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Kirkwood students create office spaces out of shipping containers

GTNS photos by Gretchen Teske

Seven of the nine students in the Intro to ACE class huddle together inside the shipping container they have turned into an office space.
GTNS photos by Gretchen Teske Seven of the nine students in the Intro to ACE class huddle together inside the shipping container they have turned into an office space.
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The tiny house trend is on the rise and with a little help from their friends at Merit Construction in Cedar Rapids, Kirkwood co-op students have taken it to the next level by creating tiny office spaces out of shipping containers.

Eric Heisdorffer, building manager at Merit Construction, said the idea came about when the company was trying to find a way to get high school students more involved in the trades as well as solve a problem of not having an office space for crew members.

“We talked about it and decided we could just buy these containers and then we get doors and windows put in and turn them into office pods,” he said.

The containers are 8-feet-by-20-feet and donated to the school with all necessary supplies inside. The students, who are registered at their respective high schools but take classes at Kirkwood for college credit, then add insulation, electric work, walls and flooring to create an office space fit for a supervisor who might need one on a construction site.

There are no blueprints or specific design elements the class of nine has to follow, they just create the space to be sound, comfortable and efficient. The students are split into groups to work together to problem solve and each learn a new trade along the way.

The class, Intro to ACE (architecture, construction, engineering) is split up into four, eight-week sessions and meets for an hour-and-a-half five days a week. Each session is dedicated to a different element of the class with the office being the big project they spend approximately eight weeks on.

Emily Waite, a junior at Washington Community High School, said her favorite part is the architecture because it’s a career path she’s interested in following. She said being able to be hands-on with something and explore it physically helps to get creative ideas flowing.

Aaron McGlynn is the manager at Cabinet Works in Wellman and first-time adjunct professor at Kirkwood this year. McGlynn said he was excited to get started on the project with the students because it would be an opportunity for them to learn new skills and brush up on ones they may already have.

“By working together we were able to find everybody’s expertise,” he said.

Once the container is finished, it will be picked up by Merit who will then send it to the job site of their choice to be used as a headquarters during the construction period. Merit and Kirkwood have worked together on this project in the past and have always been successful.

“It’s really a win-win for all of us because our trades are hurting for younger people and just getting people involved in construction and getting to learn about construction is important.”