In addition to miniatures, I have a fondness for prefabricated buildings, although these two interests rarely intersect. However, this is one of those rare times.
A while ago I found a website (now gone) which showed proposals for disaster relief in Haiti. One of the designs was a shelter made of a shipping container. I decided adapted this design to make my own “prefab”. It has a few selling features:
- The container is raised above ground to prevent flooding of the interior
- Panels mounted above the container serve both as sunshades and to channel rainwater into a water collector on the top of the container. The water can then be used for drinking (when purified) or other purposes
- Decks and supports can be made from cheap, common materials: plastic sheeting, sheet metal, plywood.
- The interior is lined with plywood to be a little more homey, because no one likes to live in a steel box
My clever plan was to make a simple model, then I could create a massive Firefly/refugee-camp style settlement.
Obviously, to start I needed a shipping container model. For the base of this model, I used the shipping containers from Scalescenes.com printed at 86%. I chose this because I like them. I have my own shipping container designs, but I didn’t have a nice green one, and Scalescenes did.
Anyway, the next step was to create the geometry for the rest of the model, which is relatively simple. The box on the top to hold water is, well, a box. The panels are rectangles, and the decks are other rectangular shapes. The legs are paper popsicle sticks (from Michaels, which I am loathe to admit) sliced to appropriate lengths. The supports for the panels are card.
I took the Scalescenes approach to paper modelling, rather than the traditional route. The paper parts are fairly heavy rigid paper of varying weights, from thick posterboard to light cardstock. They’re then wrapped with printouts, much like a vinyl wrap on a transit bus, or a latex suit on a gimp.
For my prototype I went the full-meal-deal route, with decks on three sides and a full set of shades/water collectors.
The end result was very good, except for one problem. It took me over four hours to make the damn thing. The supports holding the panels at their five-degree angle are made of cardstock and quite thin, so they’re fragile. Wrapping them was something of a challenge. My original plan called for thinner legs, but that would have been way to much work to be structurally sound.
Cutting through two layers sets of illustration board was a pain, as was adding a plywood interior, largely because the interior is quite hard to see, so not really worth the effort.
There should probably be a ladder inside, leading to the roof, as well. Also, if you look closely, the panel support glue isn’t even dry in this picture, showing that I was thinking of you even while building the model.
From the second picture you can see how thin the supports are. The other problem is that for the panels to be angled correctly, the struts holding them up have to be exactly the right length, and at 15mm scale in paper, that’s a great deal of precision. Off my 1mm is a huge difference, and no putty to fill up the holes.
I do like the end result. I can see it being used for an impromptu command post or some sort of objective. I even designed two different versions so that customization is easy — corrugated steel decks, fibreglass awnings, etc. I can’t, however, see myself making more than another one or two of them.
I’m not sure whether to release the model, though, as I’d have rage-filled email from people who go blind trying to get the angles right or wrinkles from applying the paper skins. Although I suppose that would make a pleasant change from Nigerian scam emails and Viagra ads.