Living in a Beautiful Shipping Container Home in the City

>>MAT: Hey everyone, in this video we’re visiting the first shipping container home in Toronto, Canada. It’s a stunning space inside and out and we’re really excited to show you around and show you how it was built. The homeowners Anna and Carl were looking for a home for their growing family but because of Toronto’s inflated real estate prices, they decided to build a home above the restaurant that they already owned on Queen Street West. They came up with a plan to float part of the house above the restaurant using pillars and to modify 3 used shipping containers off-site so they could be installed quickly in just a few hours. Carl designed, built, and finished most of this beautiful home himself, including a lot of the welding which helped them save even more money on the build. So let’s go meet up with Anna and Carl to find out more. [Music Playing]>>ANNA: Carl’s from Jamaica. I’m Portuguese and in both those countries, containers get used quite a bit. So we have been seeing containers being used for years. We wondered why it hadn’t happened in Toronto yet, and we really wanted to explore. This is the first container house in Toronto which means we did have to jump through some hula hoops to get here. It took about 6 years of paperwork from when we started drawing out the design, to the permit, and to all other steps and 3 years, from the moment we started digging, actual breaking the ground, to moving in. We already owned this building but it was just the restaurant. It was cheaper because Carl did most of the work and because the price of the houses around here are so high. For us though, more than the price tag was the dream of building our home from scratch. We just didn’t think that we could do it in downtown Toronto. [Music Playing]>>CARL: Toronto has been open. Toronto is that kind of city where a lot can happen here. There’s some gaps in the building codes that allows you to build to the line of the building and we realized we could do this. The question was: How do we do it? How do we do this huge renovation? How do you add 2,800 square feet and not close the restaurant for an indefinite period and then quite potentially go out of business? How do you do that? We framed out an exoskeleton above the restaurant and drop the containers onto it. We constructed everything somewhere else and then bring it in, back it into the alley and drop them one by one. There were issues of wires, Rogers wires and Bell lines. It was just crazy back there, right?>>ANNA: It’s a very busy alley. It gets used a lot.>>CARL: I went through literally 7 crane operators before I found one crazy enough to do it. Two guys came and there was a bunch of hand signals. They were awesome!>>ANNA: All the neighbours came to watch.>>CARL: It was like a party! [Laughter]>>ANNA: We pulled the kids out of school. They came to watch. It was great! It all went really well.>>CARL: They dropped them in 3 hours,>>ANNA: which really does say a lot about what can be done. We had so many restrictions building above a business, building in this tiny space in the back alley on Queen Street. But if you can think about taking containers, modifying them, doing as much as possible off-site and then just actually bringing them in and plopping them down on a piece of land. That is what is amazing about shipping containers. [Machinery sound] Originally, the design used 13 containers. But then we realized that wasn’t feasible. It was going to cost a lot of money. So we had to change our design in order to still use the containers, but only use 3 and then do the rest a conventional build to tie it into the containers.>>CARL: We used high cubes, about 9 foot 6 ceilings. So it was really high>>ANNA: and that’s a great way to create that airy feeling. It’s just having the extra high containers. So the house is 2 storeys up a level. So the ground floor is the restaurant. Then we come up and we have our living room/kitchen area. which also doubles as a yoga studio because I teach yoga here during the day. So it’s all done so that everything moves out of the way and we have lots of space; also, lots of space for our 5 children. Upstairs, we have the bedrooms. We also have a bathroom on the main floor and 2 bathrooms on the top floor. Our life is kind of a whirlwind around this building. It’s a busy space. There’s people in and out all the time but that’s kind of how our life has always been. Except before, we had to travel and now we just do it all here which is beautiful because it really does save on a lot of time. So it’s really nice to be in the neighborhood that we love and just be able to have everything concentrated here. [Music Playing]>>CARL: So I had the idea of what we were doing. I said, ok, I needed this cut out and we drew the plans up. So we cut out everything that needed to be cut out. We insulated the underside of it because the containers would be dropped. Once dropped, you can’t lift it again to insulate it. So we put spray foam on the underside and inside all the joist wells of all of them so that we wouldn’t lose any heat when you put the in-floor heat in. But the walls weren’t framed out, it was just a can. How long did it take to do the interior of the building? A year? Yeah. Insulating these things are a huge concern. Moisture, huge concern. If ever the containers get struck by lightning, it is a metal box just sitting up there. There are all kinds of legitimate concerns. Our temperature varies from plus 40 to minus 40. There’s a lot of movement in steel and wood. How you connect steel to wood and wood to steel and steel to concrete. [The design] has to take the physics into account. My engineer was up for the fun part of it and we figured it out together a lot of it. One of the issues you have with these kind of structures is thermal barriers, when entire sheets of steel get cold, and whatever insulation is there. The containers need that gap so that it doesn’t transfer. We had to think that through because very rarely do you find a house that an entire wall is metal. We used wood where we could because wood doesn’t transfer cold as much. The internal frame on the east side is wood but on the west side is metal because it’s an exterior wall that needs a fire rated material. So the building codes were respected. For example, one of the things we discovered was to put blue skin on the inside of the walls and it changed the entire equation. It’s 2mm thick but it just changes the condensation when it’s applied to the wall. But instead of doing it on the exterior, we did it on the interior of the wall. It was a bit of a nightmare and we are still married! [Laughter] [Music Playing]>>ANNA: My favourite part is our bedroom, and my yoga nook and the balcony. I love it! I’ve got flowers and it’s just so beautiful. I make my coffee and then go back to bed when I can and just sit there and look at it all. It’s just peaceful and beautiful and when all the kids are running around I can sometimes escape, lock the door and just be there.>>CARL: My favorite part of the house is the roof. It was always to take advantage of the view. I still haven’t built that yet but when that is finished, it’s going to be a dope space. It’s a very rare thing these days to build your home from the ground up. It’s been an honour to build this thing. [Music Playing]>>MAT: We first heard about this project a couple of years ago when we met up with Anthony from Storstac. They actually modified the containers for Carl and Anna’s house. If you’re interested in learning more about building with containers, definitely check out the video that we made with them. I’ll link to it in the description below. If you like this video, please share it, be sure to subscribe and thanks for watching.

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