Small Homes Sustainable

Shipping Container Home Designs

This week I wanted to focus on some builders who are doing cool things with green housing, even if that housing isn’t necessarily tiny. The first thing that comes to mind is shipping containers which I have written about before. The more I think about it, the more I am enamored by what is being done these days with shipping containers.

A lot of very bright people have really jumped on board with the concept and realized that thousands of unused shipping containers already exist. Currently there are somewhere in the sneighborhood of 18 million shipping containers worldwide. They are highly durable, easily transported and make great elements and building blocks for modular designed homes. Since the shipping containers already exist, shipping container homes are a great way to build inexpensively while going green. A shipping container home is by its very nature, partially green and sustainable, due to the fact that the single largest component in a shipping container home is already built. There are also cost savings with building. Separate components don’t have to be trucked in from points all across the world or country. Instead a shipping container can be sent out to the construction site in one piece.

While shipper containers may only be slightly less expensive than building from wood and other traditional materials, the cost savings really comes into play is during the construction process itself. Homes built using shipping containers can literally be built in half the time.

One of the companies involved in building shipping container homes is SG Blocks. The company name stands for Safe, Green Blocks. This company provides code-engineered cargo shipping containers with an eye toward green construction that is highly sturdy and built to be used for decades to come. SG Blocks realized that modular construction was a major cost savings for construction of all sorts, and they have built their entire company around this notion. The SG Blocks are designed to be impressively strong. For example, each corner post is constructed in such a fashion that they are able to withstand 153,000 pounds of vertical load-each. This makes the design so strong that it is actually highly hurricane resistant.

If you are considering building a shipping container home, SG Blocks might be a good place to begin the process. They have taken a lot of the guesswork out of the process. They are in the business of taking shipping containers and modifying them so that they are very safe and durable. This durability is definitely part of the appeal of building with shipping containers.

Small Homes Sustainable

New Types of Building Materials

Many tiny home builders often consider a variety of materials that are not commonly used in todays cookie cutter homes. One material that you are likely to have never heard of is Papercrete.

Papercrete is a combination of what seems like some pretty unlikely elements. Recycled paper, cement, water and sand are combined to create a material that is surprisingly strong and extremely cheap. Most environmentalists like Papercrete because it uses recycled paper and sand. However, some also dislike the fact that the material also uses concrete. Concrete is sometimes frowned upon as traditional concrete is not a very green building material. That stated, however, the amount of concrete used in Papercrete is far less than in a completely concrete home. The controversy does not end paper there. Many feel that Papercrete, while an interesting concept, is just not a viable building material.

There are a few developments that might be of interest where the future of the material is concerned. Econovate is a company that sees all the millions of tons of paper waste as a real building opportunity. They point to some interesting facts; such as that fifty percent of all paper waste in the UK is actually sent to China for recycling. This process, of course, creates CO2 due to the transport of the paper waste. Econovate feels that if there was a way of dealing with all this paper waste around the world that a major reduction in pollution could occur. Their concept for how to deal with the issue is a pretty brilliant one. The Econovate plan could address both pollution and the global housing shortage.

Papercrete Wall Panels and Papercrete Blocks are two of the ideas that Econovate is currently excited about. Their concept is to actually create wall panel sections and building blocks using Papercrete. The hope is that this very environmentally friendly project would be ready by 2011. The research and development is currently being done in conjunction with the University of Cambridge, and has numerous heavy weights helping with the funding.

What is most exciting about Papercrete is that some bright people decided not to give up on this potentially exciting material. Papercrete is cheap, comparatively eco-friendly, and could help reduce CO2 emissions considerably. If Econovate and the University of Cambridge are successful, tiny homebuilders might have a very cheap new building material very soon.


The Unique Phoenix Earthship

My mother was recently out to visit me in New Mexico. Shes always wanted to see Taos, so I planned an overnight trip for the two of us while she was here. As fascinated as I am by earthship designs, I decided to book our overnight stay in the Earthship, perhaps best described as the Ritz Carlton of earthships.

Considering the place is currently for sale for $1.5 M, the cost of a nightly rental is quite reasonable. You can rent the smaller West Wing, which consists of a bedroom, bathroom, and sunroom for $100 or the East Wing which includes two bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, central lounge area, and two bedrooms for $150. The two sides of the house both have access to the atrium which is perhaps the most spectacular feature of the house. You also have the option of renting the whole place for $250 per night. Even if you were to rent the full place, prices are very reasonable compared to more traditional hotel rooms in the city. And the Earthship is, hands down, far cooler than anything you will find in town.

The atrium was probably my favorite feature. It consists of a small jungles worth of plants, a pond stocked with Tilapia and turtles, and a small flock of parrots which fly freely about. The sound of the running water and birdsong was enchanting. I spent most of my time in the earthship hanging out by the pond watching the bird flutter from rafter to rafter beneath the glass ceiling which was reminiscent of Englands Crystal Palace.

I also adored the Chinese-red handmade kitchen cabinets and the curvaceous hand-sculpted bathtub that flooded with colored light when morning sun shone through the bottled wall. This earthship is also equiped with a large flat-screen tv which hangs over a colorful fireplace replete with fountain. And, of course, there is high-speed internet throughout the rooms.

I felt very privileged to have had the opportunity to stay in the earthship for the night and even was able to sneak a pick at the architect and creator of earthships, when he came through the atrium in the morning to check in with his work crew. It felt a little like spying on an eco-friendly version of Willy Wonka issuing his daily orders to a staff of especially hip, dreadlocked oompa loompas.

Below Ive shared some of the photos I took of the earthship and also a quick video. Please be forewarned that the video is terrible production quality. I took the video in a series of snippets on my digital camera. When I got home and saw the results, I decided it was time to purchase an inexpensive camcorder. So, hopefully, future video on this site will be significantly less disjointed and blurry.

I decided to go ahead and include the footage in this entry because I thought it gave a good sense of how close to nature you feel in the atrium and how the various spaces in the earthship flowed into one another. Both of which I appreciate and figured other might, too.