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How To Boost The Sustainability Of Your House?

In a recent interview with the CEO of one of the most responsible companies on environmental care today, Ecognom we got this important information: when we talk about sustainability in the context of construction, we generally refer to its most relevant subset, sustainable development. Sustainable development talks about building in a way that does not negatively affect future generations through pollution, reduced access to natural resources, etc.

An increasing number of people are looking to container building as a possible way to generate new housing and be more environmentally friendly. The growing world population, dwindling supplies of finite resources, and climate change are making many people more aware of their impact on the environment.

Put another way, it is meeting the needs of people today without preventing people in years to come from meeting their own needs. Concerned global citizens are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and become more environmentally conscious. This, in turn, is leading many to seek more responsible and sustainable means of construction. Using recycled materials or giving a second life to previously used materials are two excellent ways to achieve this. After all, if we can use materials that we already have, it’s less new material that we need to extract from the earth and turn into products.

However, containers are not universally an ecological goldmine. They must be used in the right way to see a net benefit.

Reasons to Look for Eco-friendly

In previous informal surveys, we’ve conducted, the second most common reason for pursuing container construction was because it was perceived to be green. It is a trend that is not exclusive to construction but has been gradually increasing in recent decades in areas of the global economy as diverse as transportation and food.

Even for those who are less concerned about the environment, if they practice some of the ideas of minimalism, they often end up in the same place. Minimalism preaches against the Western idea that more is always better.

Instead, efficiency and even happiness can be gained by minimizing the resources you use, the things you collect, and the decisions you make.

Waste Management Hierarchy

If we frame the ecosystem of waste and leftover management as a stage, recycling is usually the focus. This is probably because it requires minimal effort from individual users (although the event requires complex systems and supply chains).

Recycling asks you to take the stuff you’re already throwing away and put it in a different container. But someone out there has to collect this waste which is carefully sorted, transported, processed, and ultimately turned into something useful.

As a result, recycling is the last step in a three-phase hierarchy of waste management commonly known as the Three Rs. In preferred order of execution, they are: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Together they help conserve natural resources, landfill space, energy, and money. While we are discussing this topic regarding container construction, it is important to focus not only on the containers themselves but also on all other construction materials involved.

Reduce Your Consumption

The easiest way to reduce waste is to use less stuff in the first place. This is sometimes called upcycling. It may require careful consideration to separate needs from wants, but it saves you from having to look for alternatives to reuse or recycle later. In residential construction, this often manifests itself in the form of small houses.

White, the criteria for what exactly fits into the small home category is a bit grey, the general idea is to focus on having a space large enough to meet your needs without excess. But the size of the building isn’t the only lever you can pull to reduce what you use. Another option is to use fewer things for the same space. For example, do you need TVs for every room or is it enough? Does your family need multiple bathrooms, or with careful planning (and the help of technology like on-demand water heaters), would you be fine with one?

Although we have focused on the consumption of material goods, the argument could easily be applied to energy. After all, most of the world’s energy is still supplied by finite resources like oil, gas, and coal, which also contribute to pollution. Perhaps by using more natural sunlight and fewer electric lights, using shading and insulation to reduce HVAC requirements, and adding solar power, you could substantially reduce the energy you consume.

Reuse Existing Materials

Reuse, sometimes called recycling, can be summed up with the saying One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. To understand how the concept of reuse fits into your life, you must first think about the life cycle of a product. You start with the premise that everything is created for a purpose.

With containers, the first option often happens before you even buy them. Used containers have been used dozens, if not hundreds of times before they are put up for sale. The entire containerization system is based on the idea of reusing the same container multiple times, which is one of the reasons it was an improvement on legacy methods of moving cargo.

The second option is the focus of this section. The idea is that, at some point, a used container will reach the end of its useful life. It’s a bit worn, scratched, and maybe even dented. It’s been around the world several times and has the scars to prove it. The owner makes an economic decision that trying to fix it one more time is no longer a valuable use of his funds.

But now it’s pure garbage, just taking up space like a garbage pile? Instead, with recycling, the old bin that’s no longer fit for purpose can be repurposed into something more valuable.
Recycling requires less energy to process than the recycling alternative discussed below. You’re not breaking the item down into its raw materials, you’re simply reconfiguring what you already have. And as a bonus, you need fewer amounts of other materials like wood and concrete than you would otherwise. Building with used containers not only helps the environment through recycling but also means you don’t additional materials (such as bricks and concrete) to be used.

Repurposing a container as a building material is a way to reset the clock and give that cargo crate a second life. The requirements to survive transoceanic voyages fully loaded are considerably higher than what is required to serve as a home or office. There is still a lot of life left in these containers for enterprising people who can see their potential. And nothing says they can’t be recycled in the future. Don’t forget that history doesn’t even have to end up serving as the bones for a new building. Containers can contribute even more during the construction process. For example, any cuttings you remove to make room for doors and windows can be used to create things like awnings or shutters.

Recycle Waste Into Something New

As we’ve already mentioned, recycling is preferable to sending something to a landfill, but waste prevention (in the form of reducing and reusing) is even better. However, if you’ve already taken the Reduce and Reuse steps, and you still have some leftovers, it’s time to consider recycling.

Recycling typically involves a chemical or mechanical process that breaks down a product into its raw materials or items. It’s not something you can do at home in most cases, and it requires energy to complete. What results in new material? Some materials can be recycled almost perpetually, and the new materials are the same as the original material.

Think of broken glass making new glass or crushed soda cans to make new soda cans. But eventually, the trace elements in the material begin to grow in concentration to the point that the item can no longer be recycled for its original use. That’s where downcycling comes in. Downcycling still leads to the creation of a new product, but it’s one with less value than the main product.

An example is recycled paper which after a few iterations must eventually become cardboard, as the fibers in the paper become too short to make normal paper. You can make recycled containers from older containers or reduce them to something else with lower quality steel. Either way, it takes quite a bit of energy to melt them down into molten steel and make new products.

For this reason, container recycling is often not economically viable and is the reason you see stacked cargo boxes everywhere. Until they’re completely rusted and riddled with holes, in most cases, they’re worth more as a shipping container than scrap metal.

Remember to consider other building materials as well, and know that not everything can be recycled. Some materials, if they can’t be reused, generally just need to be thrown away.
If you can’t buy products that have been recycled, you can at least try to use recyclable things.

Availability Of Empty Containers

There are millions of containers in the world, but only a fraction of them are in service and actively used. Many of the remaining containers are being wasted in ports and storage yards around the world. Using one of these existing containers as the foundation for a home is a great example of recycling or adaptive reuse.

With so many containers stacked in shipyards, junkyards, and ports, there are plenty of containers for you to purchase and deliver to your next building. While it is difficult to track the exact number of excess containers, we can infer that there are many of them. And logic tells us that each year, more of them reach the end of their useful life, creating a new supply of additional empty containers. Because containers are commodities, their prices depend on the laws of supply and command. Until you see a big increase in the cost of used containers, rest assured, there are plenty of them.

Economic Problems

Some like to argue that container hosting is overkill, a waste of resources and that containers should be recycled. While on the surface they may seem to have a good point, the truth is not so clear cut. A common idea is that steel from shipping containers should be reused for steel studs. The argument states that, depending on the desired thickness, an 8-foot steel bolt weighs between two and eight pounds. So, a 40-foot container weighing just over 8,000 pounds would yield approximately 1,000 to 4,000 studs. It might seem obvious to process the container into steel studs that could be used to make dozens of houses, but this analysis fails quite a bit.

First, it ignores the top and bottom channels which are also required, not to mention the thousands of screws that must be used to hold everything together. How about some kind of siding to cover the posts? At the time this article was written, scrap steel was selling for about $100/ton in North America. This means that a 40-foot container (which weighs just over 8,000 pounds or 4 tons) is worth about $400 as scrap.

However, a used 40-foot container in usable condition probably won’t sell for less than $1,500. The cost gap widens when you factor in other expenses. You would have to move the container to a recycler, who breaks it down and sells it to a steel mill, which then sells the freshly processed coils of steel to a manufacturer that makes the poles. The poles must then be returned to you. That’s a lot of transportation and processing that costs money, uses energy, and causes pollution.

It’s hard to factor in all of these costs to make a real comparison, but the bottom line is that acting like you can snap your fingers and turn a single container into the materials needed to build dozens of homes is bogus. It’s There may very well be cases where it makes sense to recycle containers into other products, such as steel bolts. But for many people, moving up the waste management hierarchy and pursuing reuse through container construction is an environmentally friendly option.


Dumpsters are a great way to recycle a product that in many cases cannot be recycled economically. Instead of letting them deteriorate, they can be used as building materials. While there are several other reasons why you might choose to use containers for your next construction project, their ability to increase the sustainability of your project certainly belongs on this list.