Creating housing from old shipping containers is generally the stuff of high-end design magazines and the territory of the urban and hip.
But one San Antonio developer is taking shipping containers to the Eagle Ford Shale region, with a project that brings modern design to the oil patch.
David Monnich has started construction in Encinal, between Laredo and Cotulla off of Interstate 35, on what will eventually be a 70-unit apartment complex made from recycled shipping containers.
The apartments are mostly two-bedroom units with 840 square feet of space and patios, created by putting together two shipping containers plus an additional space that holds the plumbing, bathrooms and kitchens. The first seven units are in place now and getting interior finishes, but the first 35 should be in place by the end of the summer.
The project’s conceptual design is by Mike McGlone and Helen Pierce of Alamo Architects — the firm that designed The Shops at La Cantera and other landmarks — and won a studio award last year from the Texas Society of Architects.
“The idea was to come up with something I could personally be happy living in,” Monnich said.
He has long developed retail centers, but said he became intrigued by shipping containers after seeing apartments in Europe that use them as building blocks.
“We have always used shipping containers for storage,” he said. “Having seen what people have done with them in Europe and other places, I decided to tinker with it.”
A few years ago, he used containers to build a concession stand and bathroom at the Miracle League Field near Wolff Stadium.
Monnich said the Encinal project isn’t a so-called “man camp” that will just serve oil-field workers.
He owns a ranch nearby and said the area lacked adequate housing even before the shale boom. He wanted to create a project that will be permanent, and that hopefully families will want to live in.
Monnich hasn’t set a monthly rental price for the units yet.
“We’ve lived through this incredible economic growth and what comes with that,” he said. “There hasn’t been new housing there for years. Plenty of people will be living there after this is over. There’s a demand for families and people, and not necessarily just for the workforce.”
The shipping containers were purchased in Houston and modified in San Antonio.
And they’re something of a pilot project for Monnich. Although the Encinal project is permanent, he and a group of investors plan by the fall to start selling them or leasing them to companies or individuals who need to quickly assemble affordable housing, but want something that’s more structurally sound and attractive than a trailer.