PREFAB FRIDAY: Adam Kalkin’s Quik House

by , 06/30/06

Quik House, Adam Kalkin, Prefab, Prefab Housing, Prefab Friday, Green Design, Sustainable Design, Eco Design, Green Architecture, Eco Architecture, Sustainable Architecture, Green Building, Modular House, Shipping container architecture, container building

If you were to look up “mad genius” in the dictionary, you might find a picture of Adam Kalkin. One glance through his vast portfolio and it’s clear that this is not the work of an ordinary mind. The bulk of Kalkin’s large-scale work involves shipping containers and steel Butler buildings. His cargo dwellings were featured last December in the New York Times and won an instantly fanatical audience (ourselves included).

Of particular interest to Inhabitat today is Khalkin’s Quik House – a prefab housing kit made up of recycled shipping containers. The prefab house can be assembled in 8 weeks into a boxy 2000 sq ft house which includes three bedrooms and two and one-half baths. At $76,000 its one of the cheapest and quickest prefab options currently on the market, and although we’ve not seen any real photographs of the Quik House, Adam Kalkin’s other recycled cargo houses prove that the man knows what he’s doing when it comes to turning a metal box into someone’s little slice of heaven.

+ $76,000 from Adam Kalkin

Push Button House, Quik House, Adam Kalkin, Prefab, Prefab Housing, Prefab Friday, Green Design, Sustainable Design, Eco Design, Green Architecture, Eco Architecture, Sustainable Architecture, Green Building, Modular House, Shipping container architecture, container building, recycled shipping containers

Moving up the chain of artiness is Adam Kalkin’s Push Button House. This single shipping container steel box opens on automatic hinges like a Murphy bed, revealing gorgeous – if compact – living quarters arranged within. We had a chance to see the unfolding action live at the Mobile Living Exhibition in May. Each side of the container produced a complete room, firmly adhered to the floor. (I had to wonder about the toilet water…)

Kalkin also dedicates a significant portion of his cargo container concept design to refugee housing. On his site, Architecture and Hygiene (also the name of the book anthologizing his work), he has a number of drawings of stacked container units forming a large-scale shelter around a courtyard. The building incorporates used military parachutes and vertical farming.

Perhaps best of all is his book, Architecture and the Velvet Fist of Happiness. Viewable in its entirety online, this is prime evidence of Kalkin’s extraordinary virtuosity — and though it’s free, a note invites contributions toward the development of refugee and disaster relief housing (though the practicalities of the fundraising are admittedly unclear).

<img src="12 Container House, Quik House, Adam Kalkin, Prefab, Prefab Housing, Prefab Friday, Green Design, Sustainable Design, Eco Design, Green Architecture, Eco Architecture, Sustainable Architecture, Green Building, Modular House, Shipping container architecture, container building, recycled shipping containers

Kalkin’s creative arsenal seems to have more corners and secret rooms than any one could every fully explore. The architectural works he’s completed are as sophisticated and elegant as anything we’ve seen, while the hand-scrawled drawings in his digital diaries display an altogether different sensibility.

According to a magazine I happened upon a few days ago (and sadly didn’t keep), Kalkin’s newest plan is a mobile museum packed into a car. The museum will “lease space” in much the same way Rebar’s PARK(ing) space project or Rakowitz’ P(LOT) did — with coins in a meter. The museum will open wherever parking can be found, and close when the doors are locked. A little bit nomadic innovation, a little bit urban intervention – sounds like a project to keep an eye on…

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  1. MARQ March 19, 2012 at 5:32 pm


  2. Visadiaries August 21, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Push to talk is often confused as being the same thing as a two way radio. While it is true that two way radios use push to talk communication (think walkie-talkies), push to talk or PTT is a feature that can be added on to a cell phone plan for use on your cell phone. Two way radios on the other hand, are simply two way radios, with no additional features

  3. DoMyOwnEvictions July 21, 2010 at 11:43 am

    One of those things, and it is more common than you might think, is when your lease calls for the maximum occupancy to be six people and you find out there are about ten people living at your house.

  4. palliser sofas July 4, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Excellent Stuff
    Prefab house is actually a short-term used for prefabricated homes that only mean a house, which has components manufactured in any given off-site industrial facility. A prefab house is further recognized as a modular home or factory-made house. By making a prefab house off-site waste is lessen and low energy and time are used in such sort of construction. Additionally, a slab put in for a prefabricated house is really easier to organize than the base of any traditional home.

  5. matthew March 9, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    This is of course why they are Emergency housing only unless insulated!

  6. matthew March 9, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Yes they can of course be anchored (and should be!) to typical footings with standard shipping container bolts or roll your own bolting/welding.

    They ARE NOT ENERGY EFFICIENT HOMES not unless you use “reefers” Refrigerated Shipping Containers which are pre-insulated all the way around with R2-2.5 (Australian R values ~R0.5-R0.625 per inch) Polystyrene internally.

    Standard un-insulated containers are not recommended for use in almost any climate zone you can think of in my opinion and makes a nonsense of this guy credentials — you will spend a small fortune on space heating/cooling!!!

    I will build my home using “reefers” thankyou!

    BTW: I am an Energy Auditor and Home Thermal Comfort analyst.

  7. sr November 3, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    Paint with glass microspheres is good insulation (buy buvkets and mix them in) and silver paint works well to reflect sunlight. I have two 40′ High Cubes for shop buildings and want more. See the Tandemloc company for fittings and a catalog with dimensioned drawings. Sea Box makes excellent military and commercial container structures and their site is worth a look.

  8. Bill Miles July 7, 2007 at 4:33 am

    They sell insulated and even refrigerated containers with onboard or seperate generators (electric or diesel). There’s always central ac.

  9. bill hedges February 10, 2007 at 1:44 am

    I WOULD NEED A lot OF INSULATION TO MAKE THAT IDEA WORK! or bury it cold winters hot summers.

  10. maarten221 October 31, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    I used to work for a company that converted shipping containers to offices.
    The containers can be insulated pretty well with 2×4 studs, fibreglass or similar insulation and sheetrock. That and he has a roof, what appears to be about 6″ above the roof of the top container – this should aid in keeping the temperature down quite a bit.
    A house built, using 8 40′ shipping containers, should cost around $10 000 – figure about $1500 per container with no leaks. The insulation and 2×4’s should add a bit more, but this method of building a house seems very effecient and cheap.

  11. JSB October 17, 2006 at 8:22 pm

    are there any actual photgraphs of completed Quik Houses?

  12. Scott September 6, 2006 at 6:22 am

    Heating or cooling of a space the size of a shipping container should be very easy. If just concerned with cooling then assuming the walls are lined with insulation you could use a single leaf of clay brick, concrete/cinder blocks on the inside. The thermal mass of the masonry should stabilise the temperature somewhat, should be well within the weight allowances for the container. Reverse brick veneer is a great construction method for thermal balance especially in hot climates. For places like Iraq where the containers are meant for purely transitory or temporary housing it is hard to accomodate thermal mass (or at least the army probably thinks so) in reality they could lay a bed of concrete in the base of each container and as long as it was sheltered from radiation it would be fine. In a seasonal climate where you require winter heating you would need to allow radiation into the thermal mass. This could be acomplished by having the thermal mass on the floor and have windows that are shaded in summer but open in winter.

    The containers are initially pretty poor thermal performers but if being used as more permanent housing then obviously more can be done to improve that and most of the cost and effort required is minimal (time and desire are the rarest of the commodities generally when this type of housing is most used presently.)

  13. PIERRE SARGENT July 30, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    July 30, 2006 The Kalkin House at the Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont USA will be sold. When will that be?

  14. Hunter July 29, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    I very interested. However, this issue of Cooling is a huge concern. I’m located in Corpus Christi Texas we are a Coastal Port town on the Gulf of Mexico, it gets pretty hot and damp here.
    How can I keep it cool cheaply and how can I keep it from blowing away in our area of the country? Has anyone found a way to anchor it to the ground in a storm like a conventional home or Evan better?

  15. Christopher P. July 13, 2006 at 9:31 pm

    See the SUNDAY JULY 9, 2006 LA Times, California (B) Section, Los Angeles Edition,”UNSIGHTLY EVIDENCE OF U.S. TRADE GAP PILES UP” , by Deborah Schoch, re the impact on trade defi cit-induced “surplus” of, and urban blight caused by, stockpiled containers… and LA. Elsewhere later in the same week, LAT reported on big effort by LA City Council to get an “affordable housing bond issue” on the November ballot!

  16. ed July 9, 2006 at 10:18 am

    it is interesting to see as i use to live in something similar as a refugee in germany. Shiping containers put together as small block of units. I guess not a new idea just a bit more classy version. I hated living there

  17. Gheda July 3, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    Unfortunately his website is non-functional. I’d love to see his other work.

  18. Scott July 2, 2006 at 10:30 pm

    He makes shipping containers look nice! I was curious how he manages the heat inside them. When I was in Iraq, it got super hot in these military containers, even with the doors wide open. Also curious why it takes 8 weeks to put it together; doesn’t sound too prefabby! The links to his website don’t work though.

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