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  • Writer's pictureMegan Quadros

Container Housing, The Secret Rival to Sustainability?

Some people believe container homes are the real deal. They look sleek and modern, but are they affordable and sustainable? That's what this blog post aims to answer by giving you information on container homes and their sustainability.

The very attractive designs of Shipping Container homes have certainly captured the imagination of millions. They are quite common in the Tiny House Movement which claims to advocate for living simpler and environmentally friendly. Along with this mentality, is the idea that you are saving money by using waste material as a starting point.

The Main Issues with Shipping Containers-

  • The size constraints

The standard sizes of Containers are 20ft and 40ft long and 8ft wide, they are 8.5ft tall but are also available for 9.5ft tall. Unless modified which would cost a lot more, you are stuck with only two options. Also for these containers to become liveable Insulation is required.

  • Insulation Problems

Spray Foaming is quite commonly used as an insulator. Spray Foam though eco-friendly causes numerous problems in the long run. For example, Roof damage, Hidden termite damage, Permanent foul smells as well as Mold.

  • Structural Idea of a Container

Metal shipping container works as a system, the idea that this box is structural is false, every piece that you cut to make doors, windows, roof openings into its frame compromises its strength so reinforcing is required.

  • Reinforcing Containers

Reinforcing is done using metal or wood to add insulation it is required to frame out your walls with wood finish and the interior with drywall, this is similar to what you would normally do on typical house construction. This makes you lose a foot of the total height and six inches off each side.

  • Cantilevers

There is a misconception that shipping containers support cantilevers. Containers are meant to be stacked on top of one another the second you do not stack the container on corners you need to reinforce the containers with heavy-duty expensive sted beams. The four corner posts of the container should align with the corner posts of the container above or below it. The rails on the roof are not structural at all.

  • Metal Aesthetic

Most Container homes that have a sidewall removed are reinforced with metal at this point people are only building these homes because of the metal aesthetic, rather than using the container as a whole.

  • Thermal Conductivity

Since these containers are not the best insulators you can expect them to get very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. If insulation is done from the inside, there will be a big temperature difference where the hot air from the outside meets the cold air on the inside or vice versa which can cause rot or fungal growth. The better way to go about it would be to insulate it from the outside but then you lose the metal aesthetic.

  • Health Risks

One can track down the exact location of where the container has been but cannot track down what it has carried. The container could've carried toxic chemicals like pesticides. In some cases, the contents could've leaked into the floorboard. States like California have allowed the use of only single-use containers as homes.

  • Cost of Transportation

Shipping containers would be readily available in coastal areas while areas inland would have to face high tax and transportation costs.

  • Climate

As the climate differs from place to place so do construction materials. For example, American construction focuses on timber while in other countries' clay brick construction or sandstone construction is used. These construction methods and materials make the most sense as they are best suited to the climate of the area. Shipping containers would work in areas that are recovering from natural disasters or areas with scarce resources.

  • Eco-Friendly

The very idea that you are saving the environment is wrong if you are using brand new shipping containers or single-use containers like you would in California, as it would serve a better purpose transporting goods for which it was made. Containers are made from steel which is not eco-friendly, wood on the other hand is very sustainable.

  • Cost buster

The amount of money you would spend building a normal home would be similar if not more while building a shipping container home. Not to mention the amount of money that goes into insulating the container.

The more we learn about container homes the more we realize they are not sustainable. Container homes are not a scam but are also not as sustainable as many want to believe. The materials used for shipping containers were not built to last forever. In the end, to be considered sustainable, homes need to have a minimal impact on the environment, without compromising their utility. It takes time and careful planning, but it is possible. As more people become aware of this, more container homes will be created with sustainability in mind. The future of container homes will be filled with more opportunities for eco-friendly design decisions that reduce environmental impact. Hopefully, you enjoyed reading about container homes and will play an active role in shaping their future now that you are informed.

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