Container housingdraft


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Review of discussions on the viability of using shipping containers for emergency housing in Haiti

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Container housingdraft

  1. 1. The Use of Retired Shipping Containers as HousingThis document is intended as a summary of a general discussion thread :Shipping Container Housing appears in Global Specs CR4 discussion group, regarding the uses of retired shippingcontainers to provide temporary replacement housing for the victims of the recent earthquake thatstruck Haitis capital, Port-Au-Prince. The concepts described are not specific to Haiti & could beused in many similar situations.(Note that the editors have taken the liberty of editing out some content that, in the opinion of theeditors, was superfluous; and modifying some entries of the original blog to correct grammatical andspelling errors to improve readability. At the time this document was prepared, the blog was stillactive, so there may be additional information that has yet to be incorporated.)IntroductionOn January 12, 2010, the capital of Haiti was struck by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, resulting in anestimated 230,000 immediate deaths and upwards of 300,000 people requiring medical attention. Over3,000,000 have been affected, and an estimated 250,000 residences & other buildings destroyed orseverely damaged. An estimated 1,200,000 people have been left homeless. Over $2 billion in aid hasbeen pledged to aid in the recovery of this disaster, including $42 Million for tents to providetemporary shelter.Providing tents for temporary shelter is a standard practice in such relief missions. It is questionablewhether this is the best option for Haiti. Haiti is subjected to frequent hurricanes, with the hurricaneseason approaching in a matter of months. In fact, an aggravating circumstance that renders this reliefoperation more difficult than others of similar magnitude is the fact that Haiti has not fully recoveredfrom a devastating hurricane that struck the island in 2004. Tents or temporary shelters fabricated fromtarps, scrap lumber and scrap sheet metal are going to provide very little protection against a hurricane,and are likely to contribute to even more death and human suffering.Members of CR4, the Engineering Discussion Group sponsored by GlobalSpec, have come together ina “Think Tank” to develop ideas to address this situation, primarily the need for hurricane-proof shelter.Our conclusions are that the most readily-available resource for providing sufficient hurricane sheltersfor these 1,200,000 homeless people is modified retired shipping containers. When these ideas werefirst presented to one of the aid groups leading in relief efforts, we received the response that this is“unproven technology”. We hereby present this synopsis of the discussions from the group ofengineers to demonstrate not only that this is a very well-proven technology, but also a very viableoption for the situation that currently exists in Haiti and other similar situations that will occur in thefuture in other locales.The idea of shipping containers as housing has a great deal of merit and utility, and with minormodifications they can be made habitable. Not all container units have to be modified to include toiletsand showers. It would make more economical and time-line sense to have a cluster of units speciallymade for that purpose. Containers are very robust structurally with a frame that doesnt require thewalls unless you have fully loaded & stacked conditions.
  2. 2. The Use of Retired Shipping Containers as HousingThe Use of Retired Containers for Housing and Other EdificesThe idea of converting retired shipping containers to housing or other structural enclosures (workshops, emergency medical facilities, emergency water treatment facilities, and other such uses) is not anew concept. In fact, there is a fairly substantial existing industry offering this sort of conversioncommercially. Appendix A provides a brief list of Internet sites that address this use of retired shippingcontainers (note that the list is not intended to be all-inclusive or in any way complete. The list wasdeveloped from those sites referred by members of the engineering group, and is provided as a startingguide to what information is available on the Internet). The concept being presented here is themobilization of these existing resources to address an emergency requirement, utilizing, as abeginning, more than 7,000 shipping containers presently in and around the Port-Au-Prince area.The Australian Army has outfitted containers as water treatment and hospital clinics as well asCommand and Control (communication) centers. You only have to talk to the US Army about usingshipping containers; over the years they have experimented with many ideas using containers. The USArmy, USAF, and USMC use containers in all theaters of operation as housing units and storagefacilities at various bases. The US military has the means to transport these containers to locationsanywhere they are needed once they arrive on the area. When it comes to making modifications to thecontainers, the US Army Corp of Engineers has already done the research and experimentation. All thenecessary information is included the USACE Field Manual. Various modifications including cuttingsmall holes in the roof for Solar PV exhaust fans and windows on the side walls.Clemson University researchers have been experimenting with ways to convert shipping containers intoemergency housing in the hurricane-prone Caribbean, where a surplus of the sturdy boxes often sits inport yards. (See additional information and contact list in Appendix B of this document, specificallydescribing the efforts at Clemson University. Note also that Clemson University has recently launcheda web site dealing with this issue: Note: Much of the existing industry engaged in converting shipping containers to housingunits, including the anecdotes from the “do-it-your-selfers” are considerably more “up-scale” thanwould be required or desired for emergency housing. What is needed is a rapid deployment ofhurricane shelters for 1,200,000 people. With time, a good number of these shelters could be upgradedto more viable housing than the traditional “shanty towns” constructed of scrap materials. Severalorganizations, including the US Military, Clemson University, and an organization known asGlobalCon Holdings Corporation are addressing this concept. The latter claims to be able to providefacilities for a village of 50,000 residents in an area of about 32 hectares, completed in about 12 days.)Some Accounts of Shipping Containers Adapted to HousingIve seen shipping containers used as site offices. You could live in one if you had to. The best I sawwas a refrigerated container - perfect for the 40C + conditions in the desert. Another one was fittedwith a shower and toilet facilities.A practical application of the concepts we are discussing, as demonstrated, by one members conversionof a used shipping container for use as a hunting cabin:
  3. 3. The Use of Retired Shipping Containers as Housing“My brother used a 40 foot sea-can which he purchased for $3000, and put $5,000 worth of labor,materials, and relocation into it. Now he uses it as a 5 man hunting lodge... It runs on propane andgenerator. Here in the oil patch in central Alberta, shipping containers get used for everything... but itsmostly trailers they use for sleeping quarters... simple bunk, but water, power, food, safety, andInternet, the living was quite acceptable...The unit is just leveled with lumber. Sleepers were put inwith grommeted drill-screws through the walls I think. I think the insulation is pink bat. Interior wasfinished before shipment. There are plywood bunks in the one end of the shack and he bought 4" foam,and cut to size.”For $16,900 Canadian, pretty good Id say. I think the low for a Habitaflex home is about $69 grand.(Note that Hibitaflex is one of the companies doing commercial conversion of shipping containers forhousing purposes)
  4. 4. The Use of Retired Shipping Containers as Housing“Most of the shipping containers that I have bought for storage, have built in vents near the ceiling, sotheyre not completely air tight. Someone living in one would put in windows and such. We could shipgoods to Haiti in them, we can then convert them, costs per container should be less than $2k just forthe conversion. These are structurally stable so 4-6 concrete blocks for leveling and its done. (Bolt emdown)”In the fishing industry, such containers are often added on boats for additional housing. They arereferred to "Conexes" .“Containers as housing cant be too bad considering containers are being touted as “up market”accommodations. Ive seen a development in London and its jaw-droppingly good. Full marks for re-cyclability. Full marks for innovation. Full marks for style:” of Retired Shipping Containers for Emergency Housing in HaitiThe use of shipping containers for shelters is a good choice for the long-term, whereas the use of tentsis a good choice in the near term. Its easier to air drop the tents into the areas that need them.How long does it take to build a house? What resources are there for traditional building practices?How many homes and businesses, markets and stores can be built using traditional materials andtraditional practices in three to six months, or even over 3 years? Land has to be cleared, foundationspoured, framing done, wiring done, sheetrock, plumbing & HVAC installed. Think of the aircompressors, nail guns, electric powered saws, hammers nails, bolts, concrete delivery trucks,backhoes, ditchwitches, not to mention banking and finance...Sure enough, Shipping ContainerHousing is not the only option, it is simply the best option we know of. We need to consider resources,infrastructure, labor, time, and the magnitude of the needs. The Shipping Containers require lessFoundation, which right off puts them ahead of other ways to make a home.They are strong.They are relatively cheap.They are available.The methods for modifying them are understood, and it is a mature industry.They meet or exceed codes.They may even represent an industry down the road Haitians may eventually be able to exportconverted housing units.Converting used shipping containers for housing is a viable & economically attractive option. They areclearly preferable to tents or plastic sheeting because they are Hurricane proof, vermin proof, theftproof and Quake proof. Unlike tents they can be multistory and could be walked across during therainy season avoiding the creation of mud tracks.New containers currently cost $2,100 for a 20ft and $3,300 for a 40ft. 1.2 million people would require100,000 containers. Less than 2.5 days worth of the USAs imports (25 million TEU (TEU= twenty
  5. 5. The Use of Retired Shipping Containers as Housingfoot equivalents, one 40ft container = 2 TEU)). Put another way, due to trade imbalances, every weekmore than this number are returned empty to China... So there is no shortage of containers close at handin USA. 99% of all containers are built in China, whose factories can produce 5 million TEU a year.100,000 could be built in a fortnight. Most Chinese factories are currently in mothballs, due to theglobal downturn. It is not unreasonable to assume for each port 1,000 containers a day could bedelivered to container cities (providing these were close to the port of discharge). This would require afleet of 250 tractors with 10 x 30 ton cranes to unload and position at the container cities.The UN could perhaps sponsor some kind of salvage scheme to encourage empty containers to bediverted to Haiti in return for a discount on purchasing new replacements in China. Probably less than$500 a container would be enough, $25 per person housed!(Editors Note: To evaluate the survivability of containers in hurricane conditions, we have theexperiences of the Ports of New Orleans and Houston as examples. A study of the effects of thehurricanes on containers stored in this ports during the recent hurricanes would be most informative.)
  6. 6. The Use of Retired Shipping Containers as HousingAppendix A- Web Sites Addressing the Use of Retired Shipping Containers forArchitectural StructuresA Comprehensive Overview From Wikipedia Conversion Industry Website units are being used in our far north at mine sites: modal Shipping Containers for Use as Steel Buildings (by Paul Sawyer)*/CONTAINER_BLDGS_1ST_EDITION.pdfMilitaries around the world have made containers into wash huts, mess halls, hospitals, though ofcourse now they prefer to have special made buildings that take the same footprint as a container: units have their own containers. The Army refers to its unit-owned family of containers asEquipment Deployment _Storage System_ (EDSS) containers. of Defense Standard Family of Tactical Shelters (by JOCOTAS) brilliant boxy & sustainable shipping container Homes Housing Project By Group 41 Ecotecture design study Wide Trade Services website with floor plans site illustrates ISBUs can and do exceed most if not all building codes.Shipping container houses
  7. 7. The Use of Retired Shipping Containers as HousingISBU shipping container architecture House plans and designISBU Bob Vila Affordable Storm Ready Housing (by Bob Vila) Bay latest Gizmag has an article on shipping containers. container article and further down the page lots of related articles.Converting shipping containers into living quarters, for the offshore oil
  8. 8. The Use of Retired Shipping Containers as HousingAPPENDIX B: CLEMSON UNIVERSITY PROGRAMNOTE: This attachment has been reproduced here without express permission from the copyrightholder. To include this document in our final document, we must get appropriate permissions.Pernille Christensen, a research associate in the Richard H. Pennell Center for Real Estate and PhD.student in planning, design and the built environment; associate professor Doug Hecker; and assistantProfessor Martha Skinner of Clemsons School of Architecture, collaborated on the SEED Project,working to develop a method to convert the shipping containers into homes.The original idea was inspired by housing crises that have followed large hurricanes in the Caribbeanand United States. However, Hecker said shipping containers would meet those needs in an earthquakezone, too."Because of the shipping containers unibody construction they are also very good in seismic zonesand exceed structural code in the United States and any country in the world," Hecker said. "They havealso been used in other countries as emergency shelters in the case of earthquakes. As the SEED Projectdevelops this will certainly be an area that we incorporate. With a few simple cuts at the port, a storagecontainer can be turned into something that is livable and opens to the site."Faculty and students sought a way to put displaced people in emergency housing that could be sturdyand safe on a permanent site. Putting families back on their own land quickly is key to the idea.Families displaced by disaster often do not return to their permanent homes for years, if ever, but theClemson researchers are looking for strategies to implement the SEED Project as quickly as possible,ideally having a modified container on site within three weeks."You get people back in their communities and it strengthens those communities," Christensen said."They work on their home, not a temporary shelter, and then they work with their neighbors to rebuildthe neighborhood. It leads to a healthier and safer community. And these are places often in dire needof better housing."Many Caribbean countries import more containers than they export, which leads to the surplus ofcontainers in those nations."The project has a double mission: to address the local need of providing adequate housing for peoplein need while solving a global problem of recycling - giving purpose to empty containers that wouldotherwise be discarded," Skinner said.As part of this research, the group is studying the cycles of natural disasters by looking at the largerpicture through mapping and logistics to understand how containers move, available surpluses andultimately coordinating the cycles of natural disasters with the ebb and flow of container suppliesworldwide.The SEED Project also includes plans for using another retired item, 55-gallon steel drums, as a way tocreate a starter garden - from seed - on the roof of the container homes as a way to get food cropsstarted when the ground may be contaminated by storm water. Water also would be filtered through the
  9. 9. The Use of Retired Shipping Containers as Housingdrums before being used in a water pod comprised of shower, sink and composting toilet.A prototype emergency container home is under way on the Clemson campus, and the project has beenawarded an Environmental Protection Agency P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) grant to make thecontainer part of the 2010 National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.,in April. The research team plans to build a prototype in the Caribbean in the next year.Source: Clemson University HTTP://