Check Out the Storage Container apartments going up on 7th street in Brookland/Edgewood


“Dear PoPville,

Thought I could send along some progress pics from the storage container apartments going up on 7th street in Brookland/Edgewood. As you can tell these will be in my backyard basically. My roommate and I are less than pleased at this going up in such a residential area and are confused as to why the neighbors didn’t put up more of a fight? We just moved here in April so we had no idea this was happening. I’m interested to see how/if they plan to make this stick out less on this beautiful street. It’s four levels high. Couldn’t get one from the front because they have the street blocked off for construction today.

I’m all for more affordable housing, but I’m pretty “not in my backyard” about this lol.”


Updates as construction progresses. Here’s a report from NBC Washington:

“on Seventh Street, 18 six-ton shipping containers are being stacked to make 24 one-bedroom apartments mostly for student housing.”

74 Comment

  • KSB

    I’ve been following this project in recent weeks, so I don’t have the whole back story, aside from what’s been reported these last few days, and I’m so confused by this.
    I think the concept is great! I think the execution – on that lot, especially – is peculiar. And I think you truly have the right to be a NIMBY on this, OP.

    • Yea! I’m the one who sent these along. I think these would look interesting downtown or maybe a newer part of the city — maybe even next to the two new developments right off the Brookland metro. But nestled in between two normal houses (one with a very nice garden!) in such a residential area is weird.

  • This is the first NIMBY argument I’ve seen on PoPville where I actually say to myself “Oh, I’d be so pissed.” I feel for you on this one, buddy.

    • Agreed. I’d look into getting some mature trees and planting them all along your backyard/view. Hopefully in a a few years it will mostly block this out of view. And will keep your resale value up.

    • Yeah, fuck poor people who need cheap housing in this expensive city. Can’t they move somewhere else?

      • is this confirmed as an affordable housing project? who says rent for this place is lower than anywhere else?

      • Hey! I’m OP. I have no problem with affordable housing, hell that’s why I moved to Edgewood. A good number of the apartments on my block and in the area are section 8, so your sarcasm is out of place. However, I think these are more like stackable trailer parks than legitimate homes. I heard they were going to be rented out relatively cheap, but that’s a rumor, and I don’t know if they’ll be section 8 elligible or not.

        • The material and shape may resemble a trailer – but they can be turned into some really amazing homes. There are some very cool homes in Southern California on the beach made from containers and look nothing like trailers. I’m going to withhold judgement till the building is finished.

          What I would be concerned about is that this are going to be 4 six bedroom units – so essentially you are going to have a dorm as a neighbor. That would bother me – not the building materials.

        • What’s a legitimate home?

    • This is why”Nimby” is such a silly pejorative. everyone is a nimby about something.

  • I think this is awesome, a great re-use of resources and DC needs more varied architecture. If more companies offered them as “turn key” and I had an empty lot I would definitely be putting in a shipping container building.
    I’m confused what the OP objects to – the look? the size? the “affordable” nature of the new residents? I’m gonna just go ahead and guess it is aesthetics to which I say poo. There are plenty of houses I find ugly but I live in a big, diverse city. If I wanted to have veto power over my neighbors windows I would live in a community with a neighborhood association.

    • Can you imagine what a storage container apartment building is going to look like in 10 years? Rusty garbage. It’s blight as-is, I can’t even imagine how awful it’s going to be after a few years of wear.

      • I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the architects and engineers involved have thought that through. Building this stuff isn’t cheap (it is cheap-er but not cheap) and I doubt the developers are spending the money on this with such a short term vision.
        Also, let’s not pretend that conventional buildings “look good in 10 years.” They rust, crack, crumble and age too. There are brand new, modern buildings down the street from me that have cracked concrete, peeling paint and rusted bolts.

      • Because shipping containers are rust-proofed against the elements for when they’re on ships crossing the oceans?

        • Get out of here with your facts and common sense.

          Q- What about rust and corrosion? Won’t a metal shipping container rust quite easily?
          A- No. Remember, an ISBU is a Shipping Container used for ocean shipping, humidity and
          saltwater. A shipping container is a special, non corrosive Corten steel; then, when coated
          with the Ceramic Insulation paint, it becomes virtually rust proof and also prevents mildew,
          mold and is highly antiseptic. There will be no rust problems if you use an ISBA Certified
          Member to build your home.

    • KSB

      My primary objection would be density. I think many will reserve judgement on the aesthetics until the project is completed (many won’t) but having 24 people in that building is an experiment. A little trepidation isn’t too crazy.

    • Wouldn’t it be better to reuse the shipping containers as shipping containers? I don’t think they’re doing this with beaters.

      There are all sorts of pre-engineered residential construction that is probably cheaper and more energy efficient, but the architects are trying to win a merit badge with this stunt.

      Must be hell in a hail storm.

      • One of the reasons they use shipping containers as housing is because the U.S. has such an enormous trade imbalance and shipping the containers back to China or elsewhere costs more than just leaving them in the ports here in the U.S. So they sit stacked up in ports in the U.S. taking up space and costing money.

        On average a 12 foot high by 40 foot long steel shipping container (made with marine-grade steel) with marine-grade hard wood floor costs $2,000 to $3,000. You can purchase 4 or 5 of them and depending on the configuration you choose, you can have a pretty sweet house. I just takes imagination and ingenunity.

        • They still require insulation in a climate like this that ranges from quite cold in the winter, to very hot in the summer. And it’s considerably cheaper to build a wood structure of the same dimensions. Recycling shipping containers into housing is viable in some circumstances, but overall it’s more of a fad than anything else. I looked into putting one in West Virginia as a hunting cabin/weekend getaway, but it turned out to not be worth it, considering the costs to transport and insulate it.

      • tonyr

        In theory yes, but since we import so much stuff from China and don’t export that much there’s a massive imbalance. There’s millions of these thing sitting empty in Long Beach.

        • Surely you are not suggesting that the ships travel back empty when they can take these valuable objects back with them?

          • they do go back fairly empty. shipping rates are a fraction of the price going west because its losing out on money because we import so much stuff

          • they do travel back fairly empty because theres more money to be made shipping lots of stuff from asia than waiting around to fill a full vessel with the (relatively) low level of exports we send back to asia

    • What makes you think concern over the “aesthetics” of a home is “poo”? There’s a big difference between “not my style” and what essentially looks like a shipping dock towering over your backyard fence. Also thumbs down on your unjustifiable suggestion that OP objects to “affordable” home residents… truly uncalled for.

  • You’re confused about why it’s happening in “such a residential area?” Maybe because they are… residences?

    • I mean residential as in families. A lot of the people on this stretch of seventh have owned their houses for decades and there are a lot of families. This seems more suited for a younger/more “hip” area than Edgewood. I love Edgewood, and if I was one of the families living in one of the beautiful older homes in this area I would be upset this was going up next to me. Purely aesthetic.

  • brookland_rez

    I can’t imagine living in a shipping container. Seems like there’s going to be a lot of sound carrying between the units.

    • How are these things insulated? I just have this image of them being 1000 degrees in the summer, -10 in the winter, and noisy as heck.

    • I grew up on an island, and I knew people who lived in repurposed shipping containers. When I read that this is a new concept, I was like “Um, poor people where I’m from have been doing this for a long time.” It was like our version of a trailer which beats a tin roof house. My father actually had a shipping container in our backyard that he used as an “office” at one point, but it got really hot, so he used it as storage later on. I suspect that these will have to have some really good insulation and some form of heating and cooling unit to make the storage containers livable throughout the year. Yeah, they’re not the prettiest, but they’re affordable and sustainable, I guess.

  • Note to future me: never move near this monstrosity.

  • Question for those that know more about shipping containers: Do they finish the containers to look like a traditional house (like all one color?) or to they leave them as pictured above? Also, I would assume that living in a metal container would be unbearably hot in the summer if not insulated properly? Curious if that is the case.

    • brookland_rez

      If you google it, you can see pictures of what other people have done.

    • There are as many ways to insulate them as there are shipping containers. You can use spray foam, straw bales, insulated panels, etc.

      As for color and finish, you can obviously paint them, use wood or composite panels. Heck, you could use vinyl siding like they did in Florida on Bob Vila’ s TV show. If you go on Youtube and type in shipping container homes you’ll see hundreds of different variations of color and finish. As well as hundreds of different designs and configurations. Many of them look very high-end but due to the low cost of the containers they aren’t very expensive.

  • I think they look cool and I am sure the students at CU – who have already rented them all – will love them.

    Besides this is not a new idea. Give them a chance to finish the work. I would bet they turn out better than that nasty empty lot you had. Check out these images from all over the world –;_ylt=A0LEV1lJGtBTbTEAdBdXNyoA?p=shipping+container+apartments&fr=fptb-site&fr2=piv-web

    • Agreed. Liking the look.

      • I admit I thought it was dumb until I googled “shipping container homes” and then I was surprised! There are some really cool homes out there. I’ll wait until these are done to see what they do.

  • I think they’ll be cool if they’re done well. Here’s a link to a shipping container building in Vancouver that looks good:

  • I don’t think neighbors can object on the basis of appearance, but I’m surprised to hear that the building is apparently going to house 24 people. What’s the zoning here? Did the developers have to get a variance?
    In a Washington Post interview, the owners invoked Ayn Rand. Bleurgh.

    • It’s four units with six bedrooms each. From a two second good search, looks like it’s in an R-4 zone on a 4700 square foot lot, which confroms to zoning (900 square feet of lot area per unit). The plan is to rent them to CUA students.

      • Interesting. So you can have umpteen bedrooms per unit, so long as you have no more than four units overall?

        • I’m sure there’s regulations about minimum room size and what not in the building code, but I’m not familiar with those regs.

          • I mean, “there are regulations.” Given the trend in DC to build-out parcels to the max permitted by zoning, I’m kind of suprised they didn’t go for five living units.

  • My wife and I are divided on this. She hates it, I think it’s pretty rad. I live in the neighborhood and think it adds character. I much prefer it to an empty lot or the rundown building that was there.

    I wouldn’t tkae how it looks now to how these can look, some are actually quite awesome looking.

  • I live in the neighborhood and I’m all for this type of creative, re-purposed development. It’s unfortunate how many people there are that will always assume the worst of any new endeavor just because it’s different. While I enjoy living in Brookland, there is certainly no shortage of blighted, run-down properties with overgrown yards which are perpetual eye-sores. How someone can object to people investing their time and money to produce something positive in an empty space is beyond me.

  • sounds like the op is a renter

  • Shipping container and alternative housing have been a big interest of mine. There are literally hundreds of videos on Youtube of fantastic container homes and apartment buildings. There’s a really cool video of a huge shipping container complex in London, England that houses several hundred people. And if anyone remembers Bob Vila from public TV, he has a channel on Youtube where he showcases an entire community in Florida that was bought back from blight using shipping containers as “bridge housing” (using two containers side by side and adding new construction in the middle). The only limits to using shipping containers is the imagination of the owner/builder. Just imagine using them in places like Haiti where there is a real lack of timber for wood framing. They are hurricane proof, rust proof, water proof and they can be stacked at high as 6 stories (I think it was 6 stories?). In some cases owners mount solar panels on top for off-the-grid electricity or fill the roof with soil and have small gardens. And in tropical areas they spray paint them with a coating developed by NASA for the Space Shuttle that keeps the temperatures inside are a livable level. They are used all over the world for housing and commercial uses. There are tons of ways to paint, insulate and decorate them. Many to the point that you would never know that they were shipping containers unless someone told you or you saw them being installed. I’ve been wondering when the rest of the world would catch up on this innovative way of providing housing. I’m excited and I would really like to see more of them.

  • Check out Container City, London England.

  • I live a few blocks down the street from these new apartments. The lot was not previously empty – it had a house that matched the scale and style of the surrounding houses. The pre-construction photo above is not the same lot, but possibly the much larger lot across the street.

    I don’t object to the shipping containers themselves, but there are too many of them crammed into this lot. These are drawing some criticism for the same reasons that pop-ups do.

    • Yea, I wonder if I should email about that not being the right picture? Also, wasn’t it crazy how fast they tore down that house? I was glad, because hearing demolition every day is no fun, just surprised.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I think they are cool!

  • I don’t like it now but I will wait and see how it looks completed before I judge. If you street view the 3300 block of 7th Street NE (7th and Kearny) You can see the single family house that was there, it was not terrible. This is a large building to replace a single family house. (note the Google Street View is from before they broke Ground on the Monroe Street Market so many changes now.)

  • You can read the Zoning Administrator’s determination letter and schematic design drawings of the project at

    The issue is not aesthetic, but one of zoning compliance. This project is a rooming house, or perhaps a new, undefined type of housing, but it should not be construed as an apartment house. The developers have twisted the meanings of terms “apartment,” “dwelling unit,” “family” and “rooming house” as defined in the Zoning Regulations in order to create a project that was never an intended use in the R-4 zone. The reason it has six bedrooms per unit is because that is the maximum number of unrelated people that can live within a single dwelling (see definition of “family”). Note that if the occupants claim that they are a religious community, the number goes up to 15.

    I am a big proponent of shipping container structures but this project sets an incredibly poor precedent that will have unintended and adverse consequences throughout the R-4 zones.

    The community should have had the opportunity to weigh in on this project through a request for zoning relief. DCRA and the ZA denied the community that opportunity. Shame.

  • Ugh,

    I’m not usually a NIMBY and believe popups are fine but this is pretty atrocious. I drove by today on the way home and gagged looking at it. Couldn’t imagine being a neighbor. Pretty hideous.

  • Yeah, I bet when it’s all put together this will be pretty nice looking. It takes some creative and open minds to design something like this in the first place. Plus DC needs more experimental unconventional architecture. I’m optimistic this will turn out well.

  • I don’t quite get why everyone’s assuming this will look bad when complete. See Buzzfeed on the matter:

    • not to troll, but it’s apple to oranges. High end spare no expense boutique cabins and houses vs. shared living space rooming house.

  • I think this use for containers is pretty cool. Four are used for a walk-in and drive-thru Starbucks.

  • clevelanddave

    “Hey, they’re putting a mobile home park next door, honey.” She says “Oh, that’s cool, I’ve seen some really great mobile home parks.”

    The reality is that it’s highly likely that a group house made of used shipping containers crammed into a lot in an urban neighborhood is going to be a disaster. Just because it could possibly be really interesting does not mean it is likely to be great.

    There is almost no way this is going to not have a negative impact on housing prices for the units adjacent to it. It certainly won’t increase add value to the block. The most likely outcome will be when you say “I live on X,” someone will say “oh, that is the block with the shipping containers!” Also another advantage is that when it comes time to tearing them down they’ll be easy to dismantle.

    Anyone who has hung around lots of used shipping containers will know why they aren’t good long term building material. Again, that does not mean it couldn’t be be a cool project, but I wouldn’t want to live next door and find out.

    Whomever approved this zoning variance should lose their job. Now.

  • Anonymous 9:26, the buzzfeed images are cool…as objects set in a natural landscape, devoid of the architectural context of an urban setting. In this case, they are installed in an inappropriate context and the concept of high tech modular prefab housing is being used as eyewash to subvert zoning laws that regulate density, privacy and access to light and air for the common good.

  • I’m surprisingly in the pro-shipping container commenters. Because they are so different, they don’t strike me as offensive as some of the pop-ups we’ve seen (traditional row houses with the crazy uncle design on top).
    I’ve “lived” – ie for a few weeks – in a shipping container on a few different occasions and it was just normal.

  • And this is why folks should embrace the historic preservation district status. You preclude this kind of nonsense, as well as popups. Annoying — yes. But ultimately for the best.

    • I am so grateful I live in a historic neighborhood. I don’t really mind these shipping containers however there are some pop ups that are way more offensive. In my opinion.

  • This is horrible. So much for maintaining the character of the neighborhood. These “developers” are a joke. This should at least serve as a warning to the rest of the city whenever someone proposes a container project. Stop it at all costs!

  • I love this. I’ve lived in Brookland (owner) for seven years and am thrilled. I love the idea of all sorts of housing styles and density levels. Neighborhoods do not have character, people do. If you want all houses to look the same in accordance with some character you dreamed up, consider a suburb. Also, do a little research and you’ll see that shipping container houses are actually pretty cool. Not ugly, inefficient, or an eyesore. And if simply thinking something was unattractive or an eyesore was grounds for it not existing, 60% of DC and a solid percentage of its residents would be razed. Get over it. This is your neighborhood. Plant some big trees if the view offends you that much.

    • +1. Dc is like a gated community–everyone is obsessed with the “character” of a neighborhood. As if Brookland is such a darling of aesthetic beauty. These NIMBYS will not be happy until someone puts vinyl siding, or brick, and decorative shutters on this house.

  • My big problem with this is that there are no windowson the front of the building, making it looks just like an ominous stack of containers from the street. While containers are not my chosen aesthetic, I think I could accept it if the front of the thing didn’t look so ominous.

  • I hate it when everyone’s tastes aren’t exactly like mine and when I have to coexist with others.

  • Well, the idea that anyone is undertaking a project like this because it’s “sustainable” or “innovative” or “efficient” is completely naive. While it may possibly be those things, anyone in DC real estate these days is out to squeeze as many nickels as possible out of the same postage stamp-sized parcel. Yes, I’ve heard all the lame arguments before about how pop-ups and the like contribute to “density” – except that the District overall doesn’t have a density problem. The half dozen trendy neighborhoods in this town DO have a density problem, but building pop-ups just prevents people from seeking housing in other (read: less trendy) parts of the District where you can find single-family 4 bedroom houses all day long for $400,000 or less. Apparently it’s better to pay even more than that for an 800 square foot unit of a townhouse that has been subdivided three ways.

  • I am going to save the architectural review until the structure is complete but this situation and similar concerns with popups across the city makes me wonder if there will be an increased interest in new historic districts. It seems like there were a number of them set up 10 or more years ago but I don’t know how many new ones have been created recently, particularly since the population growth in the city kicked into high gear. Also, will this increase the value of those homes that are in historic districts? I suppose so if enough people value the fact that it prevents dramatic alterations to their neighbors homes. Living in one now and knowing the inherent beauty of my block won’t change is important to me and I would make sure any future home I purchase is in a similar neighborhood. That being said, I think it is incumbent on the property owners to know what is allowed in their neighborhood and if they don’t like it they can move, advocate for new zoning restrictions or create a historic district. In this case it sounds like the builder is building a structure that is perfectly legal and will serve the neighboring college community. Personally, I would be extremely cautious about buying property near a university just because of the likelihood of group homes and high density properties like this one. I also have learned to stay at least two blocks away from commercial corridors as well as to not buy in mixed zoning environments that puts restaurants, housing and industrial uses in one location. That might be fine for other people but I know it comes with a loss of sanitation, peace and quiet. Everything boils down to being an informed buyer and knowing what you can afford and in what location you want to be. A cheap property may not be such a great deal if they can put a 12 story building or a parking garage next door. On the other hand, if you can make a mint buy selling your property to the person putting up the apartment building, maybe it is worth it. And if the zoning has loopholes that allow a type of housing that you think is incompatible, then you have to take your case to the City Council to have that addressed legislatively. I don’t think it is the property owners responsibility to make his neighbors happy as long as he or she complies with the legal requirements.

  • Actually, it’s almost impossible to make a zoning complaint. First of all, there is ONE zoning enforcement officer for the entire city. Secondly, there is no process to file a complaint unless related to a board of zoning adjustment order.

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