Cordell House

Numen Development, LP fabricated the container modules and performed the on-site assembly and build-out for the Cordell House. It was conceived as an exercise in efficient building, with the most expensive aspects of the house – the structural elements and mechanical core – being partially prefabricated in a shop environment. Critical to the planning process was the future prospect that this project can be substantially dismantled into component parts for reuse or recycling at the end of its useful life.

The house is a 3-bedroom, 3-bath, 1858 sf single-story residence.

Cordell House Facts:

  • Four shipping containers (technically known as ISO-compliant inter-modal shipping units) were utilized in the design. Two 40-foot long, 9’6” tall containers form the two bedroom units, which directly support the three roof beams. The rear freestanding guest unit is a third 40-foot container. A 20-foot long, 8’6’ tall unit forms the kitchen which opens onto the main living area. The main structure was set in a single day and the house was enclosed during the first month.
  • All the containers were repurposed. The three units forming the main house are so-called “one-trippers” that have been used for import from Europe or Asia. The rear structure is a more heavily used unit. Since the US has had a large trade imbalance in recent history, more containers are imported than returned, and are considered a re-usable by-product of the shipping industry.
  • The foundation was created using 34 small piers built on concrete pads 24” below the expansive surface soils. The high number of small piers makes the overall structure less susceptible to settling and seasonal movement.
  • The roof and floor are Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) which are a thick continuous insulating core sandwiched between engineered panels made from recycled wood products. They are custom-fabricated for the project, so no waste is generated in on-site construction.
  • The container modules were insulated using a thin ceramic coating on the exterior and undersides.  Supertherm gives the equivalent of 6 inches of fiberglass insulation at just 10 mils of thickness. Developed as an insulating and fireproofing coating for industrial use, it is completely non-toxic and is used as a coating by NASA for the shuttle booster rockets. This product has received the MBDC Cradle to Cradle certification.
  • The shade screen installed over the steel supports on the south side of the house blocks much of the heat-load from the southern sun.
  • The insulated polycarbonate clerestory window over the master bedroom provides daylight for the entire living area of the house. It was oriented to allow more direct sunlight during the colder winter months and less during the summer season. Windows were oriented to reduce midday heat loads while allowing daylight in strategic areas to reduce daytime lighting requirements.
  • Many of the materials and finishes were specifically chosen for their recycled and/or non-toxic content and overall sustainability. Paints and finishes are extremely low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) with very low levels of chemical solvents.
  • Wall panels are formaldehyde-free fiberboard from recycled wood products and structural beams are engineered from recycled wood as well.
  • Other environmentally preferable products include bamboo flooring and reclaimed materials such as the glass in the master shower and the recycled steel components used to create the Master Bedroom sink.
  • The mechanical and plumbing systems incorporate high-efficiency equipment. The high-velocity Unico A/C system reduces humidity dramatically and mixes the air as effectively as having ceiling fans, thus reducing energy requirements.
  • The building is nearly airtight, and a Renewaire ventilator was included to ensure adequate fresh air exchange; an integral energy recovery unit keeps energy loss to a minimum.
  • The FilterPave driveway is a mixture of 100% post-consumer recycled glass, very clean crushed granite, and a polyurethane binder. It is fully permeable and also serves as a natural filter for hydrocarbons, like spilled oil, which prevents contamination of groundwater. Cost in established markets is ~ $10/sq.ft.
  • Numen Development, LP attempted to divert shop waste products to recycling resources whenever possible and did not maintain dumpsters at either the warehouse or on the jobsite. The emphasis on waste reduction extended to choices of building materials. No sheetrock was used on the project and wood framing is minimal.
  • Cordell House produced only 12 contractor bags of trash during the entire building process!