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Are Home Containers Sustainable and Eco-friendly?

Are Home Containers Sustainable and Eco-friendly?

26th Mar 2023

Due to the popularity of tiny homes and other unconventional housing during the past few years, shipping container homes have drawn a lot of attention. These distinctive dwellings are quick, easy, and inexpensive to build.

So, are container homes environmentally friendly? Recycled shipping containers are used to make container homes, greatly reducing the demand for building supplies. Because a container home uses fewer resources, it is a sustainable and environmentally beneficial type of housing. We will look into why a container home is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to live.

What are the modern uses for recycled shipping containers?

Shipping containers may be transformed into anything you can imagine, which appeals to both architecture and construction companies. They're not only for storage, either. Many of the hippest temporary residences, homes, and shops all started out as plain shipping containers.

Consider hotels, large shopping malls, museums, universities, and even portable football stadiums. All are constructed from reliable shipping containers. They encourage designers to think creatively, and the results are frequently breathtaking. It's a thoroughly positive method of construction in the present day. When using repurposed shipping containers as building materials, the possibilities are endless.

Some of the numerous structures made from repurposed shipping containers include pop-up cafés, exhibition stands, shops and retail outlets, homes and pop-up accommodation, holiday pods, hotels, museums, and offices.

How do home containers work?

In the late 1980s, the first homes made of shipping containers debuted. There are now thousands of these houses all over the world. One or more recycled shipping containers are used to construct each dwelling. Steel is used to construct shipping containers, which are meant to shield cargo from the weather. A shipping container can serve as the framework for a modest house because of its endurance.

The containers have been strengthened and renovated to provide doors and windows. All of the features of a typical home are present, such as a full bathroom, electricity, and bedrooms. We must learn more about these alternative housing possibilities in order to respond to the question, "Are container homes sustainable?"

The primary factor that makes shipping container homes sustainable is their utilization of recycled materials. Each year, thousands of shipping containers are dumped. Container homes reduce the amount of metal that ends up in landfills.

You also lessen or eliminate the requirement for some building supplies. Your new home's frame is created by the container, reducing the need for additional metal or wood studs. A container home can be constructed more quickly than a conventional dwelling. It requires less effort, which reduces labor. As fewer people need to drive to the construction site, automobile emissions are reduced.

Why is a home made from repurposed shipping containers environmentally friendly?

Recycling can always be done in a common house. When compared to conventional home construction, why is living in a shipping container home more environmentally friendly? Two examples are as follows:

Fewer Disposal Shipping Containers

When you choose to reuse one shipping container, you first reduce the number of containers that need to be discarded. This is upcycling in the place where your life begins—at home. 

It takes at least 8,000 kWh of energy to reprocess or melt a used shipping container, which is a lot of energy to use to make a metal hulk useful to society once more.

Reprocessing consumes more energy than modification. The average amount of energy used by a builder to convert a shipping container into a usable home is actually only 400 kWh, which is 7,600 kWh less than the average remanufacture.

Sea trade activity decreased in the early months of 2020, during the early stages of the coronavirus. Nonetheless, the number of containers began to rise in the third quarter after falling by 27% in the first. With the economy improving, businesses will use more shipping containers.

A Solution to a Resource Problem

Second, repurposing shipping containers is a way to address the issue of limited resources. Building an old container unit into a dwelling allows you to reuse otherwise usable material rather than leaving it for eventual destruction.

You lessen the need to purchase brand-new building supplies while creating a home from scratch. The waste generated by transporting containers is reduced. By 2025, 2.2 billion tons of construction waste are anticipated to have been generated. An alternative to ensuring that we don't add to that trash volume is bringing a shipping container home.

Most green organizations consider reusing a shipping container to be environmentally friendly because it doesn't require the use of extra energy or building materials like cement and bricks. One of the biggest emitters of CO2 is the cement sector.

Which chemicals must be taken out of shipping containers before construction?

Containers for shipping are made to withstand life at sea. The wooden flooring in shipping containers is typically heavily treated with pesticides to ward off these unwelcome guests because rodents that live as stowaways aboard cargo ships are a common problem.

Shipping containers' steel walls and roofs are typically painted with materials containing heavy metals like phosphorus and chromate. These substances aid in shielding the steel from the continual spray of saltwater, which has the potential to corrode steel containers.

According to a recent study, up to 20% of shipping containers that arrive in a harbor contain volatile toxic substances that are significantly higher than the established exposure limit values. These chemicals can pose serious health risks to dock workers, customs inspectors, and other people. Depending on what is being shipped, the types of gasses that build up inside these airtight containers also vary.

However, it frequently occurs with harmful substances like formaldehyde, styrene, benzene, or toluene.

Ripping out the pesticide-infused flooring and taking steps to cover or encapsulate the poisonous paints should be among the first duties when converting a cargo container into a livable residence. Attempting to remove the poisonous paint will probably result in more off-gassing and hazardous dust that, when inhaled, offers major health concerns. Instead, encasing the chemicals in a non-toxic sealing primer will help prevent the off-gassing of dangerous, volatile organic compounds.

Ways to Make Your Container Home More Eco-Friendly

Compared to other new home construction methods, the construction of a container home is more environmentally friendly. Without taking a few factors into account, a container home might not provide the most environmentally friendly living space.

To make a steel container more livable and sustainable, extra adjustments are needed. Here are five strategies for reducing your new shipping container home's carbon footprint.

Begin with a Reliable Shipping Container

The longevity and energy effectiveness of your new home are influenced by the state of the container used to construct it. A worn-out, deteriorating, older container provides less thermal protection and might degrade more quickly.

Before recycling, look for containers that have only made one or two trips rather than those that are about to expire. Even though they provide the ideal framework for a container home, slightly used containers might still end up being discarded.

More volatile chemicals that you need to remove or encapsulate are more likely to be present in older containers. To deal with the damage, you might also need to make additional repairs or add more metal sheeting. It should be easier to use slightly used containers, making them more sustainable.

Use regional resources and labor

Construction of a shipping container home has a lower environmental impact when building components are purchased from nearby vendors. Utilizing local resources prevents you from adding to the supply chain that transports brick, wood, and other materials across the nation. You abstain from adding to the greenhouse gas emissions from long-distance trucks.

Utilizing locally produced goods might potentially save expenses while also reducing your carbon footprint. When you choose a neighborhood lumberyard or building supplier, delivery fees are lower. Local labor is another option. Using local subcontractors reduces the amount of carbon emissions produced by automobiles even further.

Choose the Correct Insulation Type

Steel containers are used to construct container homes. Sadly, steel is not a very effective heat conductor. In most regions, additional insulation is frequently required to adequately heat or cool a container home because steel is a poor insulator.

Because spray foam adheres so well to metal containers, it is frequently used in shipping container homes. Some spray foam insulation products do, however, contain volatile chemicals that could be harmful to your health. Using straw bales as insulation is a more sustainable choice. Straw bales provide a significant amount of insulation for your new home while reusing leftover agricultural products.

Use rigid fiber insulation or foam boards if you want to stick with conventional insulation methods. In comparison to inexpensive rolls of blanket insulation, both options offer superior thermal protection.

Utilize your appliances wisely.

Electronic devices like computers, televisions, and other devices that are left on standby waste a surprisingly large amount of electricity. These devices can quickly turn on, run clocks, track button presses on remote controls, and perform other tasks while in standby mode.

However, you can think about completely turning off these devices when not in use if you can live with a small change in your level of convenience. This is usually accomplished by unplugging the devices from the outlet, wiring your outlets to be switch-controlled, or connecting the devices to power strips that can be manually switched (and are also handy for protecting your devices from power surges).Are you curious how much power your devices are consuming when they are turned off? According to calculations made by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, only standby mode gadgets account for roughly 10% of domestic electricity demand. And if you want to test the gadgets at home, a cheap gadget like the one below will let you see how much you're using in a flash (both during operation and in standby mode).Upgrade some of your outdated appliances if you are more committed to lowering your carbon footprint. Many devices now use far less electricity when they are "on" and "standby," thanks to new standards like Energy Star.

Install solar photovoltaic panels

Depending on where you live, a standard solar panel system can cut your annual electricity costs by a lot.

You need a position that faces the sun and has little to no shadow if you want to get the most value out of solar panels. A reputable installation company can tell you how much solar energy is available where you live and how much electricity you could make with different-sized systems.

Also keep in mind that if you want to live fully off the grid, you'll need a pricey battery system to provide you with electricity when there is little or no sunlight. Otherwise, you'll utilize the "grid" system at other times and your solar system only during the day. Some utilities will even purchase any surplus energy you generate during the day!

Use energy-saving light bulbs

You've probably heard about the energy savings (and other advantages) that more energy-efficient light bulbs may provide, unless you've been living under a rock. Fluorescent or CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs' initial wave of change occurred years ago. Now, LED bulbs have fewer drawbacks than CFLs and provide even larger energy savings (and hence, carbon emission savings).LED bulbs were once quite expensive, but thanks to their popularity and widespread production, their price has dropped significantly. They will quickly pay for themselves because they can save you up to 85% on energy compared to the conventional incandescent bulbs you may already be using. The bulbs are well-regarded and reasonably priced, especially if you buy a big package and replace all the bulbs in your house at once.

Think of putting a green roof on a container house

You must make sure that the roof is appropriately insulated in addition to the walls. The installation of a green roof is one remedy. The steel container serves as an appropriate surface for constructing a green roof, commonly known as a "living roof."

A live layer of plants is added to a green roof on top of a waterproof membrane and a growing medium. Because the plants need water to grow, the vegetation aids in reducing rainwater runoff. Additionally, plants absorb sunlight, which assists in cooling the shipping container house in the summer. Keeping your house cool without running the air conditioner at full blast is possible.

Additionally, protecting the rest of the roof from the sun, rain, and wind is a green roof. A green roof may increase the lifespan of your container home in addition to improving its energy efficiency. A green roof could improve the effectiveness of your solar panel system if you decide to install it. The vegetation keeps the roof cool, which enables the solar panels to work as efficiently as possible.

Reduce the Temperature

Do you really need to wander around inside in shorts and a t-shirt throughout the winter? You could save money and cut back on carbon emissions if you lowered the temperature of your hot water and the thermostat. The opposite is also true: you can save a lot of money if you can raise your tolerance level to put up with somewhat warmer indoor temperatures in the summer. Keep in mind that operating a fan costs less than operating an air conditioner, and a blanket costs less than operating a heater.

Additional Tips for an Eco-Friendly home container

One of our favorite methods for building a green container house is doing an eco-friendly audit room by room. Making your entire home into smaller, room-sized projects will help you focus on a project that may otherwise seem daunting.

Various rooms use distinct amounts of energy, have different use cases, and so forth. This structure enables you to customize particular ideas for the contexts in which they are most useful. Here are a few more suggestions, and we bet you can already predict which rooms they apply to!

Make sure your refrigerator is in the shade. Check that the linens on your bed are wool, not polyester. Try a brief shower instead of a bath to save water. Use an eco-friendly kettle or restrict the amount of water you boil. Wash your clothes in cold water instead of warm water.

Another strategy is to divide your house according to its construction rather than by rooms. You could break down into walls, roofs, and floors, for example. Here are some concepts to consider:

Replace any single-glazed windows with double-glazed windows, and make sure any drafty places in your container are sealed.

Installing carpet over wooden floors can reduce heating costs by 4–6%.Finally, it's critical to keep in mind that living sustainably involves more than simply your home; it also involves how you interact with it. Your everyday, small decisions can have a big impact on minimizing unwanted effects. Several instances of this include:

  • Instead of replacing broken items in your home, attempt to fix them.
  • Also, think about purchasing well-made old items rather than less expensive new ones.
  • Instead of purchasing infrequently used products, think about borrowing or renting them.

How Durable Are Shipping Containers?

The average container home can last for 25 years or more. Most shipping containers have a shelf life of 10 to 12 years, but when used as homes, they can last much longer.

While a repurposed shipping container has an average service life of 25 years, your new home could last much longer with the right upkeep and care. Keep an eye out for signs of rust or water leaks to stop long-term damage, and if you see any, take action right away.

How Should Toxic Flooring Be Handled in a Shipping Container?

After addressing the question of whether shipping container homes are toxic, let's move on to discussing toxic flooring. The easiest approach to staying away from dangerous containers is to get a brand-new shipping container directly from a manufacturer. Custom shipping containers are offered for sale by many manufacturers. Since the containers are made to order, you can get one without floor panels made of treated wood or harmful paint.

The price of constructing a container home rises when a new shipping container is purchased. If you want to keep prices low and keep containers from ending up in a landfill, you can take out or cover the wood flooring.

It takes the proper safety gear to remove the flooring. To prevent yourself from breathing in harmful gasses, you may need masks and ventilation fans.

In a container home, marine plywood is generally utilized to replace the wood flooring. Marine-grade plywood is constructed from Douglas fir or pine and is not chemically treated.

There is a lot of labor involved in removing the old flooring, and there is a chance that toxic vapors will escape. You can install new flooring over the wood rather than removing it. Encasing the old wood flooring in a non-breathable underlayment is a typical remedy.

The wood flooring is placed directly on top of the underlayment, which guards against the emission of hazardous gasses. The flooring of your choice is then placed over the underlayment.

How Can Toxic Paint Be Removed from a Shipping Container?

When it comes to painted surfaces, you have two options: removal or encapsulation, just like with the flooring. Sandblasting equipment is often needed to remove paint. It is a time-consuming process.

You must also consider the possibility of being exposed to harmful fumes. When the paint is removed as opposed to being left in place, it poses a greater threat. The exterior may produce hazardous particles after sandblasting.

The use of abrasive media, such as sand or silica pellets, is a feature of sandblasting equipment. The abrasive substance removes rust, paint, and dirt from metal surfaces.

Toxic paint can be removed without using abrasive cleaning methods by employing chemicals or heat methods. The risk of destroying the metal increases when chemicals or heat are used, which weakens the container's structural integrity.

Often, the best way to cope with potentially harmful surfaces is to encapsulate them. For instance, lead-based paint and asbestos in residential and commercial properties are frequently covered using encapsulation.

Encapsulation entails applying a fresh coating over the paint. Encapsulants are a common name for the coatings used to enclose surfaces. There are various different encapsulants you can pick from:

  • Polymers
  • Epoxies
  • Cement

On flooring, cement-like encapsulants are frequently employed because they create a thick layer. The best options are polymers and epoxies, since they are adaptable and durable. The coatings produce a flexible membrane that shields the original paint from exposure.

Are home containers Sustainable?

A sustainable replacement for conventional housing is modern shipping container housing. Recycling used containers is a responsible environmental practice. You reduce the environmental impact of the construction project by limiting the use of new building materials.

But in order to make the shipping container more environmentally friendly, you must pick the appropriate design features. Your shipping container home needs sufficient insulation and roofing in order to be environmentally friendly. To avoid having to replace the container within a short period of time, you should also start with one that is in good condition. With the appropriate actions, you can reduce your carbon footprint and live comfortably in a shipping container.

Final reflection

You must make a significant decision while building a new home. You cannot make a hasty or impulsive decision. Making the first steps toward realizing your residential ambitions requires effort and perseverance.

What better way to accomplish this than to put your faith in experts who can turn crates into your ideal garden hut? You may find tiny houses on that can elevate the experience of living at home. There are countless methods to have a sustainable dwelling, from energy-efficient freight homes to space-saving housing solutions. Start by selecting recycled shipping containers from our selection.

You might not consider the advantages of choosing a repurposed container for a residence. It's not always possible to directly feel or observe the advantage. FSE Automation can ensure that every effort you make to use recycled materials or repurpose resources benefits everyone on the planet. We devote our knowledge and effort to providing you with usable quarters that were previously used as shipping containers for a different purpose. From the homes we build, you hardly see or feel the worn-out state of used shipping crates. All you have to do is wait while we bring the unit to your location. It is simple to order, transport, and have ready for use right away.