October 1, 2014

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Lorain family plans container home

Johnny Evans Sr. sits outside the former site of his house after a crew demolished it Monday. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Johnny Evans Sr. sits outside the former site of his house after a crew demolished it Monday. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

LORAIN — A West 26th Street home was razed Tuesday and in its place is a plan for a house built from steel shipping containers.

Johnny Evans Jr., 31, said using the unconventional building material has been an idea of his for years. The destruction of his father’s home to fire in November gave him the opportunity to test the concept. He hopes to build the house in the next six months.

On Tuesday, the fire-ravaged duplex the Evans family lived in for more than 30 years met the claw of an excavator.

Standing nearby was a father and son with their minds trained on the future.

It was a bittersweet moment for Johnny Evans Sr., 76.

“It’s hard to say how you feel when something like this happens to you,” the elder Evans said . “We lost our home.”

This computer model shows the planned design for the house to be constructed out of shipping containers.  COURTESY JOHNNY EVANS JR.

This computer model shows the planned design for the house to be constructed out of shipping containers. COURTESY JOHNNY EVANS JR.

But his son and namesake said the home he plans to build in its place could start a wave of new construction in Lorain — a location that is known for steel production.

“It’s sad we had to lose our family home, but I’m excited we will be able to replace it with a new forever home,” said the younger Evans, owner of J Evans Custom Home Construction. “Instead of wood, we will frame the home almost completely out of steel. It will be more energy efficient and cost 10 to 20 percent less than a conventionally-built home.”

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom home will feature most of the living space on the first floor.

It will include solar energy and radiant heat as well as a rooftop garden and patio. Evans contends the new home will be fire-proof as well as mold- and rodent-resistant.

Three-dimensional drawings of the proposed house show a simple, contemporary design.

It will be much smaller than the duplex that had nine bedrooms among three units on three floors. The elder Evans said coals from a barbecue grill placed too close to the home caused the fire a day before Thanksgiving.

“It went from the back of the house to the basement, up the wall and just all over,” he said. “We lost everything.”

The younger Evans said he hopes others will see his father’s home and want one of their own in the future.

With simple modifications, the homes can be built larger or smaller to fit family needs.

“And, it can be built fast, too,” he said. “They are built in about a day by stacking shipping containers and welding them together. I think it’s cool that people can go from a plot of land to a new, modern home in just a day or so. It’s about a week for the full buildout.”

Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer said the house will require property permits.

He thinks the idea to use steel shipping containers as the base material is an interesting one.

“I’m open to discussing all things that are unique and different and taking this project into consideration based on how it looks, fits into the existing neighborhood and how neighbors feel about it,” he said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.


  • Larry Crnobrnja

    And I’m sure the neighborhood will look just fine with a home built out of shipping containers. (not)

    • Bill Love

      why so negativefrom the model it looks like a very nice house

      • Larry Crnobrnja

        Do you know what a seatainer looks like?

        • Bill Love

          No but I no what a steel container looks did u look at the model it is not going to be a Plane steel container they’re going to make you look like a house

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            I’m betting the plan is to use damaged seatainers (container used for shipping freight by sea). It won’t look like the model in this article.

          • Bill Love

            We will see thanks for explaining seatainers I think this man us trying something new and hope it works out for him

  • Reagan

    I think this sounds like a wonderful idea.Go for it.

  • oldruss

    Why not just bring in a modular house, shake-wood shingle roof, wood siding, etc., just like what Bishop (don’t remember his first name) put up in the Kings Woods, back when Joe Koziura was mayor. A modular house would have to look better than a shipping container.

    • oldruss

      Or, better yet, just haul in a mobile home, pull off the axles, and plop it down on a slab.

  • Tim Brookes

    This is great! This housing concept has been making more headway and is very sustainable.

    • Simon Jester

      Sustainable.

      You keep using that word…

  • Otter

    This is a great idea, repurposing shipping containers, to build a more efficient, and cost effective home. Best of luck to the Evans family, I’m sure they will have many hoops to jump through in trying to get all of the permits they will need.

  • Oneday67

    On the bright side, he won’t be able to burn it down while cooking on the barbecue. SMH

  • michelle

    Good for you! Can’t wait to see the finished product. I like the roof garden idea. Thinking “inside the box.”

  • unknown

    from my understanding of the project, it will look just like a normal house just have steel as the frame instead of wood which will give people an added sense of security knowing that their house is fireproof mold proof and rodent proof. I’m looking forward to seeing more projects like this in the area.I also believe they can build small cost-effective homes for low income fam. Go evans home

  • Bruce Tennant

    using shipping containers to build homes is really taking off and there are some very nice homes built that way.

  • Mr Fahts

    Smart move for Lorain, the steel will stop more bullets than conventional materials.

    • Phil Blank

      Its not “that” thick, its a shipping container, meant to be light-weight.

  • Pablo Jones

    An added bonus it should also be bullet resistant.

    • Joe Smith

      I would bet a .22 would go through it if straight on, people have shot right through stop signs which are as thick .

      • Pablo Jones

        Key word resistant. 14 gauge shipping container steel is about 1/16″ thick. On it’s own not the best bullet stopper. But it’s corrugated steel so less likely for a straight on shot. Add in material on the outside (stucco, insulation, siding, etc), then the container, and the inside material (more insulation, plywood, drywall, etc. I would imagine the walls will be pretty thick and should slow a bullet down enough to limit damage.

        • Joe Smith

          Can’t argue with that

  • 2111

    What does Lorain producing steel have to do with these surplus Chinese shipping containers being used as building materials? Maybe the city should require the construction to be done with domestic steel only. That should stifle any growth.

  • jq

    I’ve seen a shopping center of containers before. I wonder if it will be harder to cool in the summer.

  • Phil Blank

    They won’t stop bullets, its thin steel, a light-weight gage steel for shipping.
    Rats can and do chew through steel, as strange as that may seem. There is massive amounts of anecdotal evidence from building workers and residents from New York City alone. Typically, the steel chewed through is of the thinner gauges, and typically they do this to get to the other side for either an escape route or to access something they want.

  • Phil Blank

    A good place for lightning strikes.
    worng climate.

    TemperatureSteel conducts heat very well; containers used for human occupancy in an environment with extreme temperature variations will normally have to be better insulated than most brick, block or wood structures.As noted above, single wall steel conducts heat. In temperate climates, moist interior air condenses against the steel, becoming clammy. Rust will form unless the steel is well sealed and insulated.The size and weight of the containers will, in most cases, require them to be placed by a crane or forklift. Traditional brick, block and lumber construction materials can often be moved by hand, even to upper stories.The use of steel for construction, while prevalent in industrial construction, is not widely used for residential structures. Obtaining building permits may be troublesome in some regions due to municipalities not having seen this application before.To meet Australian government quarantine requirements most container floors when manufactured are treated with insecticides containing copper (23–25%), chromium (38–45%) and arsenic (30–37%). Before human habitation, floors should be removed and safely disposed. Units with steel floors would be preferable, if available.A container can carry a wide variety of cargo during its working life. Spillages or contamination may have occurred on the inside surfaces and will have to be cleaned before habitation. Ideally all internal surfaces should be abrasive blasted to bare metal, and re-painted with a nontoxic paint system.SolventsSolvents released from paint and sealants used in manufacture might be harmful.While in service, containers are damaged by friction, handling collisions, and force of heavy loads overhead during ship transits. The companies will inspect containers and condemn them if cracked welds, twisted frames or pin holes are found, among other faults.

  • Phil Blank

    Don’t get me wrong, they can and do look good, plus they recycle something the company would scrap if dammaged.

    Haveing too many comtainers takes up too much valuable dock space or storage area, they have to get rid of them somehow.