimedia and web development company production company built an almost-5,000-sq.-ft. building with a large video production studio inside. The assembly sits 50 ft. away from Epic’s own facility at 701 Sawdust Rd., and is now occupied by several creative companies in the area — who pre-leased it before completion.
How’d they put the thing together?
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 centers — air-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:
WTF IS TAKING THE SHIPPING CONTAINERS SO LONG AT THE MOON TOWER INN An only slightly cleaned-up report on the progress of the brewery and shipping-container redo at the Canal St. bar, straight from the Moon Tower Inn Facebook page: “as you all should know, we’re late for everything and some time’s we just plain don’t show up. but DO NOT WORRY, moon tower will be OPEN SOON. using new technology (shipping containers etc) is tricky business and moves a lil slow with our fine city. so, we’re not gonna say exactly when we’ll be back open yet ’cause we’re ass holes like that and we like the suspense. but, our brewery equipment is damn near built and the containers for the kitchen and bar are being fitted at a welding yard and are almost ready to bring on-site! so… everything’s a go! SEE YOU THIS SPRING . . .” [Moon Tower Inn on Facebook, via Eater Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Eddie S.
MOON TOWER INN’S NEW SHIPPING CONTAINER BEER COOLER A few details on the brewery redo taking place on the hotdog reinvention grounds of the (currently shuttered) Moon Tower Inn at 3004 Canal St. in the Second Ward, from blogger Leslie Sprague: “One of the two new shipping containers being used to renovate the old space, to expand the kitchen and the tap wall to 42 taps, will be a walk-in cooler for cold storage. The brewhouse will be set-up in part of the office space, behind the old ordering counter. I wasn’t even aware there was an office. They have a 3 1/2 barrel brewhouse on order from Portland Kettleworks and are expecting delivery in mid-February. That’s definitely cutting it close to the planned February reopening.” [Lushtastic] Photo: Marty E.
HEIGHTS SHIPPING CONTAINER FOOD COURT A food-truck-court-like conglomeration of shipping containers housing vendors selling waffles, burgers, barbecue, Mexican, Asian, or Cajun cuisine is being planned for a 25,000-sq.-ft. lot co-owned by the proprietor of C&D Scrap Metal at the corner of North Shepherd and 14th St., the Chronicle‘s David Kaplan reports. “Kitchens on 14th,” as designed by Uptown Sushi and Tiny Boxwood’s architect Issac Preminger, is expected to include trees, water features, and communal eating areas in a park-like setting. [Prime Property]
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.”
SECRET POWERS OF THE CORDELL ST. SHIPPING-CONTAINER HOUSE The Brookesmith home of Kevin Freeman and Jen Feldmann — fashioned from shipping containers by Numen Development’s John Walker and Katie Nichols — meets a national audience in the pages of the latest issue of Dwell: “The meat distributor [across Cordell St.] begins loading trucks as early as 5:30 a.m., but the couple imagines themselves as hipsters living in New York City’s meatpacking district, and that makes it okay. . . . The corrugated steel of the container that houses the master suite becomes a textured wall for writing messages in the home’s entrance. ‘When we were furnishing the house, I thought, “Oh no! Our fridge isn’t magnetic for Eli’s artwork,” but then I realized the whole house is magnetic,’ Feldmann says. ‘We’ve become magnet connoisseurs,’ Freeman adds.” [Dwell; previously in Swamplot]
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?
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.
Next experiment at that Swamplot-Award-winning house built out of shipping containers on Cordell St. in Brookesmith? The unique driveway installed earlier this week. John Walker of Numen Development writes in with details:
It is composed of recycled crushed glass, with a resin binder, and achieves the consistency of caramel popcorn for lack of a better description, so it has voids that allow surface water to percolate through the paving and ultimately be absorbed into the underlying soil rather than running off into the storm drainage system. It is a triple threat: recycled material, reduces environmental impact of development, and it’s really cool!
Walker says Presto Geosystems, a division of Alcoa, installed the driveway as a pilot project for the Houston market.
This installation has been described by their consulting engineer as most likely the “first and last” residential project they will do in Houston as the product is expected to meet with huge commercial demand, especially for “landlocked” developments for whom expansion is limited by Harris County stormwater detention limitations.
Some views of the installation:
The new sales center for the Mirabeau B. is looking pre-fab! Now at the northwest corner of Hyde Park and Waugh: two 20-ft. recycled shipping containers, outfitted with a solar array on a digitally fabricated rack. The website for Metalab, the architecture firm in charge of the project, claims the solar panels will generate 180 kilowatt hours per month. What’s that figure converted to condo sales?
Oh, but selling condos is apparently only this structure’s day job for now:
Solar panels on the roof can fold shut at night or during bad weather, said Andrew Vrana from Metalab.
“We would like to further develop this as a solution,” he said. “People could have one of these made and put in their backyard and supplement their energy with solar power.”
Below: more pics!
That house built out of shipping containers on Cordell St. in Brookesmith looks like it’ll be ready for delivery soon. Yes, this was a spec house — and yes, there already is a buyer.
Last year, Numen Development owners Katie Nichols and John Walker used shipping containers to construct the Apama Mackey Gallery on 11th St. in the Heights — because the gallery owner wanted a structure she can move when the property owner kicks her off the land. But the house Numen is building on Cordell looks like it’s going to be around for a while. It comes with its own, uh . . . doublewide lot, and it’s right across the street from a meat-processing plant.
After the jump: drawings, models, and an earlier construction photo of this neat little three-bedroom, three-bath, 1,851-square-foot package!
Here’s a building method that seems well-suited for Houston: It’s fast, it’s temporary, and it involves both shipping containers and fine art. Remember the demolition permit for the site on 11th Street in the Heights we mentioned a few days back? By Friday, it’ll have a completed building on it, according to ‘stina, who wrote in her LiveJournal Wednesday:
Today, the shipping containers will be delivered and installed to the new site of the 1400 square foot gallery, and you can see for yourself what this form of construction looks like. They started this morning with merely a few spread footings and grade beams and they’ll finish this evening with all the containers set and a good portion (if not all) of the roof in place.
It’s the new Apama Mackey Gallery, pieced together out of three shipping containers by Numen Development. The gallery will occupy the site for a few years, until the landowner is ready for a more permanent development in that location. Then Mackey will be able to move the gallery to a new lot she hopes to find in the meantime.
Some of the project’s green features, according to ‘stina’s report:
Photo: Flickr user Ross Dunn