Architecture

Shipping container-based house will catch the rays in California

Shipping container-based house...
The Joshua Tree Residence is due to begin construction in 2018
The Joshua Tree Residence is due to begin construction in 2018
View 12 Images
The Joshua Tree Residence is slated for a 90-acre (36-hectare) plot in Joshua Tree, California
1/12
The Joshua Tree Residence is slated for a 90-acre (36-hectare) plot in Joshua Tree, California
The Joshua Tree Residence is due to begin construction in 2018
2/12
The Joshua Tree Residence is due to begin construction in 2018
The Joshua Tree Residence's living area
3/12
The Joshua Tree Residence's living area
The Joshua Tree Residence's bedroom. Due to its small size, residents would need to climb into the bed from behind
4/12
The Joshua Tree Residence's bedroom. Due to its small size, residents would need to climb into the bed from behind
The Joshua Tree Residence's containers are situated to make the most of the view
5/12
The Joshua Tree Residence's containers are situated to make the most of the view
Another shot of the Joshua Tree Residence's living room
6/12
Another shot of the Joshua Tree Residence's living room
The Joshua Tree Residence's dining area
7/12
The Joshua Tree Residence's dining area
The Joshua Tree Residence will be run using solar power
8/12
The Joshua Tree Residence will be run using solar power
"A combination of light paint color on the outside to reflect the heat, and high-performing insulation will be used to reduce heat gain," says the architect James Whitaker
9/12
"A combination of light paint color on the outside to reflect the heat, and high-performing insulation will be used to reduce heat gain," says the architect James Whitaker
The Joshua Tree Residence is due to begin construction in 2018
10/12
The Joshua Tree Residence is due to begin construction in 2018
Inside the Joshua Tree Residence's living room
11/12
Inside the Joshua Tree Residence's living room
Hechingen Studio, the original office the Joshua Tree Residence is based on – the model was made by Make Models, Marrickville, New South Wales and is on display at the National Maritime Museum of Australia
12/12
Hechingen Studio, the original office the Joshua Tree Residence is based on – the model was made by Make Models, Marrickville, New South Wales and is on display at the National Maritime Museum of Australia
View gallery - 12 images

A few years ago, architect James Whitaker designed an office made from jutting shipping containers. Though striking to look at, it was never built. Fast-forward to this year and a Los Angeles-based film producer happened to see the office online. Inspired, he commissioned Whitaker to make him a solar-powered house based on its design on a large plot of land in Joshua Tree, California.

Though London-based Whitaker is a trained architect, he's also a photographer and digital artist who, as he puts it, "uses a computer to create photographs of things that don't exist." This explains the high quality of his renders – to be clear, the home pictured hasn't actually been built yet, though it's due to start construction sometime in 2018.

The Joshua Tree Residence is planned for a rugged mountainside plot measuring 90 acres (36 hectares) and its interior will comprise a total floorspace of 200 sq m (2,152 sq ft). The original office design (models of which can be seen in the gallery) has been altered a little and the containers will be angled so as to either maximize the view or ensure privacy, depending on the room's intended use.

Inside, the residence will include three bedrooms, a like number of en-suite bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room, and living room. In addition, the garage will be topped by solar panels that will power the home.

Another shot of the Joshua Tree Residence's living room
Another shot of the Joshua Tree Residence's living room

Resembling an oversized spiky cactus rising out of the desert, the Joshua Tree Residence is an impressive-looking luxury home. That said, a skeptical eye must be cast on the containers' heat performance in a desert climate. Put simply, a big metal box is likely to get uncomfortably hot inside when installed in a hot climate.

That's not to say shipping containers can't be used in extreme climates, just that they may not always make sense. We asked Whitaker about the measures that would be taken to cool the home.

"A combination of light paint color on the outside to reflect the heat, and high-performing insulation will be used to reduce heat gain," said the architect. "The windows at the top of the building will swing open to allow hot air to naturally vent out and then finally there will be some air conditioning that will be powered by solar panels."

Perhaps he could install a shipping container-based pool as another apt way of cooling down, too.

Source: Whitaker Studio

View gallery - 12 images
4 comments
Nik
OK, he has solar panels for electricity, but where will his water supply come from, and what about waste disposal? It matters not what colour you paint anything in a desert, white rocks still become too hot to touch, air conditioning, will still be essential. A subterranean pool below the house might be a useful addition, both for a water supply, and for temperature control, if he has a water supply. A motel in Death Valley has it water supply piped in, from miles away, but its near boiling by the time it reached the motel so a cooling system had to be installed, just to bring the water to a drinkable temperature. I reckon that the solar panel array will have to be enormous to cater for all the power requirements of this dwelling, which seems to me to be just another architects impractical fantasy.
Veronica Roach
Seems to me to be just a silly Architect's fantasy house - we could all participate in this design exercise, and really what is the point of it ? Just for the sake of having something 'different' to brag about & show off to customers ? If you want to build something useful in a place like this desert just build an underground home & you have eliminated half the problems - just dig enough original soil/rocks out & you could use the containers underground too if you have to use containers - then you can have almost free cooling if it's deep enough - there was a beautiful one built underground with trees planted in deep places inside the home's area - forgotten where that was. but I think it was very old too ! These ideas are not new. Sorry forget this silly container house !
Douglas Bennett Rogers
This is a luxury house so the owner isn't worried about utility costs or bringing in utilities, which could be $100,000 for a lone house in the desert. A basement is a good economy but probably not in southern California where custom forms and engineering are required. A white roof in the desert only feels warm, while a dark roof cannot be touched. A white roof reflects most of the energy directly to space.
Tom Lee Mullins
I think that is a neat design and great way to use shipping containers.