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.
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.
Someone posted this link to me today regarding how someone downsized their life. The fact is in the last 50 years Americans (and no doubt many other nations) now occupy more than 3 times the amount of space they did before. Add to that the rising number of “drive in storage facilities” that are cropping up as a new industry its time to stop.
Now for me its something I realised years ago as although I had a nice Victorian house and garden in the winter I froze and in the summer the long garden was impossible to maintain.
But looking at it another way the ceilings were too high and I never used the sitting room, the kitchen was used for less than an hour a day and generally as a family of 3 at that time we could have lived in a space 3 times smaller and been financially better off. The electric bill would be cheaper, cost of rent and the amount of gas consumed in the winter time.
On a social front instead of my daughter sitting in her room unsocially it would mean the family have to function together in the same space creating a much more social environment. It would also mean having one good TV instead of 3 TV sets in different rooms.
But why stop there, I used to remember my ex buying clothes for specific parties that would never see the light of day again. Wouldn’t it make more sense to hire or buy something that would be timeless and expensive to wear to more events instead?
In today’s way of thinking I am permanently de-cluttering my life as every time I look at something I wonder if I really need it. When I go back to the UK shortly I will be arriving in the UK pretty much with just the clothes on my back as a suitcase in the UK is all my possessions I need there for work. Literally while working I can live in a small bedroom. I generally eat out due to the type of work I do so no kitchen is required, I wash my clothes daily so could use a launderette if the facilities weren’t at the place I rent etc.
It does away with the general cost of living in the UK which when I assess it cost me £1,500 a month previously with the Victorian house compared to £500 a month all inclusive for my new way of life financially I am saving at £1,000 a month. With the current economic climate its going to be much more of a saving.
So does container living make sense? I think its a case of accepting the fact we have to live smaller and shipping containers give fixed dimensions you can work with. It can also teach people to limit what they waste which in turn reduces personal debt. Question is can we live without container living, as simply it redefines life and moves away from consumerism to realistic financial living.
SNAP Hydroponics is something that has been developed in the Philippines for sustainable living and livelihood. What makes it a little unique compared to most hydroponics setups is that it doesn’t need any electricity which is a huge difference in money cost for production. Obviously the Philippines climate is a country receiving 12 hours of sunshine as well as constant heat which helps. But the SNAP solution which is mixed with water is a cheap solution for plant production that is initially designed for leafy plants. Maybe this is the first step towards developing different solutions for different types of plant to get maximum growth while still being organic. But for me living out in the Philippines with these lightweight boxes how many would you fit on a shipping container home roof? The boxes themselves come from discarded fruit boxes normally carrying grapes which means your recycling a product that is normally scrapped. How to make a SNAP hydroponics setup from a fruit box can be found here.
Green container International Aid have realised the possibilities of rapid house development due to the shipping containers natural structure. On top of that it obviously is a housing development that is designed for more sustainable living. After years in the tropics myself you see weathers offer the extremes from hot sunny long days to heavy rainfall and flooding and a shipping container home survives these issues without too many problems. Add to that over the problems of concrete housing such as the need for water and materials being moved to site for construction or going down the timber route to find problems with termite infestation the shipping container often comes up as the most viable for many projects especially if rapid deployment is needed.
Its a concept I have been toying with for several years and pretty much ironed out most of the issues involved. The big question is how many other people are interested in setting up a container village?
The photo is of a development in Texas and its for photography purposes only the designs I am looking at will be different but just want to get the idea across.
The development would be a mix of foreign and locals with an interest in sustainable living and projects. Doesn’t all have to revolve round what we are doing locally as the idea is to have likeminded people in an environment that encourages green living as well as hopefully throw up some new ideas.
Things like along the sides of the containers doing vertical gardening to give a food source as well as shade and maximising space.
Aquaponics, permaculture, solar and wind energy and possibly a water mill to produce localised lighting in the community are all ideas I want to bring to the table.
Don’t want to live amongst a group of drop out hippies? Guess what neither do I, I am looking at sustainable development because of the fact its self sufficiency offers up a lifestyle that people have forgotten or feel they can no longer afford. When you start looking at what life really costs you and how things like having a car to get a better job that is further away from home that ends up with a debt on the car as well as expensive petrol which nobody ever sits and calculates how much they would save by simply finding a lower paid job nearby. Or in my case the internet. The internet is awash with Internet “people” who simply don’t need the binds of expensive living and having a community that is based on technology as well as having several people of a similar mindset allows methods to role out across the web in different ways. It also allows people to improve their profit margins and in turn the whole project becomes more viable in another direction. In reality I am looking at building something that will not only last but will be mimicked by others. Food costs are rising yet again and although a lot of it is fake most comes down to the fact everything is moving via freight of some kind pushing demand on oil further. What about picking tomatoes from the garden how much energy does that burn? maybe a lettuce from your aquaponics setup?
The whole concept is people helping people not only in producing food because of different levels of gardening experience but also livelihoods.
But stop hold the press! Foreigners can’t own the land in the Philippines! and your right they can’t but I am looking to form up a community on land my wife will be the legal owner of but everyone has 50 year leases with a guaranteed 50 year extension on it. We sub lot a large area and this way you as the “home owner” control your piece of land there will be annual costs involved due to taxes, security and other things but I am looking to make this a long term commitment that encourages people to stay for life.