Life in a Detroit Shipping Container, With Chickens And Ducks

May 13, 2013, 11:02 PM

A shipping container was delivered (and decorated) last week in Eastern Market, a prototype for what will hopefully be Collision Works, a boutique hotel being built from shipping crates more commonly seen on freighters and trains.

But it won't be Detroit's first shipping container living space.

If you stop by the former site of Peck Elementary School at Lawrence and Rosa Parks and peek through the crops at the urban farm known as Food Field, you'll see a shipping container house, complete with a brick wall, tiled shower, and lofted bed.

Shipping container buildings aren't exactly new. They've been repurposed into trendy libraries, coffee shops, student housing, and clinics, and are used by people seeking cheap housing alternatives in countries like the US, Britain and China. But they're relatively new to Detroit. Food Field co-founder Noah Link says he hasn't heard of any other shipping container dwellings in the city.

Link, a Boston Edison resident who grew up in Laingsburg and graduated from U-M, is building Food Field's home "for lack of any permanent structures on the property." The rest of the land is used to raise crops.

From the inside, it's hard to recognize the space as a container. One end opens up into a live/work space with a shower, lofted bed, brick wall, and wood-burning stove.

Left: The lofted bed will sit on top of the wooden shelf. Right: The stove is backed by salvaged bricks.

The opposite end is a storage space that will one day hold a walk-in cooler McGuyvered from insulation, an air conditioner, and a device called a CoolBot that supercharges the air conditioner to cool the space to refrigerator-like temperatures.

"We needed something secure, durable, and water tight," Link says. "And we're trying to reuse as many resources as we can."

The shower is built from glass block reclaimed from the Board of Water and Light in Lansing and tiled with salvaged finds from Hantz Liquidations, which sells building supplies and is run by fellow urban farmer John Hantz. It's heated with a wood burning stove and insulated with recycled foam board. There's no electricity - solar panels will one day provide the basics - and rainwater is stored in tanks on the roof.

Featured_aquaponics_050813_6016_copy_5219 Left: The shower. Middle: The door to the live/work space. Right: The door to the storage area. Water storage tanks can be seen above the shipping container.

It's not a house, exactly, since the structure has no registered address. It's a "work and storage space," Link says. Food Field plans to use the makeshift home so workers can spend more time at the farm, whichs plans to raise fish for commercial purposes in the near future.

In the mean time, the farm already has chickens and ducks. 

Which leads us to this conclusion: If the farm's birds have a coop to rest in, Link must figure, why shouldn't he have something as well?

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