Shipping container home under construction in St. Charles

At first glance, a construction site in the neighborhood along Third Street in St. Charles looks as if someone just dumped a bunch of empty shipping containers there because they had no place else to put them at the moment.

But what we're really seeing here is a “first” in St. Charles, and maybe throughout the region. It's a new twist on home construction — converting those empty containers into the framework of a house.

Group 3 Construction, the company working on the site at Third near Bowman Street, didn't respond to my calls to give them a chance to explain how this works, and whether this house has been purchased or if it is going up as a spec home.

But it doesn't take much research to see this has been going on in other parts of the country.

It's fairly common in fact for those who want to build cottages or second homes, and it's viewed as an environmentally friendly way to build — because these types of containers otherwise may end up in landfills in many cases.

“It complies with all of our building codes because it is set on a regular foundation of a house,” said Rita Tungare, community and economic development director for the city of St. Charles. “Right now they are working on connecting the structure supports and cutting the walls.”

Because the structure is not yet “weather-tight,” any prolonged or heavy rain would slow down construction, Tungare said.

“These types of structures are something you see more often in California, and it is a growing trend in other parts of the country,” she added.

Indeed, when you go online to get a better understanding of how these projects work, the houses that are built with empty shipping containers actually look terrific inside. The container portions get a coat of paint to fit into the style of the living quarters and they make for interesting architecture.

It may look odd at the moment, but for those thinking “green,” this looks to be an option in home building that illustrates a level of creativity in reusing something that, for decades, had nowhere else to go but to be discarded.

But Tungare said it would be a mistake to consider building a house out of shipping containers as some form of cheaper construction.

“It is pretty expensive,” Tungare said. “My recollection is that these types of homes are in a typical range of about $400,000.”

On Earth and mud:

My first impression of Earth Day wasn't good. When this day set aside for thinking about our planet debuted in 1970, my high school gym class honored it by spending an hour cleaning litter off the streets and bushes near our athletic fields.

In other words, it took the place of our regular class, which happened to be softball at the time. I wasn't a happy camper.

Older and hopefully wiser, I came to learn more about why it was important to care about recycling, energy conservation and many other aspects of keeping our planet operating at a high level.

It means that April 22 is an important day, even though it may not get the publicity it had in its early years.

The St. Charles Park District is sort of playing off the Earth Day theme by planning to also celebrate International Mud Day from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday April 29, at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center.

And the park district assures us that International Mud Day really “is a thing,” so it is making a special local day out of it for the first time.

Initially, it was created at a World Forum conference in 2009 as a way for kids to appreciate “the earth beneath our feet.”

It is what it says it is. For $5, kids of all ages are encouraged to just roll and play in the mud or participate in various fun and educational activities.

This sure looks like fun. But back in those glorious 1950s when I was a kid, we didn't need any sort of special day to find a mud pile enticing. In fact, some goofy kids ate the stuff — and acted as if they liked it.

Another '90' out there:

When writing a week or two ago about the Pottawatomie Garden Club's 90th anniversary this year, one of its members mentioned that a lot of buildings and organizations in St. Charles came about around the same time.

We mentioned a few, but we forgot a big one — Blue Goose Supermarket is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year as well.

For open spaces:

It's probably been about 12 years since I sat through a Campton Township meeting, and that was a political candidate forum. Prior to that, it's been about 40 years since I actually covered the general meeting topics.

But apparently a major topic on the board members' and citizens' minds has not changed.

They still cherish the open space out in their township west of St. Charles. So much so that a group of longtime residents recently got together to form the Campton Township Open Space Foundation, a nonprofit organization that will help raise money for various projects related to open space in the township.

The foundation says its mission is to provide funds to “enhance and improve the existing facilities and locations” through tax-deductible donations.

The group plans to make its first donation Tuesday night.

The cold realities:

This crazy cold weather in April puts you in a mode in which you are not thinking about anything related to warm weather fun.

Yes, we feel sorry for the local high school teams and the Kane County Cougars trying to start baseball seasons in this extended winter, but it also makes it hard to believe when someone says Memorial Day parades are only seven weeks away, and Geneva's Swedish Days is only 10 weeks away.

By the same token, swatting mosquitoes hasn't crossed our minds yet either.

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