I love the idea of using old shipping containers to build environmentally-friendly housing. We have a surplus of the containers in the United States. They're strong, stackable and recyclable.
They have potential for self-contained emergency housing, but can also be stacked and arranged to provide more elaborate homes. The possibilities seem endless. They don't need to be stacked tightly together, but can be used for outside walls and rooms with a roof (or second-story containers) spanning the containers. This creates living spaces larger than 8-feet wide (the standard width of the containers).
I think the shipping containers could be used to provide the skeleton or support structure for a house with straw bales for insulation. There would be no need for plastering the internal walls, but the external walls would still need to be sealed, obviously. This method is basically a twist on the idea of building timber-framed structures and using the straw bales for in-fill. The containers would also keep walls straight as they're being built.
You might even be able to use a couple layers of straw bales for insulation in the ceiling. I think that sealing the straw beneath a layer of plaster, in addition to protecting it with a roof, would make it last a long time. I've seen straw and hay that had been in old barns for many years. Protected from moisture, it lasted a surprisingly long time (years) before turning to compost. Nonetheless, I'm sure it would attract insects, rodents and birds if it wasn't protected from them.
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the potential for this approach. Post comments below.