Home Sweet Container
A home made from steel shipping containers offers a fast, green, and sustainable approach to building. These inter-modal steel building units (ISBUs) are manufactured in a factory-controlled environment so they are standardized and reliable. They can be used to build an average-sized home with almost no wood.
In North Charleston, SC, Tampa Armature Works (TAW) and local contractors quickly and easily constructed a container house, blending it perfectly into the surrounding neighborhood. They used four 40x8x8-foot ISBUs laid side-by-side to create a three-bedroom, 1,280-square-foot home without a hint of its original corrugated-steel exterior.
When building with ISBUs, the building blocks are ready-made and ready to transport. TAW starts by shipping the containers to their Tampa factory for modifications. Once there, the house blueprints are reviewed and each unit is custom-fit for construction. In a home where four containers are to sit side by side, all but the outermost side panels are removed so that, once connected, the ISBUs create an open 40x32-foot interior space. The vertical steel support beams are left in place for load-bearing purposes, with five along each remaining side of a container. Openings are cut into the outer walls for doors and windows.
TAW uses Supertherm insulative coating, which is sprayed on both sides of the remaining container walls to prepare the house for heating and cooling loads. Supertherm is a high-performance, four-part ceramic coating that carries an R value of R-19 and adheres to the steel surface of the shipping containers. “It really worked,” says Shannon Locklair, project superintendent for the North Charleston house. “We had an open house one day when it was 85 or 90 degrees out and the air was at least 10 to 20 degrees cooler inside. This was before we had even installed the windows.”