With a lot of things going on lately its been difficult to get on with the blog as we have had a lot of visitors. At the same time we have had an increasing amount of interest in shipping container housing which has started me looking at fabrication rather than recycling here in Cebu,Philippines due to one major issue the shipping containers here are holding a high value which can make fabrication of new containers cheaper. At the moment we are in the assessment stages but also we are looking at purchasing some land for another project. If the land deal goes through though it may actually give us some working space for the first unit to be constructed and test some of my theories.
Back in the UK a lot of the issues relating to the climate and other problems are extremely different to the Philippines. For a start we are reversing from heating to cooling but also we generally only construct for a lifespan of 10 years in the UK as the container buildings are designed for temporary use only. Doesn’t mean they will fall apart as some have been standing for over 30 years already but does mean that construction methods need to be looked at and assessments of materials properly. Paints, woods, metals all have to be assessed that they aren’t going to break down over a period of time. Which isn’t normally a problem in the UK market as a guarantee actually guarantees something but here in the Philippines its not so cut and dry and making sure things aren’t going to fail takes time and research.
But I am sure we will get there in the end, the project was never something we wanted to rush into but more importantly was something originally for discussion and idea debate. Getting the right sort of methods could be not only a lucrative business, a home but also a solution to sustainable housing issues within the Philippines islands and other countries.
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?
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.
When designing or even building shipping container homes often being practical is overlooked. This shipping container home obviously does what the owner needs but also its ideal for the terrain and country that it resides in. DaveGoesToAfrica has some interesting posts but from a shipping container point of view I could easily see these sized units being ideal for travelers on a limited budget or just looking for short stay accommodation. When designing a shipping container home its good to take the practical side of the home into account and not let what you want stray from what you need or can afford.
Its an idea I have been thinking about for sometime, I find people’s first complaint about shipping container homes as a “concept” is that they are simply too small to be viable. I totally disagree as it all depends on peoples lifestyles but also its very likely they have lived in a smaller space themselves at some point already.
But what if you took the shipping container for an urban situation where land is often at a premium, or more importantly bits of land people can’t imagine being useful due to the size available then take a shipping container and go vertical instead of horizontal. This is still an idea at the moment but thought maybe some of the whizzes out there with a bit of time and 3D imagery could come up with some interesting designs.
I’m sure it can be viable especially in locations that do have a high cost of land and positioning in even what once was a flower bed would be very possible.
The main issue I can see though is the stair access between floors, but like everything else this can be overcome with a good idea pool of people.
40ft container divided into 4 rooms of 10ft high each or at 9ft you could add a 5th floor with 4ft height for storage space. Each room would be 7’8" x 7’10" not huge but a workable space.
One of the problems with building codes in regards to shipping container homes is that there are specific “minimum” room sizes for many things. But like everything there is always a way round it although hoping more and more local government and planning officers start to recognise the viability of shipping container homes.
The “all-season suite,” is a great example of a shipping container home ideal to literally move straight into. They aren’t exactly cheap at $32,500 fully furnished but often people overlook the savings of minimal living with the fact your only heating and cooling a small floor area of 37 square meters of property, which long term means lower running costs.
When you go through shipping container homes you will find a trend in the majority of them that they are recycling and trying not to mess around with the area they are housed in, But is this enough?
Earlier looking at the shipping container house in Maui it hit me how they had added to the area by shading the building at the same time hiding it. What this also means is they had actually brought new plant life to the area as well as the new home.
Which gets me onto the subject of are we thinking enough “out of the box?” as obviously planning permissions and permits are often a headache but wouldn’t being over green actually hide the house and enhance the area making it harder for them to say no?
We are in the middle of a so called green revolution of some description, disappointedly it seems more of a middle class fad of fashion in the UK rather than actually trying to do our bit. Driving 20mins to offload the empty bottles at a bottle bank isn’t exactly helping the environment. In many cases the recycling isn’t even viable or green its more a case of “look we are trying something so give us a pat on the back”.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t have home knitted jumpers with a Greenpeace badge or smoke roll ups. I’m a realist not a green activist. For me its more about downsizing and being less of a consumer than bottle banks and paper recycling. Container homes are a step in the right direction but also have to think we could be doing more for the areas around our new container homes.
One of the main issues that are cropping up with shipping container architecture is things are often pushed onto recycling being the green solution, then you get greens telling us how toxic the paints are and how transportation is a waste of energy.
The important thing is though if its available and usable its green. If it isn’t and in many cases they aren’t then we are looking at modular construction for buildings which is a more viable method for many uses. I originally worked on this type of system in the late 90s for use in classrooms and clinic construction in the UK as a temporary solution.
Temporary often means a decade as they are generally put into place as an immediate solution while discussions, planning and funding are found for building the main buildings that will replace them. During this time though many of these units would return after years of being in the field and be revamped before sending back out. Which does show the fact they were extremely reliable and resilient to weather. Add to that having slot walling meant that upon return walls would be rejigged to suit the new layout for the building they were becoming. Very little wastage as all windows and doors ended up back in other buildings if not used.
The fact is the shipping container idea developed this new concept which is now fairly old in use but still has a growing market which does appear China is gearing towards the housing industry with.
I can see this being the future of shipping container homes as the dimensions are still in place although the walling systems have been completely redesigned.
Not the greatest of videos showing construction of shipping container homes but more to do with the fact its going mainstream and cost affective. Previously modular structure housing based on the same dimensions as shipping containers has been used for years for things likes classrooms,doctors surgeries,morgues,hotels but its only in recent years have we start to see it leaking into the general public developments and even more importantly starting to gain recognition for its viable use as low-cost housing.
For me its a bit of an odd one for sustainable development as an assessment of multi-crops is needed to see if it really is viable for every day use in city dwelling surroundings. Ok we are saving on transportation and lighting,pumps and heat come from solar panels but is it viable?
Many neighbourhoods would see kids running around on the roofs of these units damaging the solar panels at the same time in an upmarket area they don’t blend in. So where do they go?
Not scrapping the idea just trying to see where its viable in urban surroundings as the concept seems mainly to do with reduced travel. Places such as the middle east without a doubt these would be highly useful and productive but in the middle of New York or London?
I think if anything they would be more suited to being hidden away in things like railway arches and other spaces that are often not practical for other use as daylight doesn’t seem to be needed although if doing it myself I have to admit I would look at Louvre ventilation and a roof that allows light to pass. I’m out in the Philippines my main issues are electricity and bugs container farming would work urban scale here but the way things are developed to the West is very different.
Mono-cropping with shipping container farms may be useful for locations such as hospitals,military bases and other high volume and subsidised food locations but still trying to see how this concept fits into Joe public’s way of life. I can see how it works but like many things with shipping container homes and other buildings its to do with planning and surrounding areas more than anything else. Roof top gardens are probably a more viable project in many locations which makes me wonder are we better trying to get people away from daily gardening introducing automated systems or trying to educate people to be more green with the land they have?