Viw Magazine

The Property Pack

  • Written by Ashley Bryan

In the past shipping containers were simply used as secure vessels to transport or store cargo, but these days they are being repurposed for just about any idea someone can dream up; such as pop-up shops, home offices, mobile pizzerias, roadside kitchens and more.

Container homes the world over have been popular for a number of years now, and that trend seems to be on the increase.

But when it comes to building sustainable homes, are shipping containers really a good choice? Why are they so popular and do they really help us reduce our carbon footprint?


Multiple Millions of Used Shipping Containers Are Abandoned Every Year

While the exact numbers are virtually impossible to confirm, there are estimates that some 11 million shipping containers across the globe currently lay abandoned and disused. Some are left abandoned in ports, while others are forgotten about and left to rust in industrial estates.

That’s a lot of wasted steel, and shipping containers aren’t exactly a small item to be dumped in landfill and go largely unnoticed.

An obvious question would be why not just melt them down and reuse the steel for other things, but the energy costs alone in doing that is huge, and hardly helping to save the planet. The best option then, is to recycle shipping containers in other ways so the results are more eco friendly and long term.


Repurposing Shipping Containers Is Kinder To the Environment

Ranging from 10 feet to 40 foot long, shipping containers are massive items to attempt to recycle metal from. Apart from the energy costs mentioned before, there are many other costs and logistics associated with sending them off as scrap metal.

Remodelling shipping containers for other purposes is really the preferred method of recycling these steel boxes, and often the most cost effective overall.

Not only are more and more people choosing containers for building their homes, it seems to be becoming one of the preferred choices for building a sustainable home in the modern world.

Cargotecture for Tiny Homes

The downsizing trend is growing every year across the world. Many people don’t want to pay for or maintain large homes these days and are opting for easier to manage smaller dwellings. Cargo containers are the perfect fit when it comes to building tiny homes.

From a sustainability point of view, small houses cost less to run as not as much electricity and other energy sources are being used. Less man made and natural resources are consumed to construct them, and if built primarily from shipping containers, then much of the building materials have been recycled and put to good use again.

Sometimes tiny homes are built to be relocatable, and what better object to build a mobile tiny house out of than a cargo container.

People have even mounted purpose built shipping containers on the backs of trucks as a new form of RV, which is another innovative way to remodel and reuse an abandoned shipping container.

Throughout the centuries, unless you were part of royalty or an emperor, the majority of people lived in small dwellings. It’s really only been in very recent times that we have felt the need to build large and spacious homes.

Things are now tending to swing back to the way it used to be.


Container Homes Are a Kind of Prefab Home

Much of the work in converting shipping containers into homes can be done off-site in a factory or warehouse, and then pieced together on-site. If the remodelling task is small enough, then the entire home can be built off-site.

The green advantage of a prefabricated house built primarily from shipping containers is that there is a lot less material waste. This is obviously beneficial to the environment in several ways:

  1. Less resources are being used for construction

  2. Less mess is left over after the build

A third, and less obvious benefit, is that a whole host of builders are not travelling to a construction site every day, which means less fuel being used and less diesel exhaust finding its way into the atmosphere from operating heavy machinery.


Container Homes Are Faster To Build

Because much of the construction is already there in the container itself when you build from shipping containers, the process is faster than a conventional build, whether you have your home constructed on-site or off.

How does this relate to the sustainability factor?

Less resources and energy are being used to get the job done because the build doesn’t take as long. Anything that can help our environment, even in a small way, is a positive step in the right direction.

Often when people plan on building a container home, they will have the environment in mind anyway. Apart from recycling the containers and saving them from landfill as their final destination, people will often try to use either green or recycled materials in the building of their container homes.


Tips To make Your Shipping Container Home More Sustainable

It’s a good idea to have the container’s original paint sealed, as well as the marine wooden flooring removed. The original paint will likely contain toxins and the wooden flooring is treated with pesticides in many instances.

Cargo containers will require insulating, unless you want to endure temperature extremes. One of the easiest and most effective ways to insulate them is with spray foam insulation. This will ensure a comfortable living environment, as well as reducing your energy consumption considerably.

Try and use recycled material during the fitout, and even consider building a “living roof” over your container home. This will help with insulation, as well as enhancing nature by growing flowers, vegetables or other small plants on the roof.

Homes built from reused shipping cargo containers really help the environment in a number of ways when done right. They are cost effective, perfect for downsizing, and most importantly, container homes rescue thousands of disused and abandoned shipping containers from ending up in landfill all around the world.

Shipping container infographic(s) by Tiger Containers



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