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Simplify Your Existence

It’s all the rage these days: decrease your carbon footprint, simplify your existence, go eco-friendly. Yet is it just a fad? These two families sought a simpler lifestyle by downsizing their homes. Let’s see what they have in common…

The Longneckers were living the American dream, with plenty of material items and a giant home to boot. Yet they found themselves wanting more–or rather less. A desire for adventure and spending more time together prompted this family to sell the home and much of their possessions.

A shiny 1972 Airstream Sovereign was the perfect solution for their sustainable dreams. In just six months, the couple transformed the vintage home on wheels into an off-grid living space, complete with plentiful storage, modern décor and a workshop.

Despite its 220-square foot size, the trailer is fully functional for the family of six. The kids have fold-down bunk beds, which can be changed into two couches. A luxurious kitchen and dinette allow the family to eat and cook together, and at night, with just a few maneuvers, the dinette can easily convert into a king-size bed.

Now, the Longneckers live and work wherever they feel the need to explore, with all the comforts of a single-family home in a sustainable “adventure mobile.”

The Heeringa Family

Matt & Ilse Heeringa of Hawk’s Bay New Zealand were living in a 5,000 square foot home complete with swimming pool and tennis court. Yet they found themselves buried under the constant maintenance required to keep their home and gardens intact. They were so busy keeping up their home, they had no time to spend together as a family!

After selling their large home, the family purchased two used shipping containers and set off on a trek to make them into a home. Placing the containers side by side and opening-up the two halves enables the space to have a deceivingly spacious feel. A galley kitchen runs the entire length of one container and a large living space gives this family of 5 the space they need to spend time together.

Solar Panels placed on the roof produce all the energy required for the home, while a custom rain collection system and compostable toilets all work together to make this home the eco-conscious haven it was intended to be.

 

What about you? Is your large home secluding you from spending time together as a family? Thinking of downsizing into a more efficient home? Let’s get this conversation started…shoot us an email or write us in the comments below. Cheers to a simpler life!

A Shipping Container Prefab Lab Is Built in Only 4 Hours

When classroom space was becoming limited at Bard College in New York’s Hudson Valley, representatives from the school looked to MB Architecture for a fast, effective fix. By utilizing prefabricated structures based out of 4 retrofitted shipping containers, the architects were able to design and deliver just that.

“The budget required that we explore options beyond conventional construction,” said MB architects. The project arose out of a grant of only $100,000 and was prefabricated, delivered and installed in half a day at a cost of slightly over $200,00. What’s more, is the structure was fully operational just a few days later!

 

 

The design stems from MB Architecture’s prototype prefabricated Insta House – a two story home (also based out of 4 modified containers) with a bedroom upstairs and a main living area on the ground floor, built in the Hamptons in 2009.

The new Media Lab on the middle of campus exemplifies the speed and efficiency of prefab cargotecture. Built double wide and double tall, the boxy two-floor building offers 960 square feet of adaptable meeting spaces and performance areas for the Department of Experimental Humanities.

 

Installation of the Media Lab in only 4 Hours!

 

Following assembly, the team, directed by lead architect Maziar Behrooz, added trim boards between the upper and lower floors and connected the electrical and plumbing lines to the site utilities.

The architects expressed the multiple functions of the Media Lab through designing flexible and open-plan spaces that cater to meetings, lectures, workshops, performances and more. A glazed garage-style door swings up to open the double-height main room to the quad, while also creating a stage for concerts and theatrical events.

Large windows and doors were installed to allow-in copious amounts of natural light while also framing campus views.

 

 

While reconfigurable furniture includes chair seating for up to 16 people, the stairs can also be used as auditorium-like seating for lectures. The downstairs space of the Media Lab is open for reservations to the Bard community, and offers a variety of products, including sound recording equipment and a television.

 

 

Bard’s example of urgent space requirements only goes a little way to exemplify the many uses of shipping container construction. Since the installation of the Media Lab, other universities have considered the container route for educational spaces as well as student housing. The possibilities are endless.

Got ideas? Shoot us an email or reply in the comment section below…we’d love to hear from you!

 

Are Shipping Containers DANGEROUS To Live In?

Lots of people come to our site and see shipping container homes and fall in love with how incredible they look and how eco-friendly they are. But one question normally lingers in the background of their thoughts, “Is living in a shipping container safe?”

First off, we need to define exactly what kind of fears are lurking in the minds of these potential buyers and then address those issues one by one.

So today, I am going to address some of the most common concerns and how your CargoHome can be the desirable haven it is intended to be.

Question: Do Shipping Container’s Container Harmful Chemicals?

This is the most common question for any potential container home buyer and it mainly stems from the possibility of hazardous chemicals either in the waterproofing of the flooring material or the paint which may contain phosphorous or chromate.

While a simple solution to any of the above-mentioned concerns would be to simply buy a new shipping container directly from a manufacturer, this would also take away your eco-minded dreams.

Some simple solutions are the most practical. Spray foam insulation on all the interior wall panels greatly improves your container’s ability to maximize efficiency and also produces a vapor barrier against any potentially harmful toxins in wall paint.

If you want to be completely safe from possible toxins in your flooring, you could remove the original wooden flooring and replace it with marine plywood from your local hardware store.

In the example below, a simple non-breathable flooring underlayment was laid straight over the original wooden flooring and then the desired finished flooring material could be laid directly on top of the vapor barrier.

Vapor Barrier Installed Above Existing Flooring

Question: Are Shipping Container Homes Hurricane Proof?

These questions are no doubt inspired from the photo’s we’ve seen of hurricane Katrina. In the photos it shows wooden homes which have been completely annihilated by Katrina, however lying on top of the wood are completely intact shipping containers.

Containers Survive Hurricane Conditions

Shipping containers are designed to be stacked up to nine high when fully loaded with over 26 tons of cargo in each container. It’s not surprising these containers stood up to the test of Katrina.

We are now seeing a spate of shipping containers being used as emergency disaster housing- this is because they are so tough. The most well-known occurrence of this being in New York.

In April 2014 New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the Post-Disaster Housing Prototype Program. Guess which prototype won the program?

You guessed it… A Shipping Container Home.

New York aims to use shipping container homes as stackable apartments which can be used as post-disaster housing. The fact that these homes are stackable makes them perfect for densely populated areas such as New York.

You can read more about the post disaster housing program in our recent blog post.

 

Now you know exactly how safe shipping container homes are to live in, what are you waiting for!? Let us know what you use your shipping container home for in the comments section below!

 

 

 

ReSTART Shipping Container Mall

The renewal of Christchurch New Zealand, after a devastating earthquake, took a giant leap with the opening of a pedestrian shopping mall made from shipping containers. The brightly colored boxes held 27 stores as part of the City Mall ReSTART project.

The initial success was overwhelming, as residents and tourists alike found the area to have some serious eco-style. The mall also offered a bit of normalcy to residents just recently inundated by the daunting task of finding new homes and rebuilding a city.

Christchurch had lost a lot of infrastructure, in addition to 166 lives lost in the February 22nd earthquake. The town was looking for novel designs to help the city bounce back, like that of Shigura Ban’s Cardboard Cathedral. The shipping container mall was one of the city’s most striking features of renewal.

Featuring mostly locally-owned stores that had been a part of the community for years; the development took only months to put together, but still had a sense of thoughtful design, as well as bright open spaces with interesting gathering areas to linger on warm spring weekends.

The ReSTART container mall closed on Sunday, April 30th of this year. Since its opening in October of 2011, the temporary solution became an internationally famous icon and symbol of post-quake Christchurch innovation that lasted five-and-a-half-years.

Yet the trend doesn’t stop here. Shopping malls featuring shipping containers are going up all over the US including New York, Las Vegas and Kapaa Hawaii. There is even talk of a container development going up in our hometown here in Waco! For more container news, stay tuned.

Abu Dhabi Transforms Shipping Containers into Bus Stops

Think you’ve heard all the ways that a shipping container can be repurposed?

Well think again. This year, in Abu Dhabi, in a city-wide effort to promote public transportation usage, the Department of Transportation has approved construction for 100 air-conditioned bus shelters. 30 are already in use and 20 of them are recycled shipping containers.

All the new units will have a refreshed design with geometric patterns, outdoor shading and seats, bus timetables, bins for regular and recyclable waste, a QR (quick response) code panel that enables connection to bus routs and top-up machines for hafilat cards.

The Sleek, Modern Exterior

“The idea is to improve the quality of the public transport service,” said Ahmed Al Mazrouei advisor to the chairman of the department.

The government also believes that encouraging people to use the public services will help with traffic congestion problems the city has been facing on a massive scale.

The news has come as a relief to hard-pressed users of public transport. Concerns have recently been raised about the lack of shelters in many areas and the fact that the air-conditioning systems often break in the summer heat. This move comes partly in response to that, but also as part of a broader plan to upgrade the system.

Some of the bus shelters reflect the identity of their neighborhoods. For example, a new unit near Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has been painted white to mirror the famous place of worship. The new units have also dispensed with the large advertising sign common on the top of old shelters and instead have ads down the sides.

“The project reflects the aspirations of the leadership to establish a modern transport infrastructure and a sustainable living environment in the emirate of Abu Dhabi,” said Mr. Al Mazrouei.

The inside of Abu Dhabi’s new bus stops.

Why use shipping containers for the bus shelters? The containers have been selected due to their high capacity and fast installation, especially in the city’s high demand areas. And they also have an added value reflected by their comparably low cost of entry.

Innovation in the way of shipping architecture is just getting started! What are some other interesting ways we can use shipping containers to revolutionize our lives? Leave your ideas in the comments!

Shipping Container Housing Permits and Building Codes

Looking to invest in a CargoHome, but not sure if your state or local zoning board will approve?

Unfortunately, there isn’t any clear-cut system for building a container home in the United States. However, there are some things to consider before you dive head first into building a container home.

First off, for those new to building any type of home, a building code is a set of rules, or minimum standards that every building must meet or exceed in order to receive an occupancy permit. Its important, though not to confuse building codes and zoning, as they are two separate things. Zoning regulations state where a house can be built and help keep similar buildings near each other.

 

Why are there Code Problems with Container Homes

 

 On the surface, it may seem that a container home is more structurally sound than a traditional manufactured home (ie: trailer home). The corner posts are heavier than a manufactured house, it can withstand a greater load and is all steel construction as opposed to wood or aluminum 2×4’s. However, building inspectors really aren’t familiar with this type of construction, and the neighbors might object to anything different in fear that it may affect their property value.

 

How to Get a Building Permit for a Container Home

 

First, communicate with the local authorities about your plans, explain the designs and benefits, and bring examples of other container homes especially if they’re in your area, can greatly affect your plans getting a positive reaction. Along with shipping container homes, research other types of “non-traditional” building such as earthships or ferro-cement domes. Even though these types of building aren’t the norm, they are becoming more and more accepted in many areas.

Second, research areas that are friendlier to alternative type buildings. If the area is a little more remote, there might be a better chance of having your designs accepted and ultimately approved. Just note that if you’re trying to receive permitting in New York City, you might find more trouble than applying in Waco Texas. You can also begin your research by looking for areas with no building codes or zoning regulations. They’re getting fewer and further between, but they do exist.

Finally, while there aren’t any set rules concerning shipping container homes, all electrical, plumbing and mechanical on the CargoHome is done to code under licensed tradesmen.

CargoHome manufactures container-based structures using our own code-compliant shipping container modules. ESR 4163 confirms that the containers we use in structures meet the strict inspection, quality and known material requirements set by the international Code Council. But that’s a topic for another blog article. Stay tuned!

Shipping Containers for Post-Disaster Relief Housing

 

They’re built to withstand everything from raging typhoons in the Pacific to careless crane operators in Beijing. Yet can the humble shipping container really be the answer to post-disaster relief housing in New York City? Turns out, this might not be as far-flung as it sounds…here’s how.

In the wake of hurricane Sandy, and with thousands of residents still homeless, New York officials realized the need for space efficient, easily transportable structures that could house stranded residents for the extended time periods required to rebuild their neighborhoods.

Don’t call them disaster dorms. (Jeff Shumaker/DCP)

Besides having a history of problems like formaldehyde contamination, the traditional FEMA trailers are ill suited for a dense urban environment like New York. With the need to house thousands of families after a disaster – as indeed happened after Hurricane Sandy – there is hardly room for a huge trailer park. What’s more, is New Yorkers really like their neighborhoods, they don’t want to relocate miles away for months, possibly years on end.

To solve the problem, the city started a design competition titled WhatIfNewYork. It was a challenge that got a lot of people thinking. The city received 117 proposals from 52 different countries, providing the city with a wealth of ideas—some practical, some fanciful. Impromptu complexes of honeycomb hexagons, floating villages on piers, barges, even a requisitioned cruise ship. Flat-pack solutions (think an IKEA box) that blossom like an accordion or pop up like Transformers. Giant Erector sets, a few inflatable models like one of those carnival bouncy rides. There was even a fleet of flying dirigibles, each with an apartment inside, that could float above people’s homes.

The outcome? A 40-square foot one-bedroom apartment carved out of a 40-foot long shipping container; complete with stainless-steel appliances, cabinetry hand-built by Amish artisans, a shower flush with the floor –both sleek and accessible. “It’s the FEMA trailer of the future, with the Dwell reader in mind”

Able to reach four stories, the design of the units avoids the need for elevators and complies with the city’s building code. The units also incorporate universal design, with wide passages, tables and countertops that can accommodate wheelchairs, even in bathrooms.

When the next storm of the century hits, thousands of shipping container apartments could begin arriving in the city within days. A playground or a parking lot at least 10,000 square feet, somewhat accessible, safe and sizable – would serve as the site. The units, stacked four containers high and anywhere from six to twelve wide, would form neat little apartment blocks.

The Sleek, Modern Interior

“Almost everyone tells us these are nicer than their own apartments,” James McConnell, the assistant commissioner for strategic data at the city’s Office of Emergency Management, said during a tour. That includes a reporter, who had the fortune of spending the night by choice, rather than necessity. When the next “big one” hits, thousands could find themselves relying on these pods – and they may find they prefer them to home.

Container Homes Around the World

When you think about living or staying in a Container home, you may think that the experience will feel minimalist, cramped, or even like you are “roughing it”. These Container Home owners around the world beg to differ!

Our first Container home we will visit is in Brisbane, Australia. Using over 30 shipping containers to construct this container “mansion”, the architects included 4 bedrooms, a gym and an art studio. While this isn’t your typical container home model, it is a testament to the shipping container as a viable, sturdy, and even luxurious building material. This home cost around $450,000 to build, but was well worth the investment, as the owners eventually sold the house for double the build cost! That’s called smart investing, mate!

Graceville Container Home

Graceville Container Home in Australia

The next Container Home we will explore is called The Caterpillar House, located just outside Santiago, Chile. This home was built by world renowned architect, Sebastián Irarrázaval. Constructed out of 12 shipping containers, this house was built to render electronic air conditioning unnecessary. This house uses the cool, natural mountain breeze to pass through the house in a passive cooling system!

Caterpillar House

The Caterpillar House Container Home

The last home on our quick tour is located in Kansas City and was designed by a former toy designer, Debbie Glassberg. She built this house from five shipping containers, with the main goal in mind to show that building out of shipping containers doesn’t have to be super-industrial or minimalist. In fact, it can be playful and quirky. She painted the walls in Tiffany blue, and adorned the ceilings with hand-sculpted tiles!

Kansas Container Home

Debbie Glassberg’s Custom Container Home

More than anything, these home designers and architects have shown the versatility of shipping containers and the customization that is possible when you are building your own Container Home! What is on your wishlist for your dream Container Home? Let us know in the comments!

 

The Shipping Container Home: Friendly To Our Environment

There are approximately 17 million shipping containers around the world, with only about 5-6 million currently in circulation. Often times, shipping containers are left stacked at their destination city, as it is cheaper to do that than to ship them back to Asia or Europe. These huge shipping ports are sitting on millions of unused shipping containers. So, what can we do with all of them? Is there an environmental-friendly way to handle all this?

Shipping Containers at Port

Shipping Containers Stacked at Port

One might say, “Couldn’t we just melt the shipping containers down and reuse the metal?” Well, that would take an absurd amount of energy (about the same amount as an average household in America uses in a year), which would not be efficient and certainly not eco-friendly.

What are some other options? Well, shipping containers are currently being repurposed for all sorts of interesting projects (read our last blog to see some of these), but most widely they are being recycled to build container homes!

Container Home from CargoHome

CargoHome Model “The Anchor” Container Home

Those who build their homes out of shipping containers are literally living inside a recyclable. They are utilizing the pre-used steel and giving the shipping container a new purpose. Additionally, by using recycled materials, they are reducing the overall demand for other resources that would be used to build a home from the ground up, like concrete, wood and bricks. Some estimate that it takes around 2 acres of trees to build the average American home!

Many people see shipping containers as an important player in our future of sustainable and eco-friendly architecture! Here at CargoHome we think using shipping containers to build homes is a viable way to reduce deforestation and excess production. What do you think? Leave your answers in the comments below!