Author Topic: a start on my new shipping container house.  (Read 7507 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline philb

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 123
  • Karma: +6/-0
  • No Personal Text Set by User
a start on my new shipping container house.
« on: May 24, 2012, 10:31:03 pm »
I posted a reply to FrankS idea of using shipping containers on another site. I'm also posting here for feedback. Sorry, no pictures yet. I'm having a problem between Ubuntu, my camera and my files on another power. I'll have to work on that later.

Shipping containers are exactly what I am currently building my new house from.

I welded and bolted two of three 8X40 footers together in parallel. I have arches cut inside between the rooms.. The third container will be added as work progresses.

Here's some of my specs:

Anchored with 3' dia X 6' concrete cylinders on each corner. Shipping containers are sitting on a packed bed of gravel. The gravel provides excellent drainage and reduces heating and cooling costs. The containers are of course steel and will rust.

Pex in the flooring will provide the heat, in the case photovoltaics cannot keep up.

Skylights are made from 6 inch dia, 10 gauge pipe. Each provide light and are designed to blow out in case of a tornado to save the structure and its occupants. (1 sq. ft. per 50 cuft of inside living space)

Polyurethane foam insulation is mixed with recycled Styrofoam insulation. It will be on the OUTSIDE of the containers, including under the floors. Six inches will provide about R-42. The insulation is covered in 4 layers of ferrocement.

Oak paneling on the inside applied with adhesive.

Electrical wiring is THHN and ran through EMT and trays to drastically reduce any fire hazard.

All the lighting will be LED. Samples of led lighting have arrived for evaluation.

4 Kw of solar on the roof. I currently have 940 watts on the roof now to power the construction and cannot use more than 600 watts per hour. Midnite classic charge controller with a 3500 watt outback inverter. A second will be installed later.

Double French doors are planned to be inside the container's doors. The big steel doors can be closed and locked from the inside during bad weather. A few electronics are in the works to automatically close the door just in case...

Here some things to consider:

The containers will probably have to be cut and welded if they are tied together. The primer and paint in the containers are "zinc laden epoxy." So if you want to live past construction, you need a supplied air respirator or at least a good respirator for organics and particulates. Period.

The floors are also laden with pesticides and preservatives.
My containers burned a few weeks after I bought them because I was using them to store furniture and other things. They caught on fire at the end of a very long hot day and I got careless with a acetylene torch while cutting doorway arches. I have over 30 years experience with a torch without anything happening like this before. I didn't like the furniture anyway.  :) The fire burned most of the paint off as well as creating a layer of charcoal on most of the floors. Now, I'm thinking that was a good thing because the pesticides and paint are gone. The plastic bushings in the doors were the only item I regret having melting. The doors are a bit hard to close.

There you have it in a nutshell. When I get the chance, I will take pictures so anyone with a little experience with a torch and a wire feed welder can build a safe home to live in. My house will be published on the Internet on several sites in the public domain for everyone.

I'll be glad to answer any questions or comments you may have. I'm a bit slow right now because I'm working on my house, so please be patient.  ;D

Offline bj

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 735
  • Karma: +23/-0
  • Lamont, Alberta, Canada
Re: a start on my new shipping container house.
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2012, 07:00:12 am »
Looking forward to more Philb.  Sounds like a good project.
"Even a blind squirrel will find an acorn once in a while"

Offline dang

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 86
  • Karma: +5/-3
Re: a start on my new shipping container house.
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2012, 09:15:21 am »
"Air-Exchanges-Per-Hour".. .  Can I reference the torch-furniture incident as a oxygen-deprivation or carbon monoxide intoxication event?

Us older folks grew up in houses with up to two or three complete air exchanges per hour and get us in a terrarium we don't shoot straight.  In a normal stick-built house by the time you insulate and seal the structure you need to provide air refreshes.  With your containers you need to have it in place before you start spending (more) serious time in it.

On your fresh air exchanger having a cellular or horizontal flat plate heat exchanger can salvage upwards of 70% heat/cool during those seasons.  Building it in from the beginning might mean keeping it more accessible to clean any fouling and keeping it healthful.  Choose your target changeover rate, from three to ten hours to complete. To effectively change air you'll need multiple inlet and exhaust points and some careful thought.

One addition I'd like to see is a 'solar chimney' that probably doesn't involve solar much, just provides a predictable path for the warmest air as it pads about looking for the highest point to rise to.  The chimney can either corral the hottest air to return it via ducts for re-mix with cold air lazing about the lowest points or vent & release it if/when cooling is needed.  It could also provide a inlet point for the cleanest outside air to lower chances of car exhaust, small furry animals, lawn mower chaff, outdoor smoking, etc. getting drawn into the house.

The igloo trick of having the entrance lower than the living air to keep the bubble of heated air in, also having an airlock 'porch' there will both keep interior inhabitants much happier when outsiders invade during the winter (if the site will allow it).

Is it too late to designate a 'wet-wall' or a utility space between two containers to run plumbing and utilities?

"It may be that your sole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others" - Anonymous

Offline philb

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 123
  • Karma: +6/-0
  • No Personal Text Set by User
Re: a start on my new shipping container house.
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2012, 01:09:37 pm »
This has been a very intensive project bj. The learning curve has been steep from traditional stick housing. I do like it because of the challenge.

Dang, the air handling is an area I have been exploring intensely. I want 3 complete changes per hour.
I gave up on a pretty set of plans long ago. Spend time on the house or plans...hmmm.

This plan sheet basically illustrates what I have accomplished to date. There are 240 feet of 4 inch pvc pipes are buried 4 feet under the ground now. The temp is about 20 degF cooler than the ground on top.

The plan is to cover that area with at least 4 more feet of dirt later. I can go up to 12 feet of additional dirt. I don't think this will buffer all the heat and cooling. It is not long enough. The pipes are sloped 1/4" per foot from one end to the other to allow for a water clean out of the entire system. That is from inside the structure to the outside air intake area.

A carbon and particulate filter will filter the air before entry into the pipes. I might also use a potassium permanganate filter if I can afford it.

Over on EcoRenovator, They have been discussing air exchangers. It seems like a good idea if they don't require too much power and I can build one myself. The factory made ones are totally out of my reach.

Also, I've been toying with the idea of a small indoor refrigerated waterfall area. If I use water that is about 33 degF, the inside air may give up its moisture and get additional cooling too. Any ideas?

More here

Offline Rover

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 194
  • Karma: +7/-1
Re: a start on my new shipping container house.
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2012, 01:49:33 pm »
Hi Phil, for some reason sticking an open water source inside steel box seems plagued with issues such as raising the humidity. But I could be way off base. How are you going to get 33F water, I think the act of chilling it will be less efficient than other means of cooling the space, as you are looking at the waterfall to passive cool if I read your post right.

I do like your project,


Location: South East Virginia US

(Where did I bury that microcontroller?)

Offline philb

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 123
  • Karma: +6/-0
  • No Personal Text Set by User
Re: a start on my new shipping container house.
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2012, 10:09:23 pm »
Hi Rover,
The water source is just an idea that seemed it might work. I have enough solar to do about whatever I want during the day. My battery stock consists of 8 six volt Johnson Control batteries. I plan to add more as move in time nears.

The solar panels have the batteries on float well before noon on most days. I was thinking about diverting the unused power to a small freezer during the day and using it at night to circulate the cold water through a fountain. If I'm wrong, I can still use the freezer.

An air source heat pump (30 A) might work well during the day, but would suck the batteries dry at night.

I was able to download a few pictures to the project file. The newest ones are details such as ceiling fan boxes and receptacle photos. In both cases, they were welded into the recessed areas of the corrugation.

Also Dang asked where to run the electrical wire. There's a picture there that shows a one inch wide gap between the containers. That seemed the ideal place. I drilled a hole through the corrugations and inserted a scrap of wire to hold the wire in place. All the electrical wiring is overhead. Metal stud runner plates can eventually cover the void on the inside so the wiring will be completely encased in steel. BTW, the containers are welded together on the outside with 1/8" X 3" strap iron for watertightness and strength.

 My daughter told my wife she'd have to buy magnets to glue to her picture frames. No nails and wire required.  ;D holes in the paneling. Great idea!
I'll add more pictures as I can.

Any comments or suggestions are appreciated.