Contained in Container; A Sustainable Approach to Modern Home Building

Presented by: Kijeong Jeon

Originally conceived as a device to transport goods, shipping containers have begun serving a disparate purpose – to provide housing. In the modern day trade world, shipping containers are most frequently used to import/export goods between countries.  However, because of their ubiquity, exotic material and structure, architects and designers have developed ideas of repurposing these containers into housing units.  The distinctive nature of shipping containers as a building or housing structure has posed a worldwide challenge for designers and architects alike.  All shipping containers share a standard support system, regardless of the cuboid’s dimensions.  The vertical corners of a shipping container are 6 in. x 6 in. steel posts; a 2 in. x 2 in. steel beam runs along every edge; and 6 in. steel u-channels are present in the under floor.  Adding little support to the overall container is the 14 gauge corrugated steel vertical faces.  All containers are eight feet wide, but differ in length and height.  This design does not only allow for every shipping container to support its own load through transport, but also provides proper weight distribution when stacked.  In the housing context, shipping containers are single-room modules that can form a multi-room system once combined. I designed and built a home by adjoining containers to create a spacious interior. Offsetting the containers from each other – whether adjoined side-by-side or cantilevered – allowed for a unique and dynamic design to the overall building without requiring additional structural details.  Although modifications were made in creating this spacious and dynamic design, designing a home or building with shipping containers limits the design to the container’s dimensions, restricting freedom in design. Along with being forced to design around the containers dimensions, the material of the container presents an added hurdle.  The container is made of steel, which easily transmits the cold and heat.  To combat this issue, multiple measures were taken to assist in the insulation of the container home.  The exterior of the container was sprayed with ceramic paint; a one-inch air pocket between the container and inner wall was created; and solar guard was added between the drywall and container wall.  With the combined passive solar system and methods of insulation, the container home feels as insulated as a conventionally built residence. The building site endures a very strong sun and dry California summer, with temperatures often reaching over 100 degrees, thus influencing the design of the container house.  Feng shui theory was applied to the site development, and the building orientation helps control climate while providing protection from natural disasters, including flood. A passive solar system was adopted from the planning stage of the building's design.  Despite all of the challenges in building a home using alternative material, the rewards are significant.  Repurposing abandoned shipping containers into a residence not only provides unique aesthetics, but also assists in mitigating the world’s unused non-decomposable material. With a reduction in the worlds waste, repurposing shipping container into residences are a win-win approach to modern home building.

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