People are always pushing the recycling of shipping containers as the main concern in the container home building circuit but over here in the Philippines they are rather battered and over priced in general.
You can find prices fluctuate depending on the time of year and even old containers seem to survive here decades after they should have been scrapped, bruised battered and the rust is cut out and new plates welded in but its a market people don’t realise exists that see’s the old containers surviving. International shipping standards keep the containers at a high quality standard but we live in the Philippines with over 7,000 islands how much goods move island to island?
This is why we see inflated prices on old containers that go back as far as the 70s and 80s is the fact they are used between islands and not internationally. If you see the state of them they would never leave the docks on an international vessel. But its this that creates our problem as a good container is always in demand as even the oldest roughest container never seems to see an end of life but simply patched up and shipped off.
Which got me back to a system I used in the UK before which is basically a frame setup and you simply slot the wall sections in. Being open already means that you can then adapt sections from adding staircases,windows and doors to complete sides being left open as unlike shipping containers these are built for the job of container homes. In essence its moving away from shipping containers into modular home construction.
Makes a bit more sense when you see the photo above as these can be manufactured on site or in a factory depending where the final location will be adding to that they are still stackable and get used more than people realise already in places like the UK. Temporary clinics,doctors surgeries, classrooms are all commonly using a similar system and I am looking at this as being the serious way forward with construction in the Philippines due to the costs of buying second hand units. No issues of toxic floors or damaged side panels but simply starting from the frame upwards.
But what about the walls? This is where the tricky bit comes in but is also how its practical. Getting the stuff here may not be as easy as I would like but basically I am looking for foam panels that can either be injected with foam or preformed foam panels that we can glue cladding sheets to externally. Light weight and extremely easy to construct with as well as strong and fire retardant.
I sigh sometimes looking at shipping container homes as often its an architect monstrosity trying to create something for only one reason, Free publicity. Have some people really missed the point?
A lot of the designs go out their way to make the old furniture fit into a new home and quite simply it was never designed to fit in the first place. Its why you hear the sceptics complain so much that a shipping container home simply doesn’t work. But is that true?
Take a look at static caravans, mobile homes, canal boats or other types of home that are designed round minimalist housing and they all function and work often better than most homes and the reason why is because they are thought through and designed to be functional.
Need a big kitchen? But how often do you use it a day? Washing machines, sinks and other bulky items take up space but ultimately are under used but take up your valuable living space. Can you use a smaller sink or even better remove it from the inside of the home. I live out in the Philippines and the majority of washing is done externally where the water source is be it a pump or mains water piped to the side of a home its generally outside. Makes more sense when you consider you don’t have to worry about getting anything wet and clothing needs to be hung outside to dry. Its the mod cons people are struggling to move away from its not a shipping container has gotten too small but the fact we assume we need so much.
A large amount of photos I have seen of shipping container homes like to show the large sofa sitting in the middle of the sitting room yet it’s actually showing that a huge sofa is wasting space not that its comfy. Most small container homes are designed for 1 – 2 people yet the majority of space is taken up by a 4 seater settee why? A futon sofa bed or some other sofa bed is far more practical or other multi functional furniture.
Life is not only about downsizing but also improving quality of life when it comes to shipping container homes. It may seem people are taking on less but what do you gain by reducing your link to the consumerist world? First of all its the square metre size of your home its smaller your removing years off your mortgage payments in reality adding years to enjoying life instead of giving them to the bank.
Most container homes are designed round open space so its not about sitting watching TV but more about mountain biking or sitting out on the porch watching the world go by while sipping on a nice morning coffee. Its about releasing yourselves from the binds of day to day living with the complexities of things we don’t need to concentrate on the things you want to do and experience in life. This is why I find it odd that some of the shipping container homes I have seen go for book shelves lined with books when there is nothing to say we have to stay in the dark ages what about a kindle or using PDF’s? Ok its not the same as reading but do people really need literally hundreds of books in the home when no doubt many of the shipping container homes will be near a library. No point minimalizing life if in turn we then stock up with things we really don’t need to be there.
What are the best and worst container home you have seen?
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.
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.
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 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.
Size doesn’t matter springs to mind in conversation but often it does in some strange way. Mainly because people don’t realise how much space they aren’t using or more importantly how much electric, cooling,heating they waste for floor space they don’t actually need. Here is the joke though this is the apartment I work from and rent out to tenants, none of which have ever complained about size if anything its bigger than a lot of apartments of the same budget :-
We decided to keep it as a studio type (no central wall) to help keep the air flowing as well as giving extra space when needed. There is actually now a wardrobe I built covering the electrical box in the corner to the bed, giving a lot of extra storage space. But as you can see there is even space for an extra sofa bed.
Now this is where its funny as you can see the sitting room area isn’t actually being utilised as generally people sit on the sofa bed and watch TV in what would be the bedroom. an 8ft by 10ft floor area not being used.
A galley styled kitchen keeps things simple but has everything that people generally need. This is the Philippines so microwave food doesn’t exist so neither does the need for a microwave. Bearing in mind I will add more shelving at the end of the kitchen above the refrigerator for the dry goods.
Well what is the point to all this nice look round an apartment but its not a shipping container?
Fact is I was sat working up here the other night and realised something its smaller than 2 x 20ft containers. But I guess if I did the same with a shipping container and gave more space I bet people would say its “too small” simply because they knew it was made from shipping containers. Yet this has been rented out for over 2 years now with several tenants the last leaving a couple of weeks ago while the next arrives in 2 weeks. Not one person has ever said “its too small”.
A bit of a plus on the shipping container side as simply people have been living in spaces smaller than 2x20ft containers but didn’t even realise. In construction terms though here in the Philippines you could build the same sized home with containers for less than P300,000 can’t give an exact figure simply because container prices fluctuate. But your containers come in at around P60,000 – P100,000 each (big price variance).
When I originally started looking at shipping container homes I was specifically looking at modular construction. As time has gone on more people seem to be developing much smaller homes using the same concept. I don’t think its down to just a tiny home movement but a sign of the times. In the last few months I have noticeably seen the price of gas increase for cooking, food prices increasing and petrol at the pumps. All in all things are going up in price and we can either prepare for the worst and hope for the best or look at downsizing to help accommodate the changing world.
My previous home was a Victorian terraced town house, tall ceilings, open fire places and brickwork that let the wind just breeze through. In the winter times even with heating on it was not only expensive but still struggled to warm. Insulation injected into the walls, changing sash wood windows to double glazed, installing gas fires over the old coal fires all these bits of modernisation helped solve bits of problems but created more. First one being the expense of the upgrades next as the upgrades went in things like the gas fires over the coal cost more to run. A case of developing an old house with new problems and its one of the reasons I started looking at container housing. Building something that could be developed efficiently from the start, but also using recycled materials would allow the home to be built at a reduced rate.
Now the picture has changed a bit more as I see the sizes I originally looked at may be still viable but are they needed? I rent my apartment out here which is a studio type where the sitting,dining and sleeping are are in what would be dimensions of around 20ft x 12ft. Bigger than a shipping container in width but also looking at the room you can also see a lot of wasted space in the middle of the room. The bed is there day or not as well as a dining table, 3 chairs, 2 computer desks, 2 sofas and a wardrobe. This space isn’t maximised but shows it is extremely livable.
Its why I can see the world changing as the balance of wealth between East and West alters which will see people trying to maintain a standard of living in the West and downsizing the home is one way to do it. Also adding to the fact the population explosion globally is going to see some severe affects on resources such as oil and food, we are already seeing the start of the decline of peak oil.
They can do it in Mexico so why can’t we do it here in the Philippines?
The first issue is not funding but accepting the problem is only going to get worse not better. Reorganizing and developing infrastructure as well as new housing is badly needed to clean up slum areas. There may be land disputes at which point why haven’t the owners cleared these slums and fenced them off? For other areas that are legal these types of units could make affordable homes for the masses due to their flexible nature of being stackable upwards and sideways allowing dense populations to exist without looking like the photo below :-
Nowhere should ever get to this stage in the first place. But the finger of blame should only be representative of things to learn from so that we can move forward and stop it from continuing to happen. There is an influx of constant people to Manila looking for work as well as the birth control issues that are giving Manila its baby boom which no doubt goes hand in hand with high disease rates and death rates. Housing is not the solution but part of it, education is the key to all of the solutions and awareness that things can change. Especially by the actions of many individuals instead of one body trying to help thousands. Take the same area and utilize it the way a container village has been built in Amsterdam :-
Its not a quick fix and its not the be all and end all of problems in slums but it could be a step in the right direction. Additions of things like schools within the communities to develop education for those that need it more than most to help not only with basic education but teaching the links between poverty and family size, disease and waste management as well as many other key things that can help people out of poverty. Social awareness of responsibilities of people within a community and forming a real bond within the community to keep it clean and functional. Strict controls on the numbers that can occupy units and enforce it as over capacity living gets things back to square one.
But how do you get people to take action in the first place is my current dilemma as I want to make this happen and would love to be able to start on a small scale project and work towards a large scale slum to village conversion. I have been putting together costs for the last 12 months on materials and equipment to build the first shipping container home as I need a show piece here in Cebu that people can see how viable this is and can be to utilize. I would like to place it in a prime location and be able to invite people in to the home to see the benefits and dispel the myths on shipping container homes.
Its not going to be cheap initially because of the way the Philippines has an insular protective economy to protect the rich. Basically meaning the initial equipment won’t come cheap due to import duties at the same time its value is in the fact we can use it over and over again so this investment would be an initial one and after that will only need maintenance and repairs.
It won’t be an easy step and I have already spent 12 months on this project looking at the viability of it at the same time I need to prove it works to get other people on board more importantly Charities, NGO’s and Governments to make this happen. The initial stage is in our hands to create the first modular shipping container home to show piece the possibilities. After that I am sure even people looking to build a home can see the benefits of recycling containers as homes which also helps the environment.
If you would like to donate to the project please do so at Low Cost Housing Project
It wasn’t an insult to say its built more of a trailer type home because in reality that is what they look like. At the same time in the UK the caravans on a site can be expensive due to their location. They are functional and practical as well as utilizing the space people need rather than space people want. It reminds me of my home back in the UK when I would wander across the dining room to get to the kitchen or go upstairs and I ask myself the question how often did we use the dining room and how often was it utilized fully? Answer rarely it was a room that was expensive to heat with high ceilings and large floor area yet we never used it. This is a practical example of why the container type homes work as people use the space they have and use it the best they can.
The container above is located in Hawaii which is a location that suffers with excess shipping containers giving cheap pods to work from. This is unit has an office and apartment featuring office space, kitchen, bath and bedroom. The addition of T-111 siding and a flat roof improves the durability of the unit and enhances its appearance.
As I sit and see that people talk of a second recession when in fact they just mean all those billions thrown at trying to fix a problem by “spending their way” out of debt surprisingly hasn’t worked (touch of sarcasm). Then we have not only entered a long recession but also the fact it was magnified by throwing away the spare capital we had to bail out banks that quite literally couldn’t care less about anything or anyone but themselves.
But at the same time the end of Mc Mansion construction is a blessing if nothing else came out of the recession. Oversized, poor quality and simply just not needed. These homes were just a figure of how out of control the housing market became in the U.S. but just as much I remember in my parents town a public toilet is now a small 1 bedroom apartment worth £100,000 and not only was it a toilet it backs onto a cemetery two bonus features in one overpriced property. Not going all environmental here by the way as people lost a fortune on property at the same time I can’t believe people were being encouraged to get into this much debt in every direction with the “market can only go up” mentality. Which as we well know history tells us otherwise time and time again. It was simply a case of consumerism gone mad as well as speculation as people bought more homes on the back of the fact the market will go up and that they could sell multiple homes as surely there are buyers out there somewhere (we just haven’t seen them).
Consumerism always ends up like this a pile of excess hitting landfills everywhere yet I agree choice and consumerism is great its just the fact people are buying so much stuff they simply never use, don’t need and often don’t know why they bought it except for materialistic value.
Moving on to shipping container homes though it could be the only safe bet in the current economic climate. They can have a low floor area meaning cheaper land taxes, easy to construct, readily available shipping container stocks in many parts of many countries and on top of all that you can do it as you can afford it keeping away from any debt from the bank. Building your own home especially now that the banks aren’t keen to loan could be the only option and using shipping containers could be the most viable. For us we are currently looking at going back to the UK shortly and I will be looking into the issues of construction there for our first family home as we can build it on weekends, complete the first 40ft container so we have beds,toilet area, kitchen etc. while we add more units to the shipping container home. Being able to stack also means we can buy a low amount of land and utilize several levels wasting no money. All part of why shipping containers homes are so viable.