I’ve been spending some time researching the construction of a typical shipping container for my project: Unboxed House. As a result, I’ve been thinking about the deconstruction possibilities of this box. My sketch book is about to have a serious workout.

While in Revit, I wanted to explore a handful of concepts. One, through the use of the Displacement option in Revit 2014, it is very simple to dedicate a view to see the walls, doors and roof removed form what ultimately is a very light-weight minimalist frame. For more information on how to use Displacement Sets, check out the Revit Jedi or watch this video by Ideate. The exploded axonometric is really just a way for me to consider this imposing, metal box as something that shouldn’t be feared as static and immoveable. It can be pulled apart, remixed and re-assembled, right in Revit.

Exploded Axon


One possibility, although not terribly original of me (see the Port-A-Bach prototype by Bonnifait + Giesen in New Zealand), is the idea of folding out parts of the walls as a way to create something completely new from the original configuration – a deck in this case. By using the corrugated metal wall as a frame for wood decking, the boundary between interior and exterior space can begin to become a little more loose – through glass walls, and/or exploring the potential to create slide out volumes of space that ride on tracks in the ”deck”.

Parametric Folding Wall

This model is being created with Revit walls, floor, roof and structural framing members. I decided to assemble it in the project environment, to make the “existing conditions” easier to document, and to manipulate or even selectively demolish. So, if you know anything about Revit having a preference to keep walls vertical, you may ask – “How did you manage to rotate the wall?”


Parametric Folding Wall 0Parametric Folding Wall 1

It’s very simple actually. The walls are modeled “in-place”, meaning that I used a profile sketch for the corrugated steel, and created an extrusion. I then created an instance parameter as shown below, that allows controlling the wall Fold Down Angle – zero is closed, 90 is open.

Parametric Wall PropertiesAs with any Revit family, if you wish to control the angle, you need to use Reference Lines. The most common example is opening a door, or pair of doors. Yes, the doors are operational on this model as well.

I used two reference lines in this case. One which is locked to the front column, and the other hosted on a plane of the first reference line. The angle between them is managed by a parameter, which is then easily controllable from within the project environment using the properties palette (shown) when the wall is selected.

I added a second parameter (Angle Open) to make it easier to understand the relationship between the two lines. This way they are never coincident (unless you for some reason wish to fold the wall in and onto the floor). Angle Open (what’s actually doing the heavy lifting) is controlled by the formula “Fold Down Angle + 90”.

reference lines

Bear in mind this is a work in progress, and more parametric goodness will follow in future posts. I’ll get the model ready for sharing. Soon, you will be able to deconstruct my work.

16 comments on “Deconstructing the Box

  • I’ve begun rebuilding it, as I found a few issues with the way the parts were working. During this time, I’ve upgraded it to Revit 2015. Hope that is alright.

  • Hi Sean, could you share the model with us please? I want to experiment in Revit to get ideas for a multi-container home. Thanks!

  • Are you just looking for the empty box model? I’m planning on recreating it, now that I have an actual shipping container in my driveway. The issue is, the original CAD model I had as a reference has several issues with it – as each container is built with some minor differences depending on its origin and purpose. I will try to find the time, when I’m not outside building the tiny house, to create a more accurate and native Revit model of the type of container most common here in the USA. If you want the CAD files, I am not authorized to redistribute them, however anyone can pay to join the ISBU Association and download the files for their own use – http://www.isbu-info.org. I hope that helps.

  • Yes, it was just the empty box model I was interested in – following your unboxed house with great interest!

  • very much interested in looking at a parametric shipping container model! are you able to share this with us?

  • Hi Sean, Great work on UnBoxed. We’re also here in Seattle and exploring a shipping container cabin. Are you available for some paid design work?

  • Hi Sean, Great work and article.
    I just have questions regrading revit modeling. if using in-place model for wall, how do you place windows/doors onto it?

    thank you 🙂

  • One day, I’ll post a clean copy. It’s not something I am very proud of at the moment hacked together with bubble gum and tape.

  • Hi Sean, Great work! I’m also working on a container home and would love to start using your revit model to experiment. Since this topic is some months old i wonder where i could find this model.

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