D.C. rides wave of the future: Sea containers as homes

Could you live in a shipping container? More architects and developers are repurposing sea containers into homes. But don't worry; it's not as small as it sounds.

WASHINGTON — In Travis Price’s dream world, he would build a floating village — “just like Sausalito” — over Washington’s waterfront. Only his floating village would be constructed out of repurposed shipping containers.

Price, a D.C. architect, also imagines mobile shipping container apartments, stacked in steel frame buildings.

“And then when you move from Chicago to Mississippi, there’s another 10-story. And you rise up [your condo] on an exterior elevator, plug in and you bring your home with you,” Price says.

“What’s to stop us from having that kind of flexibility? We’re a mobile society, we just haven’t caught up with ourselves yet when it comes to buildings.”

Price isn’t asking people to live in small, dark, enclosed colored boxes that slide up and down gray, industrial buildings. Rather, he envisions homeowners and developers repurposing materials that are overabundant, and finding ways for them to fit into a home’s design — like shipping containers.

“There are over 700,000 sea containers sitting foul, going nowhere in the U.S. Remember, we imported all the stuff. All of your iPhones came in those containers, but we’re not sending anything back,” he says.

“Not everything is handcrafted by a chisel and a hammer anymore, so when you start to use these very clever pieces of modern genius, you come up with why Henry Ford gave us all cars, to move us forward.”

In his eyes, D.C. is already moving forward. Price is the architect behind an apartment project that is generating a lot of buzz in the Northeast neighborhood of Brookland. It’s a four-story, 24- occupant development, made from 18 repurposed shipping containers, plus a basement.

Price pitched the building’s design this past spring when Catholic University graduates Sean Joiner and Matthew Grace came to Price for help rebuilding a property they purchased and knocked down.

“Their first response was, ‘No way.’ And then after about a half-hour, it was,