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Made from Shipping Containers and Recycled Steel, This Kit Home Has It All

4/28/2011 11:32:36 AM

Tags: container house, prefab kit container house, shipping container home, ecotechdesign, kit home, green prefab home, green kit home, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailFor green cred and innovation, this prototype kit house is hard to beat.

Made from repurposed shipping containers and pre-engineered recycled steel building components, based on Prius engineering, with a gray water system and a living roof, the Tim Palen Studio at Shadow Mountain is a pre-fab residence and workplace in one of the country’s harshest desert climates. Developed by ecotechdesign in conjunction with ecotechbuild, the hybrid house prototype is the first permitted shipping container house in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree, California. The kit-like housing product is being offered to the public for the first time, and its designer claims it costs about half of what locally available prefab alternatives run. It can be erected at the site, often in less than an hour.

“By combining high-efficiency and mass-produced modular construction methods with innovative design in one of the harshest climate zones in North America, we have developed a low-cost, sustainable, housing system that can be transported and quickly erected anywhere in the world,” says architect Walter Scott Perry, principal of ecotechdesign. 

Some notable features:

-Hybrid House Design: Based on the efficient Prius automobile engineering concept, the hybrid house concept combines diverse pre-engineered building and energy conservation features to maximize efficiency and cost savings while offering design flexibility.

-All Recycled Steel Construction: The project is composed of diverse steel components, including six repurposed ISO containers, a Butler pre-engineered building, a 10,000-gallon steel water tank and a metal shade canopy with integrated steel framing system that provides extraordinary strength, earthquake, fire and wind protection, as well as large window and door openings to maximize natural daylighting, ventilation, and cooling.

-Solar Home Shading System: A bolt-on, adjustable steel frame and shade system creates 50 percent solar heat, glare and wind reduction on the building, and a solar breezeway allows for plug-in attachment of future solar electric and water heating panel arrays.

-Living Roof: Movable, bolt and add-on modules are irrigated with gray water and planted with native desert plants and sedums to absorb heat, glare, dust and CO2.

-Water Conservation: Integrated gray water, water harvesting and storage systems.

 container exterior 2 

A proprietary steel framing system reinforces and ties the container modules together to resist earthquake and wind forces. It allows large openings to be made in the container walls and forms a framework between the residence and studio. Photos by Jack Parsons Photography 

container stairwell 

container stairwell 2 

The 18-foot-high curved stairway is sheathed in recycled, corrugated metal with a vertical slit window facing east to distribute morning light evenly across the walls. 

 container bedroom 

container bedroom 3 

Five ISO shipping containers are stacked between two levels with the living space below and the bedroom suite above. Large areas of the steel walls were removed to open the interior spaces to sweeping desert views, natural daylight and ventilation. 

exterior detail sun shade  

A solar shade canopy wraps the roof and south and west sides of the residence and solar breezeway to provide protection against desert heat, glare, wind and blowing dust. 


containter breezeway sunset 


container breezeway 2 

container breezeway 3 

The shaded, solar breezeway provides a protected and naturally cooled outdoor room as an extension of the interior, which connects the house to the studio. 

 container roof garden 

A 160-square-foot green roof with drought-tolerant, native plant modules forms a visual extension of the living desert across the white “cool roof.” 

 container water tank 

A recycled 3,000-gallon tank collects rainwater off the metal roofs to irrigate the solar breezeway desert landscaping. A 10,000-gallon tank stores emergency fire water and provides potable water. Grey water can be used to irrigate desert vegetation and the green roof modules. 

  container kitchen 

Windows and large sliding glass doors are low-e, insulated and operable. 

container living room 

Comfortable and very livable, the house is ready for occupants. ISO containers have durable Philippine mahogany plywood floors that can be easily sanded down and refinished, using clear water-based urethanes or other non or low VOC sealers and/or paints.

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8/6/2013 11:57:15 AM

If you are looking for some insight as to what it will take to build your own home from shipping containers read this. 

The advantages of using shipping containers as your construction building blocks include:

They are inexpensive. A used container will cost between $800 and $6000 each, depending on size, age, condition and distance from the building site. Each 40 foot container gives you 320 square feet. They generally cut overall construction cost by 20-50%.

Energy concerns. It takes far less energy to reuse shipping containers in a building than to melt them down and reform then into steel beams. Add solar panels and even the ongoing energy use will be green.

Examples of plans can be found  HERE- CONTAINER

Cheryl Pomeroy
12/28/2012 12:06:56 AM
What is the embodied energy of all the recycled metal? I would guess it is high. How air tight is this modular home? What are the R-values of insulation in the exterior walls, floors, and ceilings? How many kWhs and BTUs are used in a year by people who live in these? How does this compare to, say, and Energy Star home? Without answers to these questions, the jury is out as to whether this house is "green."

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