The builder co-owns a company that previously made shipping container homes such as these two in Royal Oak, pictured here nearly finished.

The builder co-owns a company that previously made shipping container homes such as these two in Royal Oak, pictured here nearly finished.

Photo provided by Lance Starler


Work begins on Hazel Park’s first ‘cargotecture’ home

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 6, 2019

 Four shipping containers rest on a lot in the 50 block  of East Shevlin Avenue in Hazel Park, waiting to be transformed  into the city’s first container home.

Four shipping containers rest on a lot in the 50 block of East Shevlin Avenue in Hazel Park, waiting to be transformed into the city’s first container home.

Photo provided by Lance Starler

 The builder says that the steel construction of container homes offers superior durability, in addition to being fireproof, flood-proof, rust-proof, antiseptic and resistant to high winds.

The builder says that the steel construction of container homes offers superior durability, in addition to being fireproof, flood-proof, rust-proof, antiseptic and resistant to high winds.

Photo provided by Lance Starler

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HAZEL PARK — Those driving down East Shevlin Avenue in recent days may have spotted four industrial shipping containers stacked like Legos next to a home. What they might not have realized is that the containers, themselves, will one day become a home — the first of its kind in Hazel Park.

The owner and builder is Lance Starler, who lives next door to the build site in the 50 block of East Shevlin Avenue. He pulled the permits in November and is now trying to see how quickly and cost-effectively he can assemble the new home.

While he is building this one on his own, he co-owns a company called Modeco that specializes in container homes, with examples in Royal Oak and Ferndale. If this Hazel Park project is a success, the so-called “Starler Model” may possibly be offered by Modeco in the future.  

Shipping container homes, also known as “cargotecture” — a portmanteau of “cargo” and “architecture” — take the heavy-duty boxes seen on freighters and trains and transform them into homes offering exceptional durability. A traditional home is composed of materials such as lumber, brick and vinyl, but a cargotecture home features the corten steel of shipping containers at their core — steel that is relatively rust-proof once treated with ceramic coating that is antiseptic and also prevents mildew and mold, and that is built to resist the high winds and harsh rains of sea travel.

Once properly secured to its foundation, a container home can withstand winds up to 175 mph, and it’s also fireproof and flood-proof. The containers are also easily insulated by spraying foam insulation directly onto the surface of each container, which runs 20 to 30 feet in length.  

“It’s flipping the building process on its ear. It’s a bit unorthodox, but it’s worth considering,” Starler said. “We’re definitely providing a superior product, meeting and exceeding all code requirements, and providing an aesthetic similar to modern homes in Bloomfield and Birmingham, but at a blue-collar price point.”

He clarified that container homes are not necessarily cheaper than typical homes in the area, but he said that the finished product is built to last in a way that a traditional house is not.

“You’re building a house of steel, beam by beam,” Starler said. He added that it’s also a great fit for the environmentally conscious type. “We’re up-cycling these products, as we like to call it — taking containers that would otherwise not have a purpose and giving them new life.

“The styling is that of a luxury modern home that if you were to pay an architect for this same home in Birmingham, you would be talking a multimillion-dollar home,” he continued. “The rigid steel structure and boxy shape lends itself to the sleek styling and clean lines of modern homes, once it’s all done and the finishing touches are applied.”

He explained the experimental nature of the current build.

“The house I’m making now is an exercise in speed and frugality. I want to see how quickly I can crank one out in Hazel Park so that I can then accurately share my price point with the consumer. This model is the first of its kind, and it’s my namesake,” Starler said. “It has three bedrooms, two and a half baths — perfect for the individual, young couple or family. I’m trying to achieve a production style that will work well going forward.”

Amy Aubry, a member of the Hazel Park City Council, said the new development is an exciting addition to the housing landscape of Hazel Park.

“I’m excited to see more diverse housing in the city with alternative building materials. It shows a willingness to think outside the box for housing solutions,” Aubry said. “There is also a need to reuse materials like this beyond scrapyards and landfills.”

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