Several years ago, the idea was hatched to have Canyon Del Oro High School students build a home from a cargo shipping container. Now, after most of the legal hoops have been jumped through and the plans are nearly finalized, physical construction can begin.

School programs from around Southern Arizona have used their architecture and construction classes to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. CDO’s Joint Technical Education District (JTED) construction and architecture teacher Jim Luckow said the drawback to having students construct a home on a school campus was when it came time to physically relocate the house to the home site. The organization would have to spend $10,000 to move it, which wasn’t an efficient business plan.

“I was looking for an alternative to that type of project,” Luckow said. “Because what was really cool about those projects is that it allowed my students to demonstrate their skill sets in a specific project.”

So the idea was hatched to follow a rising trend of turning a cargo container into a studio-sized home that was about 225-square-feet that had a living space, a full bathroom and a full kitchen.

Little did Luckow and his students know, they were then diving into the area of a manufactured home, which fell under a new type of governing process.

After about a year passed, the school became properly licensed and bonded to build a home from a shipping container from a set design. The plan was to start building the home in early 2013, but a couple approached the school and wanted the students to build them a home to be placed in Catalina. They wanted to use two 20-foot containers and two 40-foot containers, making for a home that was about 1,200-square-feet. The class then had to begin designing a new home when it learned the zoning for plots of land in Pima County specifically did not allow for shipping container homes.

On April 1, eight students from Luckow’s architecture and construction classes took the variance proposal to Pima County’s Development Services’ Board of Adjustment and it was approved unanimously 5-0. 

The plan now is to have the house completed by the end of next school year. 

For students like senior Isaiah Unruh, he won’t be a part of finishing the home, but has been instrumental in dealing with and designing the changes for the home and getting the proper paper work done in order for the project to be completed.

“I have always been appreciative that we get such a great education with these extra curricular things that we can learn construction and architecture in high school where it is free where most people don’t have that opportunity,” Unruh said. “So, its really cool to see that a real project like this, that I have seen benefit me, will continue to benefit other students in the future.”

Though he doesn’t get to build it, he knows his plans and designs will eventually be used. And the process of working on real-world projects has opened his eyes to the world beyond high school.

“Generally when you have a project in class, it’s conceptual,” Unruh said. “You are doing most of the plans, but if you leave a little out here and there, it doesn’t really matter. Where as if you are submitting something to the State, and having to deal with actually building it, it is a lot different.”

CDO junior Meredith Alarcio-Caldon started becoming involved with the project this year and plans to be on board through next year and see the house all the way to completion.

“Seeing the project develop has been beneficial, but I am excited to see it finished,” she said.

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