GM plant to help build shipping container homestead

by MM&D Staff

DETROIT, MichiganGeneral 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.

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