Is flat pack housing the future?

Its not the latest idea but I do wonder if flat pack housing is the way to go for the future especially if labour costs are critical factors.

Because mass producing stackable wall units and other sections of a home can not only be cost affective but also extremely quick in comparison to traditional housing methods. The same can be said for “unique” homes as you take a standard design and construction method using original flat pack building methods and introduce with it the odd shape or alteration in the design. Which in reality leads to mass produced panels coming off a factory floor while the unique parts go to a bespoke part of the factory.

flatpak,flat pack,house,slot walling

But it doesn’t stop there because when you work with things like a slot wall system where your literally dropping walls in then sealing them up. Your talking a huge saving in labour construction time compared to a traditional home design.

Its things to way up when looking at if you should go down the flat pack route or go with a traditional home. Because on the surface going down the usual routes may seem cost affective but factoring in labour costs and some of the maintenance issues. You may find that the change into flat pack which if they are adapted from industrial and commercial design could have some unique benefits. E.g. easy to clean and maintain, easy access for cable runs etc.

Personally I like both although not a fan of “modern” mass produced housing that you find on estates but do like flatpack and traditional older type houses. Mainly on the older traditional houses as they do have better construction methods but also extremely expensive ones (I am talking houses over 100 years old). With things like traditional oak beams and lath and plaster methods used. But with a carpentry background I do like the unique and original wood.

At the same time understand the world is changing and things are beginning to get expensive. Moving away from what we would “like” and to what we need is going to become more of an issue as time goes on. The same as the materials and resources used in construction. I can see more and more foam injected panels becoming the norm because they are both cheap and efficient. In the same way the outer and inner skins becoming more acceptable as “finished” and quick to install.

Is Corruption Stopping Sustainable Development?

I have put a lot of time in looking at alternative housing construction methods in the Philippines from different angles.

Some sustainable living others more cost related to construction. But one of the major factors in disaster relief I think comes down to corruption especially at ports.

Because a lot of the pricing can fluctuate not only for specialised goods that may see a “special tax” added but also even local construction. Concrete, steel bars etc. fluctuate in price and often without any real reason.

But this gets back to some of the housing ideas for not only container housing but also modular and social development. Because a lot of the equipment needed for foam injected walls for example and a regular supply of the sheets and chemicals involved where do they come from? Importing is a huge headache and I believe the same can be said for many locations that badly need not only sustainable but emergency housing.

By the time you have paid all the taxes and cleared ports how much money disappears? But it goes deeper as you can find charities well aware of the corruption and political issues tied to the money that “helping” brings.

So much so that I believe that its budgeted for and as such it then becomes the norm and almost encouraged. The hidden figures on where your donations go, and an encouraged black market that doesn’t help local populations.

For me its frustrating as I like many others like to create jobs and help places develop. I recently started a call center in the Philippines because I know it can boost local employment. As well as many of the population are already suitable and just need a bit of training.

But you start looking into everything it can mean a bit of grease money here and there to get things moving. Something I am not really prepared to do, don’t mind talking politics over lunch but brown envelops or hush money isn’t the way I do business.

May sound a bit off tangent but the same no doubt goes for people looking to develop housing projects and other large scale operations. Its not all on the surface though which is the problem. As helping locals you try your best and deal with the cards your dealt with. Normally people coming from outside won’t be familiar with local pricing and labour costs and obviously this is an easy thing to manipulate without even trying.


Minimalist or container living is just a joke and fantasy.

Minimalist living or container living can often be shunned due to people not understanding the concept but what is there to understand?

  • Fact is most households have at least 2/3rds more stuff in them than they did over a decade ago.
  • Fact is that costs are going up on not only space but on resources needed to use them such as heating and cooling.
  • Fact is house prices have been spiraling out of control for some time and even right now when people are complaining their houses have “lost value” they are often still way overpriced!
  • Fact is socially people are spending too much time in the home and not enough time amongst real people.
  • Fact is we are in a social decline but it doesn’t have to be that way!

Odd thing is not everything has to be negative. I live out in the Philippines and a friend of mine lived in a very small house after meeting his girlfriend and deciding to partner up. Its 2 rooms for him,her and the children from her previous marriage. The first room is the sitting room,dining room, kitchen and the other room is the bedroom. He lays in bed and can touch 3 of the 4 walls while lay in bed. Showering and general chores are done in a centralised pump area. Is this minimalist living that is impossible?

In reality this is the life for the majority of Filipinos and has been like it as far as people can remember. But its not all doom and gloom as they probably spend a lot more time outdoors than you do. The tropical climate in previous times and in remote areas will find people sleeping under trees relaxing. No issues of getting cold, maybe getting hot. The land was plentiful where people just took from the land what they needed.

In reality I would say judging by what I hear from people that those times were happy times. Going round to the neighbours because its the only house in the village with a TV or even today on some of the remote islands the town hall.

Electricity is something people can and do often live without. The irony here compared to the Western world is that “minimalist” living isn’t a fad but the way of life and has been for centuries. I have never heard anyone complain about space and generally you will find people live together as a family until married. Its not uncommon to find adult children still living with their parents in fact its the norm. Minimalist living is probably done by the majority of people on the planet without the “vocal” minority even realising.

Could you live in a bamboo hut on a tropical island? Because many in the West dream of it yet its a reality in the tropics that people often leave for western ways. Things have begun to change in the Philippines to become more like the West and places like Hong Kong. Not all good news with an over population issue in the cities but at the same time people are still living minimal.

Bedspacers are common which involve renting a room with a bunk bed often with 4 people to a room. Workers, transients and students often live in this type of accommodation.

Odd reading this I wonder how many people are saying “I couldn’t live like that”. But my question is how big does a shipping container feel now?


Shipping Container Homes For The Poor, A Good Idea?

There have been problems with not only shipping container homes for the poor but other housing developments and its mainly down to one thing.

People make decisions for others based on assumptions, they haven’t integrated with the communities they are trying to help to assess not only the daily needs but also if the project is viable.

Bamboo homes on stilts offer natural ambient temperature to the home due to the airflow as well as the ground beneath the home heats up during the day and at night that heat rises to keep the home warm. The space beneath the home sees air travel and for tropical climates its been a naturally good home for centuries. How do you adapt a shipping container home to supply the needs of people who will not be able to afford air conditioning or electric?

Also remembering people are used to the outdoors and opening the home to the elements is also essential in maintaining that natural environment that people come from. Doesn’t need to all be “in house” but communal areas that allow people to congregate and meet up are essential in maintaining the normal community.

But what else about cooling? You need to take on ideas from existing architects as the information is already there. It may not be developed for shipping container homes but a lot of it can be. Researching Indian, Thai and African home designs with “natural cooling” will give you plenty of ideas. E.g. mud huts due to the natural properties offer a great cheap home construction method yet is it out of place or too old to be used? I would look at modern mud home design as I believe you will be pleasantly surprised.

Water can offer a natural cooling affect in homes as well and has been utilised in India for a long time in areas such as central pool areas in courtyards. Learning how air and water can work together and developing courtyard communal areas there are ways to get cooler air to move round housing developments. Some of these ideas will be a bit hit and miss initially but long term learning how to use them saves not only money but also needs. E.g. naturally cooling means no need for fans or air conditioning, which also means a reduced need for electricity.

There are solutions to every problem but I have seen many a project messed up and not because shipping container homes or in fact large scale brick and mortar homes are wrong. But simply the planning and designs haven’t been thought through properly on immediate and long-term needs of the community. Yes we all want to help but if it makes peoples lives harder it defeats the object of what we are doing.

SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production)

SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production) is a rather unique container house project with its ability to extend parts of the building due to them folding within each other.

SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production)

The idea is mass housing relief to a disaster stricken area and the units are designed round a shelter for a family of 4 with the entire home taking up 1/4 of the space of a normal shipping container.

SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production)SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production)

Now I can see the concept and the idea being viable as a solution but often metrics aren’t taken into account with much disaster relief such as containers already being at the ports in a disaster area and quite simply cash and tools would be enough to get things moving rather quickly with the right manpower. At the same time I would be interested to get an ETA on how long it takes to manufacture one of these units as the number of disasters seems to be increasing worldwide on a regular basis. Areas that may not have needed them may do in the future. Also the floating ability of these on pontoons is a great idea to get them to a coastline but one question still bothers me “how do they get them out of the water?”.

SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production)

SHRIMP units do however use sustainable wood which is rather ironic this late in the day with places like Haiti that bring a lot of disasters to their doorstep because they pretty much deforested the entire country. It would however whatever way you look at it utilise shipping containers that are no longer in service. Would however though prefer containers to be utilised in their current locations rather than shipped back to disaster zones which are normally thousands of miles away from where excess shipping containers can be found. I believe shipping a container back to its Asian origins will cost around double of what it costs to produce a new container in China.

Sustainable Green Housing For New Orleans

Global Green Design Competition, New Orleans, Brad Pitt, Sustainable Design for New Orleans, Green Building, Green Design

When I seen these home designs it instantly appealed to me as the use of natural foliage for shade is something that can also be utilised for shipping container housing as we all know sitting under trees in the shade makes things a lot more bearable so why not put an entire house or apartments under greenery?

Brad Pitt, Global Green, New Orleans, Hurrican Katrina, Architecture competition, Housing in New Orleans, Green Building, GreeNOLA, Andrew Kotchen and Matthew Berman of Workshop/APD

GreeNOLA (NOLA being short for New Orleans, Louisiana) took the win in a Global Green Competition. It was submitted by New York-based architects Andrew Kotchen and Matthew Berman of Workshop/APD.

The GreeNOLA plan takes six houses and two multifamily units which employ energy-efficient appliances, solar power and recycled building materials. Also integrating child care and a community garden in the hope this will help cut down on pollution and reduce energy consumption by at least 50%.

Runner-up design: NOLA shotgunLOFT, Schwartz Architecture/Frederic Schwartz – NYC, NY

Although runner up with ShotgunLOFT by Frederic Schwartz of Schwartz Architecture didn’t win his design works well with modular construction and trellis’s to give natural shade stepped away from the buildings. On top of looking at the design and home elements the cost of building the units was also looked at by the designer who came up with a self-help/sweat equity financial model. Which I agree with as it brings in the human element of pride and being part of the project.

Folger Steel Framed Offices In Berkeley.

Forger Steel Framed Office building

WA Design set otu to create a modern energy efficient office space that would blend in with its industrial neighbourhood. The three storey building is constructed using steel frames and timber. The new offices stand our and give a refreshing modern touch to the rather dated industrial area between Emeryville and Berkeley. Although brighter than its neighbours its design slips into the location rather well. The facade clad with checkerboard pattern of green and pale blue cement boarding however makes you well aware “this is the building” If driving past. the design rather fits well with shipping container architecture even if there is a lack of shipping containers. The shape of the building and its use of steel could easily see this being a shipping container building. At the same time the industrial feel was no doubt done for that reason as well as the wood in replication of old pallets.

They have also added weathered steel to the northern wall section in keeping with the rusted artifacts located at the Berkeley waterfront. They really have done their homework in keeping with the area while still introducing modern designs and features.

The interior carries on with the feel with exposed steel beams and the use of mixed materials and finishes. Resin panels filled with seawood also allow light to travel while keeping with the seaport idea. A ceiling skylight allows heat to leave the building via the roof at the same time allowing light to pass through it. There is also a motorised sunshade to help keep the building cool throughout the day. Energy wise the use of “free” artificial lighting helps reduce electrical use at the same time tere are other energy power reduction systems used throughout the building.

Forger Steel Framed Office building Forger Steel Framed Office building Forger Steel Framed Office building Forger Steel Framed Office building Forger Steel Framed Office building Forger Steel Framed Office building Forger Steel Framed Office building Forger Steel Framed Office building Forger Steel Framed Office building Forger Steel Framed Office building plans Forger Steel Framed Office building plans

Solar Powered Office Produces Double The Power Needed (SPACE)

SPACE which stands for Solar Powered Adaptive Containers for Everyone

May seem a waste of energy at first but then again if this type of building is utilized for other buildings off it or back to the grid it may actually pay itself off over time for its generator use or payment from the grid.

Portability is also something people overlook when thinking shipping container buildings as well as “solar power is too expensive”. Well for a friend of mine who’s moving to a remote island he doesn’t have electricity there and generally the buildings are traditional bamboo or concrete. Either way building a home will take time, shipping something like this in however would give him a base of operations until things got underway. As well as a place to charge his power tools. Now this shipping container building by Adaptive Container’s SPACE buildings also has the ease of loading and unloading which many other shipping container building manufacturers are still trying to work round the problem. Add to that the solar rack can be loaded and unloaded in around 30 minutes the whole system is practical as well as thought out.

Adaptive Container, SPACE, Houston, Texas, shipping containers, recycled materials, upcycled design, green design, sustainable design, portable design, eco-design, solar power, rooftop solar panels,

The name of the type of building is called SPACE which stands for Solar Powered Adaptive Containers for Everyone. Which in reality is a 140sqm of workspace with 20 solar panels on the roof that give out 350 kWh of power a month. Air conditioning is also installed as standard so the “its too hot in a shipping container” defeatists will find they are happy at home inside a shipping container that isn’t racking up the electric bill.

SPACE which stands for Solar Powered Adaptive Containers for Everyone SPACE which stands for Solar Powered Adaptive Containers for Everyone SPACE which stands for Solar Powered Adaptive Containers for Everyone SPACE which stands for Solar Powered Adaptive Containers for Everyone SPACE which stands for Solar Powered Adaptive Containers for Everyone SPACE which stands for Solar Powered Adaptive Containers for Everyone

I’m pretty impressed with the layout and the Swiss army approach to design with a basic shipping container attached to one of these would make it a more viable option as the “powered” one would give its excess energy to run the other low cost shipping container unit.

Rooftop Hydroponic Garden In New York


Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening

Fresh produce is always the game of the day in a quality restaurant and New York restaurateur John Mooney has taken the concept to a modern dimension. The introduction of a rooftop hydroponic garden. This allows food being served at Bell, Book and Candle to have a large portion of its daily produce selected from its vertical roof top garden.

Vertical hydroponics is a fairly modern way of farming and maximising space but the original hydroponic technology linking plants with water isn’t as new as people think. But what has changed is the way people look at food and this is driving modern gardening technologies.

Another important aspect of hydroponics besides being able to grow things on your doorstep is that its also environmental with the reduced cost of water usage to conventional farming which can be using as little as 10% in comparison to large scale agriculture. The nutrient injections to the roots of plants mean they grow faster because they are right at the plants tips. This means for the plants they don’t need a huge root system but instead can concentrate on growth upside. The growth rates are generally double that of soil based plants.

Now the system being used at the restaurant is called Tower Gardens and come in at a hefty $499 a unit. Ok for commercial and restaurant growers but maybe a bit hefty for most households unless mix cropping. The system however uses aeroponics which instead of soaking the roots in water it sprays a mist at the plant roots. This gives high yields and extremly intense flavours for vegetables with very little waste.

Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening

Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening

Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening

Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening

Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening
Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening
Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening
Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening Bell, Book and Candle, hydroponic garden,roof top garden,vertical gardening