Total living space equals 320 square feet and someone will actually live in it

General Motors, in partnership with Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, will build Detroit’s first shipping container homestead using 85 percent scrap materials from the automaker and volunteer employee labour.

The house, which will stand 10 feet tall, eight feet wide, and 40 feet long when it’s completed, will have a total of 320 square feet of living space and be occupied by a student caretaker.

Some reused parts of the project include Chevrolet Volt battery cases (bird houses and planter boxes), sound-deadening vehicle insulation (wall insulation), lockers (planter boxes and tool storage), and small fastener containers (plant/vegetable seedling containers).

Full press release and images below.


GM Plant to Help Build First Shipping Container Homestead

DETROIT, Mich. – General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant is collaborating with Detroit nonprofit Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) to help build the city’s first occupied shipping container homestead.

The home will be constructed of 85 percent scrap materials donated by GM and built in part by employee volunteers. The project is in collaboration with TAKD Design and Integrity Building Group of Detroit.

“This innovative project allows our facility to give back even more and be an integrated community partner while reusing materials that would otherwise be discarded,” said Doneen McDowell, Detroit-Hamtramck plant manager. “MUFI’s plan to reinvent urban agriculture is a creative approach that helps Detroit’s renaissance in a sustainable, efficient manner.”

The container home is about 40 feet long, eight feet wide and 10 feet tall. When completed this spring, the home will feature 320 square feet of living space with two bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen. TAKD Design led the aesthetics and Integrity Building Group developed the build plans and will oversee construction.

MUFI will use the reclaimed container to demonstrate the effectiveness of repurposed materials on dwellings oriented toward urban agriculture. A university student caretaker will live year-round in the home and manage the farm while using the land for agricultural research activities. MUFI was founded in 2012 to empower urban communities by taking vacant land and using agriculture as a platform to promote education, community and sustainability.

GM donated many of the building materials from scrap at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, Brownstown Battery Assembly in Brownstown, Mich., the GM Technical Center in Warren, Mich., and GM Component Holdings in Rochester, N.Y. Some of the repurposed materials include:

  • Chevrolet Volt battery cases will be reused as bird houses and planter boxes
  • Sound-deadening vehicle insulation will insulate walls
  • Lockers will be used as planter boxes and for tool storage
  • Small fastener containers will be used as plant/vegetable starter containers
  • Plywood from large shipping containers will be used for interior wall cladding and some furniture components
  • Metal parts bins will become planter boxes
  • Wood pallets and other scrap wood will be reused to build furniture, including a table and bed frame.

“The home really started as a long-term vision, said Darin McLeskey, MUFI co-founder and vice president. “With Detroit-Hamtramck and the GM Foundation’s help, the reality of a home made from recycled and reused materials on vacant land is sustainable for Detroit, or any big city in the midst of a comeback. We hope this project serves as a source of inspiration and demonstration for many other similar housing types throughout the city.”

Skilled labor from Detroit-Hamtramck’s UAW Local 22 and other GM employee volunteers will help build the home on the grounds of Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly. Experienced volunteers will help cut and install windows and doors, run electrical, install walls, flooring and more. Once complete, the plant will move the house to MUFI’s urban garden located in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood.

The project was made possible through the General Motors Foundation and its annual Plant City Grants program. This year, the GM Foundation will provide more than $1.7 million in funding to 209 organizations in 45 plant cities where GM employees live and work.

Included in this funding, the GM Foundation today donated $50,000 to nine Detroit and Hamtramck charities,  bringing its total investment to more than $200,000 since 2011 within the community.

The 2014 GM Foundation Plant City Grant recipients for Detroit and Hamtramck include:

Detroit-Hamtramck opened in 1985. It is the world’s only automotive plant that mass-produces extended-range electric vehicles – including the Chevrolet Volt, Cadillac ELR and Opel Ampera – for markets in 33 countries. Detroit-Hamtramck also builds the Chevrolet Malibu and Impala sedans and is home to a 264,000-square-foot photovoltaic solar array that can generate up to 516 kilowatts of electricity, or enough to charge 150 electric vehicles per day.




About Mark Stevenson

Mark Stevenson is a former IT professional turned freelance automotive writer and news editor for Autos.ca. He's a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and former member of the Texas Automotive Writers Association (TAWA). Mark spends an inordinate amount of time on motorcycles and resides in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia with his two dogs - Nismo and Maloo. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.