Watts Works
Los Angeles, CA
Transforming a Single-Family Lot Into 24 Micro-Units with Communal Gardens Serving Formerly Unhoused Individuals.
Project Details


Los Angeles, CA

Practice Theme

Housing For All, Equitable Practice

What We Did

Housing, Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Modular, Affordable Housing


11,596 sq. ft.
The community consists of 58 modular shipping containers configured into 24 studio apartments dedicated to homeless, a one-bedroom manager unit, a community room, laundry room, service provider offices and long-term bicycle parking.

Aside from the physical housing provided to residents, ‘wrap-around’ services will be provided by a non-profit partner, The People Concern, including on-site counseling, community-based healthcare, treatment, and employment training. The four-story building replaces a vacant single-family home. The 6,140 SF lot has an equivalent density of approximately 180 units per acre. This is achieved by small unit sizes and the need for only one parking stall.

Building Framework

Positioned on the ground floor overlooking the street corner, the community room opens directly onto a landscaped patio providing sidewalk activation. The compact building was designed with a focus on exterior stairways connecting a variety of open spaces at various levels including the ground floor tranquility garden, backyard, and rooftop terrace. Leveraging the mild California climate, the open stairs at each end of the building, in conjunction with open corridors provide cross-ventilation and encourage tenant use to engage in a healthy lifestyle. California climate for common area circulation by placing the stairs outdoors, which also significantly increases active circulation.

Two 8’x20’ containers, combined make a 320 sf micro-unit. Each container costs about $3,500 and has been used to ship goods from Asia to the Port of Long Beach. The containers were sent to a fabricator, which modified them, installed the interiors, and then delivered them as finished modules back to Southern California, where they were installed by crane. Onsite, the modules were joined together, the systems (such as water and sewer) were connected, and the exteriors were finished.

Minimizing the overall quantity of material used in a building, especially high-embodied-carbon materials such as concrete, steel, and petrochemical-based insulation products, can significantly reduce the overall embodied carbon of a project. By reusing shipping containers, the project reduces 12.4 tons of CO2 emissions. However, if the project would have been fabricated locally, an additional 69.4 tons of CO2 emissions could have been saved. Watts Works was one of three global case studies highlighting the business case for the circular building published by the World Business Organization of Sustainable Development in Geneva Switzerland and presented at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow Scotland. 


Open Space Typologies

Sustainability Diagram

This development took on an innovative approach to financing cost-effective housing, through the use of modular design and various funding sources, such as Proposition HHH funds. The development has received recognition from Mayor Garcetti’s Housing Innovation Challenge as part of a $23.8 million grant. This funding leverages three additional scattered sites using modular construction, also designed by Studio One Eleven, to provide much-needed housing for Los Angeles.

Studio One Eleven is one of only a few firms in the country that have experience building container, wood, and steel modular. As pioneers in this field, we hope that the lessons learned will open new avenues for fast-tracking affordable housing in the region. Wattsworks was included in the Gateway Cities Council of Governments Case Studies.

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AIA LA Design Award of Merit

Architect Newspaper Best of Design Award: Social Impact

Architect Newspaper Project of the Year Finalist

AIA OC Merit Award

AN’s 2023 Best of Design Award


Westside Urban Forum Merit Award

Shipping Containers Become Housing for the Homeless

Modular supportive housing unwrapped in Watts

Shipping Containers, Steel, Wood: A California Firm Goes ‘All In’ on Modular

NBC 4: New Affordable Housing Complex in Watts

Time, Cost Savings Increase Modular Construction Interest

Container-Based Supportive Housing Proposed in Watts

Los Angeles Architects and Leaders Take on Their City’s Homeless Crisis

New Supportive Housing Project Uses Shipping Cotainers

First modular units arrive at Watts Works supportive housing development

ABC 7: New Affordable Housing Complex in Watts


Common Ground

Shipping Containers Become Housing for the Homeless

Officials Celebrate Groundbeaking of Supportive Housing Project in Watts

Modular Construction Projects For Homeless Housing Gaining Visibility

Site prep in progress for modular supportive housing in Watts

New Supportive Housing Project Uses Shipping Containers

Four-Story, 25-Unit Supportive Housing Complex Planned in Watts

Studio One Eleven Announces Container-Based Supportive Housing

Studio One Eleven Designing Shipping Container Apartments for Homeless in Watts

Contenedores como solucion para la crisis de vivienda en Los Angeles

KVEA 52 Telemundo: New Affordable Housing Complex in Watts


NBC 4: New Affordable Housing Complez in Watts


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