The simple, rectangular shipping container changed the way we transported goods starting way back in the 1950’s. Today, we see these containers everywhere! They are piled nine high and 20 wide on massive ships. They hold up our morning commute as 100 or more of them race down the railroad tracks. They congest our highways with the volume of goods being trucked across the country. It’s no surprise that there are almost 20 million shipping containers in the world. What might be a surprise, is that only about a quarter of those are actually in use.
Upcycling these discarded containers into houses, schools, restaurants, disaster shelters, and even government buildings has been a great way to deal with this waste. Containers are inexpensive, strong and reliable, and can be configured for any purpose. Another reason these big metal legos are so much fun to build with? Because they work in every single climate. No one knows this better than the designers at PSE Consulting Engineers, Inc. who have created shipping container homes and offices from sunny Arizona to snow-covered Oregon. They don’t let the elements get in the way of great design.
In the desert, the sun can be sweltering, and buildings need to be protected from overheating. Shipping containers are typically made from steel which conducts heat very well, but in a hot climate, keeping a container cool is easy with a few smart design choices. Choose a larger-than-necessary roof to extend over the home, shading windows from direct sunlight. Build your home at just the right angle to take advantage of the natural surroundings like trees or hills, both of which can help protect containers from getting too hot in the sun. Don’t forget to invest in a good A/C system to vent hot air from the house and spread the cool air around.
Almost every climate on earth experiences rainfall, but we need to do our best to keep it out of our homes. Traditional timber-framed houses are prone to mold and rot from water damage. A shipping container is already designed to withstand these elements. First, containers have to spend time at sea, dealing with salty ocean spray. Then, they need to be shipped by rail or truck across the country, withstanding any weather they come up against. Shipping containers are known to survive undamaged through earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, and tsunamis. So lasting through a little rain in a wet climate is no problem.
A thin metal box against temperatures dipping below zero doesn’t sound like a great place to live, but once your shipping container is turned into a proper home, it can be as toasty warm as any traditional structure. Making sure the house has adequate insulation is the key. Spray-foam is the most popular option and adds to the water-tight barrier of the container itself. Containers may also be coated in ceramic sealant that increases the home’s ability to retain heat.
It’s also a good idea to plan for multiple small windows, rather than just a few large ones. Windows (and roofs) are the single biggest heat exchange’s in your home. Once you know the heat won’t escape, it’s time to figure out how to make it warm inside. Wood burning stoves, space heaters, or just a traditional HVAC system can work depending on the design of the home.
No matter where you live, a shipping container structure could be the answer for your next project. Your new dream container-home could be here sooner than you think. Contact us today to get started.