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Converted shipping containers explored as housing in Habitat project

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By Kelly Cantrall

The latest project for Hardin County Habitat Home Repair is a life-changing one for a local resident, but it could produce an innovative way to bring affordable housing to people across the state.
The new home for Upton resident Joann Priddy is a pilot project by the state Habitat organization for the use of converted shipping containers as housing.
Hardin County Habitat volunteers likely will begin laying the foundation for the house in April, while a container will be outfitted as a residence to place on the foundation.
Holly Todd, a sustainable building specialist for Habitat in Kentucky and Ohio, said discussions of using shipping containers have taken place over the past couple years.
They’re very structurally sound and can be designed energy-efficient, she said.
Officials would like to use the containers as replacements for mobile homes, Todd said, because they probably are 10 times more structurally secure.
As far as energy costs, the structures could provide a savings of hundreds of dollars, she said.
Such containers have been used as houses for many years, but often have been converted into very high-end homes, Todd said. They’ve been used as vacation homes or stacked as apartments in Europe, she said.
The process to convert a container into a home begins with thoroughly cleaning the structure, and sealing it with ceramic paint, which acts as an insulator, Todd said. Windows and doors are cut into the container and structural support is added.
Rooms are lined out in the container, creating living space, a bathroom, a kitchenette and a bedroom, she said.
The biggest challenge for Habitat in this project, Todd said, is finding qualified workers to do the necessary painting, cutting and welding work that’s required for the conversion.
Habitat officials hope this pilot can help determine whether this type of project is volunteer-friendly and how complicated it is, Todd said.
Todd’s personal goal is to use containers as shelter for homeless veterans. Veterans are unable to receive government benefits if they don’t have an address.
“What we’re finding more and more is there are a lot of people in dire straits,” she said.
The Kentucky Housing Corp. is participating in the pilot as well, Charla Jackson Peter, managing director of communications and marketing services, said in an email. Peter said the organization is interested in new ways of creating affordable houses that are energy efficient.
“Affordable housing is a cornerstone to a stronger economy and innovative solutions are needed to create affordable housing in the state,” she said in the email.
Peter said KHC officials want to learn about construction requirements and costs for this type of project compare to other rehabilitation efforts.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at 270-505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.