Having purchased a small vacant block of land I was keen to find an affordable and comfortable solution to make use of the beautiful mountain location and escape the city for weekends and holidays. After a career of building things to be delivered quickly and efficiently in theatre, I began a search for compact and transportable building options. The moment of inspiration came when I saw a container conversion by a New Zealand couple. It was a high end architectural project that made the most of the limited space in a 20ft container, yet opened up to create living space with a minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

The Transatron project began with a search for compact and transportable building options.
The Transatron project began with a search for compact and transportable building options.

Enter the Transatron Project. A personal, once off project to build a compact, transportable and pleasant space for my wife and I to enjoy. With a limited budget and a want to use as much recycled, reclaimed and renewable products we scoured eBay, construction recycling centres and end of run products from shop floors. Some items were sourced new as we wanted to ensure the end product was a comfortable and warm living space that would shelter us from the extremes of the mountain weather.

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Starting with a second hand, 20ft, high cube, double pallet wide container we did a thorough clean of the inside to remove any previous contaminates and patched up the paint work. Being one to overdo everything I tackle, this became an ongoing approach to the whole project. It should be noted at this point that I am not a builder or tradesman, so any of the build techniques, tips or images linked to this article are to be taken as a reflection on my experience, not instruction or advice on building or converting a container. But back to the container conversion now…

Cutting the deck opening was a big job.

Cutting out the front panel was a big job. The first thing that occurred was a spring release of the panelling as it was cut from the structure. With the dents and irregularities of the panel along with the gussets it sprang out and became difficult to handle. Once re-cut, shaped and welded to fit into the deck frame it became a lot easier to work with. To reinforce the long opening on the side of the container we fitted a “C” Channel to the roof flat bar. The “C” Channel was also used to mount and support the deck winch, which would need to lift the full weight of the steel frame and timber deck.

The C Channel adds to structural integrity and is used as a mount for the deck winch.

The winch proved a complex fitting and unfortunately ended up being mounted on the roof of the container. The original plan for the winch was to have it mounted in the “C” Channel and internal frame work. On the first test we found that it was creating a large amount of torsional forces on the “C” Channel, to the point that it flexed the front wall. In hindsight I should have mounted the winch to a plate welded to the internal roof of the container and set beside the “C” Channel. But as this was late in the construction process I could not undertake this change and had to make the box on the top to house and secure the 12v winch.

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