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Green Living: Shipping containers


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This is just more architectural "green" BS. You take a $10,000 steel shipping container (brand new, not used or recycled) and build a $500,000 house around it and call it environmentally responsible. Whats "green" about a shipping container? They are built of steel, take massive resources to build, aren't insulated, most used ones are probably contaminated. This 'green' bandwagon is starting to piss me off.

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Bill,

That town? is bigger/ nicer than the one I used to work in back in the day[:-slaphap

This is just more architectural "green" BS. You take a $10,000 steel shipping container (brand new, not used or recycled) and build a $500,000 house around it and call it environmentally responsible. Whats "green" about a shipping container? They are built of steel, take massive resources to build, aren't insulated, most used ones are probably contaminated. This 'green' bandwagon is starting to piss me off.

No arguments here.......... keep the comments coming.............

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There's all sorts of goofy "green" building ideas.

One thing I've seen for sure. Going green per LEED/Hollywood style costs a lot of green. Folks that need energy efficiency can't afford it.

Shipping containers used for housing is great if your in Afganistan, and there's nothing else available.

If you live in the US, going green should mean building small, simply, honestly, and appropriately for your specific climate and environment.

The largest problem is getting folks to think about what a house is and how it should look. Expand one's design sensibilities, and all sorts of good options open up.

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Originally posted by kurt

There's all sorts of goofy "green" building ideas.

One thing I've seen for sure. Going green per LEED/Hollywood style costs a lot of green. Folks that need energy efficiency can't afford it.

Shipping containers used for housing is great if your in Afganistan, and there's nothing else available.

If you live in the US, going green should mean building small, simply, honestly, and appropriately for your specific climate and environment.

The largest problem is getting folks to think about what a house is and how it should look. Expand one's design sensibilities, and all sorts of good options open up.

Kurt,

I drive near the NY area shipping ports, see the stacks of unused containers ,and think of the wasted resources rusting in the pile.

One day we will all pay to melt them down if they are not used for another purpose.

I think there is a huge middle ground between an expensive home that incorporates shipping containers as part of the house and using them for housing "Boxes" when nothing else is available.

You touched on the problem of the perception of a home and what makes a sensible home. We need to create living space that is efficient, beautiful, and sustainable. Exploring "Green" homes using the shipping containers is just one of the many options.

Steve

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Kibbel's photo kinda looks like my deer hunting blind!

This whole notion of green building is lots of fun, if you are accustomed to thinking about houses for what they are and represent. Most home inspectors never consider the concept of the house.

I have often recommended a couple of books by Witol Rybczynski. You should read "Home" first and then "The most Beautiful House In The World". Then ask yourself about the "green building" movement and how it impacts our job.

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Originally posted by homnspector

This is just more architectural "green" BS. You take a $10,000 steel shipping container (brand new, not used or recycled) and build a $500,000 house around it and call it environmentally responsible. Whats "green" about a shipping container? They are built of steel, take massive resources to build, aren't insulated, most used ones are probably contaminated. This 'green' bandwagon is starting to piss me off. my bold

While I would agree with that if they were using containers that were still needed, the problem is that the trade imbalance with the far east has resulted in most western ports having mountains of containers that we can't fill for the return journey and no one wants to pay for to ship back empty.

I remember seeing a photo and story of a neighborhood (I believe near the LA port) a couple of years ago where the skyline had been blotted out by a "cliff" of unwanted containers on what had been mostly vacant land. The homeowners weren't very happy!

The following photo is of student housing in Amsterdam (another port that evidently has a big container imbalance problem). Hell...if you can find a good use for them, why not?

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200810618500_containerhousing.jpg

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Originally posted by Steven Hockstein

Kurt,

I drive near the NY area shipping ports, see the stacks of unused containers ,and think of the wasted resources rusting in the pile.

One day we will all pay to melt them down if they are not used for another purpose.

I think there is a huge middle ground between an expensive home that incorporates shipping containers as part of the house and using them for housing "Boxes" when nothing else is available.

You touched on the problem of the perception of a home and what makes a sensible home. We need to create living space that is efficient, beautiful, and sustainable. Exploring "Green" homes using the shipping containers is just one of the many options.

Steve

Oh, I hear what you're saying, but....... messing with shipping containers carries are lot of logistical boondoggles. Sure, one can do it. I suppose if one brings economy of scale like the Amsterdam project, it might even be worthwhile.

For single house options, though, it isn't there. They're heavy, and not easy to deliver to remote sites. Try cutting windows in them, framing in them, and making them usable shells. Every dimension is based on something that is not a 4 foot module.

By the time one messes around in all the ways one has to mess around to make them a habitable box, one can build something quicker, better, easier, and have some design latitude.

Sure, they're wasted resources. But, they're steel. Has anyone ever done the math on steel recycling? Probably not. Given scrap costs, melting them down might be the good option. No one knows. Imagining them to be housing options is just that; imagining. No one's done any credible cost analysis that I'm aware of. OTOH, there's all sorts of favorable cost analysis for building simple conventional structures.

Folks that have never built anything look at a box and think "gee, that could be a house". Sure it could. Anything could, I suppose. But is it cost effective, or is it a groovy project for someone that wants to be "green"?

And, before I got all pumped up on Amsterdam's steel box housing, I'd love to survey the tenants and see how they actually work.

Miles and miles of custom gasketing is what I see when I look at a steel box that wants to be a house. When folks can't even get step flashing right on a skylite out of the box, the idea that a bunch of containers are going to be effectively retrofit into waterproof, warm, comfortable shells is hard for me to believe.

Remember the Expo 67 boxes in Montreal that were all the rage? Suckers leaked like sieves, and were a total mess to renovate and repair. My idea of green is less loopy ideas and monster square footage, and more architects designing simple affordable housing appropriate to their geographic region with technologies we already have. That's what folks can afford, no?

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Having worked in the shipping industry for a while a been in plenty of containers I can say that they are really only practical for .... shipping. It would take an awful lot of modification for them to become what we would consider livable. Given the dimensions of the containers, at best they might become a in-law suite - depending on how you feel about your in-laws.

-Brad

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Using excess cargo containers to create housing is a good design exercise. We all need to try and think outside of the box (Pun intended).

Considering the numerous problems that are created by using them in this way is how a home inspector is trained to think.

The designers don't think about the problems until they are created.

The answer is somewhere between the two.

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This topic hits somewhere around the core of how I think about current architectural training. Why would this be a good exercise?

It hits the formalized novelty component that seems central to a lot of architectural exercises.

After the novelty, then what?

"Green" thinking is backwards because the folks that really need it are entirely removed from it by architects working on the next novelty. It seems there should be design exercises that first recognize there is a box before trying to work outside it. It doesn't seem that current architectural educational models reflect that.

There's the program at Iowa that has been utilizing agricultural models, (i.e., farmers can't afford experiments that don't work), which has resulted in some interesting affordable habitations.

I'd like to see education focused on building envelopes, as that's where the heat and cold come in and out. Working on steel boxes, where the envelope is already defined and limited, seems counter to smart thinking about "green".

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The last 'green' house I inspected was a 4500 square foot several million dollar home with about $250,000 worth of photovoltaic panels and lead acid batteries. Touted as the 'largest private solar array in northern Arizona'. 2 people lived in the house.

This is the typical focus on green building in this area. This is totally environmentally irresponsible in my opinion but appears to be the current archetectural model. Naturally, architects don't make any money on a $50,000 - $100,000 home and we have put them in charge of designing environmentally responsible habitats.

When you actually look at the long term impact of a home like this the cost is incredible. The initial cost of the equipment relates directly to the energy used for manufacture. How many years of power can you buy for $250,000? How much pollution was created in China where the panels and batteries were manufactured? Why weren't they manufactured here? How do you eventaully dispose of all this lead, Mercury, Selenium? All in exchange for no electric bill.

Seriously, look at the links Brandon posted. Are these a reasonable, responsible use of shipping containers?

These people need to go back and re-read the Foxfire books, the Eric Sloan books and subscribe to Mother Earth News.

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Originally posted by kurt

This topic hits somewhere around the core of how I think about current architectural training. Why would this be a good exercise?

It hits the formalized novelty component that seems central to a lot of architectural exercises.

After the novelty, then what?

"Green" thinking is backwards because the folks that really need it are entirely removed from it by architects working on the next novelty. It seems there should be design exercises that first recognize there is a box before trying to work outside it. It doesn't seem that current architectural educational models reflect that.

There's the program at Iowa that has been utilizing agricultural models, (i.e., farmers can't afford experiments that don't work), which has resulted in some interesting affordable habitations.

I'd like to see education focused on building envelopes, as that's where the heat and cold come in and out. Working on steel boxes, where the envelope is already defined and limited, seems counter to smart thinking about "green".

Just guessing, but I think the smug green overbuilders probably demand that the architect(s) follow a plan that will raise the greenies' profiles and make them even smugger. Clearly, they've got dough to burn, and greenly overbuilding is a way to display their plumage while appearing to be caretakers of the planet.

Best I can tell, the best way to be "green" is to do nothing, or barring that, as little as possible. Cuts down on all the mining, milling, hauling, etc. 100 years from now, we'll have pits full of Prius batteries right beside the spent nuke fuel. But at least the nuke fuel will have warmed somebody's house.

Of course, I could be wrong.

WJ

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That's the pattern I see. $2.4 million, 4200sf architectural design gems. I think it is the folks displaying plumage while appearing to be wonderful caretakers.

Even getting the LEED cert adds $5000 or more to the cost of a new dwelling. It's all sort of backwards.

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Originally posted by kurt

That's the pattern I see. $2.4 million, 4200sf architectural design gems. I think it is the folks displaying plumage while appearing to be wonderful caretakers.

Even getting the LEED cert adds $5000 or more to the cost of a new dwelling. It's all sort of backwards.

Uh-huh. If you get down this way, I'll show you Al Gore's house.

WJ

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The 4500 sq. ft. "green" house for 2 is pretty ridiculous, but of course, it really has almost nothing to do with "green". Long before one could make absurd displays of phony "green" plumage there were plenty of folks building monster houses for just a few people, and other nutty ways of pretending to be something more (or other) than what you really were. How smart is it to build cities in the desert to start with? How long before we simply can't supply enough water for every green-grass yard, swimming pool, and massive dancing-water fountain in Pheonix, Vegas, et al?

I'm not sure if it's an American thing or just a human thing, but we seem to be predisposed to waste a hell of a lot of resources, just because we damned well can. Many feel absolutely entitled to do so, if only by virtue of recent tradition. I say "recent" because if you go back to any time before the industrial revolution, reuse and recycle were the unquestioned, common-sense order of the day. Waste was stupid, and the average person just couldn't afford it.

The days of mindless waste are on the wane, like it or not, and we'll all be subjected to both sides of green in the future; the good and the goofy. I can't see a lot of wisdom in shipping container houses myself, but improved solar, wind, battery, and other energy technologies are critical to our future without oil, since we have no long-term future with oil.

Brian G.

Green is the New Black [;)]

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