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The interest in container housing is growing and I wanted to provide some insight on this trend. Some of the reasons for this trend could include: an interest in reusing a product that seems to be in abundant supply; a house that might be a bit quirky and different; inspired by what others have done or what has been featured on a lifestyle show; and the apparent affordable nature of containers. Let’s start with the abundant supply of shipping containers Australia. We see them being transported on our road and rail network and stacked up high around ports and shipping yards and being used to transport goods around Australia, but the journey might have started overseas. The reality is we import more goods than we export and often it is cheaper to send a new container across the seas filled with cargo, rather than returning an empty container for reuse. A great thing about shipping containers is that they can be stacked easily on top of each other, because of their structural strength and as a result they can be used for not only single storey but also suitable for multi level buildings, in all different forms and unique configurations But are all Shipping containers the same? Well, no and here is a bit of an explanation on this. There are:
  • New shipping containers that have largely been manufactured and shipped for a specific end use.
  • Class A or one trip containers – refers to their use for one trip from departure point to destination point, but this does not mean they are new and they may have a few dints during the transport from loading.
  • Class B – where the container is still wind and water tight, and they have a few more dents and may have surface rust, but still looks in good condition.
  • Class C – contains medium to heavy rust, lots of dents and scratches and look pretty shabby.
As I am passionate about resource efficiency I like to advocate recycling and reusing, hence why I am interested in the repurposing of good quality shipping containers, so for me I would be focussing on Class B containers, to give them a second life. Let’s look at cost considerations of converting a shipping container to a container house. House construction needs to conform to housing standards in Australia, which have been developed to ensure safety, structural integrity, weatherproofing, comfort for the occupants and conform to the climatic conditions of area. These standards mean homes need structural integrity in the footings, flooring, walls, and roof. They also need insulation, windows, shading devices, electrical and plumbing fitouts, weather and waterproofing, walls, doors and other carpentry and cabinetry fitouts etc. So the few thousand dollars you could pay for a Class B shipping container starts to add up when you want to modify for living in.
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During the design of my home I explored how I could use reclaimed timber to provide an alternate to newly manufactured products. I decided to use reclaimed timber in the kitchen meals area. I envisaged an island bench that would be a preparation and eating area and focal point of the kitchen. There was no reason why the bench could not be constructed of timber and I set out to source my favourite Australian timber ‘Myrtle’, which has a beautiful pink hue. After many calls to timber reclamation yards I found not only my ‘Myrtle’ but also sufficient quantity for the bench and a matching refractory table. I went to the yard and sorted through the beautiful timber planks that had been sitting in the warehouse for years after a demolition job. I could not believe my luck. I had been given details of a quality cabinetmaker, who turned my reclaimed planks into a beautiful island bench and dining table. I had also initially wanted to reuse my timber flooring when the eco demolition was being undertaken of my home, but unfortunately the timber flooring was a soft timber which shattered easily when being removed, so they were turned into wood chips. I then turned to the next best thing and selected reclaimed timber flooring in my home to reduce the demand on the forests resources. I love being able to look at the beautiful grains of timber and feel pleased that I have been able to give them a second life.
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Green Design Solutions have been working on the development of 5 sustainable and livable concepts designs, just in time to be launched at the Sustainable Living Festival at Birrarung Mar 12th to 14th February. The Concept Designs incorporate Passive Design Principles and Livable Housing design features. Come and see the concepts at the festival  in the Green Market.
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