Building Sustainable Homes

Shipping Containers are Just the Beginning...

This family home in Flagstaff, Arizona completed in 2011 is the perfect illustration that the building of sustainable homes is not as simple as upcycling some shipping containers. It is the careful culmination of both passive and active systems which together create a working whole that provides both a comfortable and low energy living space. 

building sustainable homes using shipping containers

Shipping Container Home Arizona - Living and dining space featuring concrete floors for thermal mass

Image courtesy of Jetson Green

Not small, the project is about the size of a standard 4 bedroom home, measuring 2000sq feet (185 sq metres) which uses 6 upcycled shipping containers.

As well as recycling, the home was also designed with sustainability and energy conservation in mind. Architecturally it features interesting double height spaces with overhead bridges linking upstairs spaces, and an industrial yet welcoming interior. 

Galley kitchen in container conversion Flagstaff, Arizona

Container Conversion Flagstaff, Arizona - Galley kitchen

Image courtesy of Jetson Green

Active and Passive Systems

2 large tanks act as storage for water which is collected off the upper level roofs. Lower level roofs have their water fed to the gardens which are planted with drought tolerant and indigenous plant varieties. 

Wall and floor insulation is provided by closed-cell foam, and interestingly denim is used in the ceiling. Externally the containers appear untreated, but they have been sprayed with Super Therm ceramic coating which works to reflect both heat and cold, as well as acting to reduce condensation, a common problem in container projects. Overall R values are in the range of 20-24 - much higher than any building codes require. 

Container home Flagstaff, Arizona - view down to living area

Container Home Flagstaff, Arizona - view down to living area

Image courtesy of Jetson Green

Electricity is produced on site with a 3.6kW grid system which covers all the needs of the home.

Windows are double glazed aluminium, with the orientation of the house facing south (as passive solar homes should in the northern hemisphere). The sunlight acts to passively warm the concrete floor throughout the day and during the colder months an inbuilt radiant heating system in the floor acts to provide heating in the main living areas of the home. 

Double storey container conversion - upstairs bedroom and bathroom

Double storey container home Flagstaff, Arizona - upstairs bedroom and bathroom

Image courtesy of Jetson Green

In the hotter months, shading systems as well as skylights and internal fans work to control the ventilation and cooling. 

The reason for the home being raised up off the ground onto a series of concrete piers is that it is built on a flood plain.

I can't say I love the exterior view of this home (maybe it just the colour), but internally it has a myriad of varying volumes and spaces that I do love, as well as the many systems in place to make it a truly sustainable home. 

What do you think? Let us know below..

Exterior view - container house Arizona

Double storey container home Flagstaff, Arizona - external view

Image courtesy of Jetson Green

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