These projects are being done by a UK Based charity their website seems to be a work in progress but the concept of the conversion of a shipping container as you can see is a lot more simple than many people realise. Not sure about the solar panel side of things as they don’t have a battery backup as well as no ventilation for the heat build up from the computers in the container.
But then again I am not in Africa and acclimatised to the environment as the kids there may not even notice. I have computers here in the Philippines which are in arcade boxes sat outside the home. I can’t go there because of the mosquitos they seem to love my white legs, but the local kids will sit there for hours completely undisturbed as they are used to it but also I have noticed that with some things locals don’t seem to get affected the same way. Red ants for example I was stood near a beach and they were climbing all over my feet and biting me. But I could see my wife’s feet they actually just went round. Haven’t a clue what the difference was but its happened with other things as well.
Anyway getting off tangent! The shipping container internet cafe is obviously a project that is already working and spreading computer training into developing nations. But another area people often overlook when sending aid is why not convert the containers in advance then load them with the materials that they are sending for projects? Instead of shipping the container back it stays and actually becomes part of the community. For example this where its all panelled and ready to be used as an internet cafe but could just as easily have the far end prepped for shipping with the computers etc. and the rest of the container utilised for sending other materials and equipment.
Darsky dreamed up the idea as he wanted people to see the authentic 5,000 pound wood fire oven he had imported all the way from Naples for his pizza’s. This seen the removal of one side of the shipping container before it was refitted with glass framed doors.
A very unique use of a shipping container but also a very practical one with being able to open out the side of the unit as no doubt it gets extremely hot with the oven reaching temperatures of over 800 degrees.
60 seconds it takes to cook a pie from the oven and its lowered to a cashier via a special rack. I could see this being great for concerts. Although coming in at $180,000 to build in the right venues this could easily be in profit in a short period of time.
Going the authentic oven route is something that food lovers will saviour but also making it extremely visual will also help increase sales. I wish Darsky well with his venture!
Shipping container homes are the home of the future due to their extremely flexible structures.
Although many people have an idea of what their ideal home looks like in their mind ask them to sketch or design it and things start becoming rather foggy. In reality we are often told things or fed things via media without even realising it. Is your ideal home for example going to have a rather pitched roof? Why is that? This is a typical example of what I am talking about as its a TV stereotype that is often seen as the home we want. There is no real reason the roof has to have a pitch in the way people imagine except for the fact we are pre-programmed with many things as right and wrong without any thought to does it really make any difference?
In reality we are often put off things as being a bad idea or not the norm because everything is based round particular social designs and thoughts. But the funniest thing here being that shipping containers can be modular design and this is why it also fits into this even though its thinking out of the box.
The modular way to join containers side by side or stack means people can physically imagine an object when designing a shipping container home. Measurements are fixed into each container giving you fixed measurements for each module in the home.
What can put people off though is the space odd thing is living in Asia I have seen people living in single rooms with 6 – 10 people and pretty much everything is in that room including cooking facilities. That is taking minimal living to the extreme but the point being homes have gotten bigger and bigger over time. Yet our debts have grown with them as well forcing up land and home values with it and for what? Its an artificially inflated market and I am much happier if living in a 4 bedroom home with 3 rooms rented out paying my mortgage off. Than I would be with an empty 4 bedroom house where I am working night and day to pay for it.
Quality of life is all depending on the routes you take in life, modular shipping container housing can give you low cost housing that can be adapted and extended as a family grows.
One of the most common statements when talking about shipping container homes is I can’t live in a container but why?
I started to look into social media and how things have changed over the years. I believe we now occupy three times if not more space than we used to but do we need to is never asked? We are told we need a bigger house, bigger car, an ipad,computer,laptop and yet nobody stops to say won’t one do the job?
Won’t a computer do the job of the iPad and laptop? Or more importantly would the laptop keep you mobile and do away with the other two? tie that in with a dongle and Skype you don’t need a phone anymore either.
We are living in the cluttered age not modern. a 60” plasma is wanted or needed yet I confess I owned 2 plasma TV’s in my last UK home yet you know how many hours I watched TV on them? answer is zero as I use my computer. This is why we can live in a container and yet many people can’t even see the benefits of the wake up call.
One plasma is fine in a container home as it hangs on the wall. There is no way you would need 2! Computer you have to think of its space and very likely to go down the route of a laptop and generally this is how people living in a container think. Do I need it and what is the best option?
But those who say no way I can’t live in a shipping container I bet they find their credit cards often maxed out and they always seem to have more stuff than they have space for it. Not a nag at them as simply this is a consumerist society that is always telling us this is the way life should be.
Funny now though as the combustion engine car is starting to feel the pain of oil prices or more importantly we are. The U.S. still struggles to find cars under 4.0 litre engines yet most of the rest of the world has done just fine for at least 50 years. Fact is times are a changing and the population is growing at a rate that really it shouldn’t be.
We need more space where I say we need to use what we have better. We need to get to A to B and have a right to a car where I say can you work from home some days and actually have a better quality of life and be more productive?
All in all those who think they can’t live in a container will eventually find that costs are going to see people starting to think smaller in some form. Be it land taxes, heating or cooling. Everything is on the downward spiral of getting expensive.
This may seem to defeat the idea for some being “green” but here in the Philippines its not always about recycling simply because containers aren’t readily available.
Take a shipping containers basic structure and what I see is a very simple building block that can be replicated side by side. and more importantly easy to build. Now what your doing with the container blocks will make a difference in the support structure and density of the steel for load bearing purposes. Why I am pointing that out is that someone may go “its cheaper to buy a container” well here in the Philippines its not unless you know something I don’t.
Your main dimensions you need to work on are based on transportation needs and not the home itself. For example if you took this open sketched version as a real building block you can actually attach other containers in any direction. Even stacking one on top and removing several of the floor beams for a staircase.
Why this is important is that from an engineers point of view it becomes extremely easy to put a value on materials as well as labour costs. You can decide on sections do you weld or bolt? but all in all you can get a real accurate price structure on your modular container construction.
Building them within standard transportation design metrics also means that you can make these off site or more importantly speed up production and lower costs. These buildings can be built in a factory and shuttered along on a conveyor system or as we used to do in the UK moved by forklifts. E.g. outside we used to weld the frames together before they were transported indoors to have the walls installed.
Pretty much the whole thing can be produced on site in a factory then all the modules can be joined together at their final destination. But that’s not always useful and with many of the areas in the Philippines its full of mountains. How many containers can you fit inside one if just cut and stripped down ready for putting together and welding/bolting? 2 – 3 trucks could be transporting virtually the entire house in parts that could physically be carried and erected on site.
This idea is something I have thought of due to one of my wife’s relatives having half a mountain for sale and this could see homes perched on the top and the most sensible way of transporting materials to the location.
The original prototype Eco-Pak house constructed in Turkey throws up some interesting ideas about shipping container home design due to not only making the shipping container part of the home. But also the fact that you can utilise the shipping container to transport a lot of the equipment and materials required for the build. Looking at the steel frame work design it does appear that it can all fit inside the container. For the first fix it could allow the starting on the project as soon as the container arrives with a secure storage area.
The “Eco-Pak” development was the brainchild of an aircraft structural engineer James Green of Building Container LLC. The system has a U.S. patent with international patents pending, James teamed up with Seattle-based architect Matthew Coates to develop the system. Its primary goals were to make a building that was low cost, structurally sound as well as transportable without the need of a concrete base.
The flexibility of the steel design allows for many variables and all delivered via the shipping container unit that comes with the building. A prototype version will be put together in 2013 by Coates Design in the Seattle area.
One of the most interesting shipping container home projects has been the colourful container homes in Amsterdam utilised for student accommodation.
We have talked about these before and its good to see the buildings are still causing a bit of media interest. Not only because of being a cheap solution to housing for students but also can just as easily be a solution for couples or single people in need of housing generally. The current housing crisis hasn’t drastically affected homes in Europe as many people tied with the economic downturn generally can’t afford a rung on the housing ladder even with reduced prices. Shipping container homes could actually fill some of that gap but even if not shipping containers the fact is smaller homes make sense on many levels.
As you can see above the home is fully functional and provides the daily needs of students. Below the space can be utilised for a workspace. Whatever way you look at it thinking smaller makes people think of how to get the most out of the space they have. Also the fact they reduce their costs on things like electric and heating.
Photograph by Paul O’Driscoll, Bloomberg/Getty Images
They may seem a little bland from the outside but I also think people living in these types of environments geared towards a specific age group and type of people may actually develop better social development. Having community areas and small restaurants etc. could also feed into the idea. I know when I am city living I just need a roof over my head and a space to relax in the evenings. Having something like this would be perfect as generally I eat out and wouldn’t even need any cooking facilities.
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.
Princeton’s shipping container disaster relief wind and solar power generators.
The prototype system was a winner of an EPA-sponsored sustainable design competition. The entry in the competition was for a “rapidly deployable renewable energy system”. Its primary role to be used in disaster hit areas which lose infrastructure and power.
Image by Frank Wojciechowski, courtesy of Princeton University
The solar and wind turbine is 40 foot tall and capable of providing 10kW of wind and solar power. Within the container also capable of storing the batteries and mechanical systems required to make the unit functional. There is a hope the unit will actually take off and replace diesel-powered generators in relief camps in disaster zones. Which can often be hazardous due to air pollution, ground pollution and the issue of a constant supply of fuel.
For the contest the shipping container and its equipment were taken on a flatbed truck from Princeton to Washington DC. The unit was erected and tested with the first day seeing no wind but a sunny day allowing good solar energy. While on the second day it was windy and rainy it put its wind turbine into action and was capable of providing power on both days. A grant of $90,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency, will see the project being developed further and the team hope to take the finished model on a tour of Africa.
The contest has highlighted the need for new solutions and developments and seen students from 165 academic institutions submit proposals to the competition. 15 of those were given awards for pursuing sustainable design solutions to issues ranging from erosion control to a seeking out a biodegradable alternative to plastics.
For me I support a lot of these ideas but things do come back to some basic issues, a lot of disaster areas and problems are preventable. Haiti seems to be a big favourite in U.S. circles to mention for aid yet has anyone even started looking at common sense things like reforestation? Land can protect itself but it needs people to stop destroying it.
When Bangkok based Site Specific were approached for a Mazda dealership building they were not only looking at a shipping container project but also a client that needed the building yesterday.
The modular shipping container car dealership was designed to be constructed in six stages. The main objective was as soon as the first container hit the ground the dealer could start selling cars and the other shipping container units would be added in phases at a later date. This resulted in the first shipping container and sales room being installed then over the next 5 months adding extra rooms and facilities until it was complete.
Site specific had gone down the route of shipping containers due to the fact they reduce the carbon footprint in not only construction but the use of recycled materials. The shipping container design sits comfortably alongside a car dealership and blends in nicely. But just as importantly they could work with the project in modular sections by utilizing the easy construction methods associated with shipping containers. For the dealership they have the added bonus of being able to move the whole building when the lease expired if they decided to relocate.