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Can I build a Passivhaus using recycled shipping containers?

GBA Editor | Posted in PassivHaus on

I am currently designing prefabricated housing using recycled shipping containers (i.e. the weeHouse by Alchemy Architects) and would like the structure to meet the requirements for PassivHaus certification. Is this possible? Are PassivHaus certified windows and doors compatible with this style of construction? The site is near Olympia, Washington on the Evergreen State College Campus.

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  1. John Brooks | | #1

    The Weehouse examples do not look like Low Energy Enclosures to me.
    I am curious... what is the delivered price of a used shipping container?

  2. Riversong | | #2

    I paid $2,000 delivered for an 8' x 8' x 20' container in 2002.

    They make excellent weathertight storage, but I wouldn't want to live in one.

  3. Nick | | #3

    Apologies for using the weeHouse as an example. I only wanted to show on a superficial level what the house would look like, roughly. My question was, if this style of construction (using recycled shipping containers) is compatible with Passivhaus certified windows and doors. Is it compatible with the high performance insulation required for Passivehaus construction?

    To answer your question, a used shipping container runs $1,200-$2,000 (on average) and delivery costs around $350.

  4. Riversong | | #4

    Since part of the PH strategy is to hermetically seal the living space, you're certainly a goodly way there with a double-gasketed shipping container, at least until you start poking holes in it for such accessories as doors and windows and HVAC and plumbing stacks.

    The challenge might be how to insulate a steel box to super-duper-insulated standards and still allow the envelope to breathe - as in transpire moisture - which, to their credit is sometimes a part of the PH strategy.

  5. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    Can you do it? Yes. Is it likely to be cheaper than building a Passivhaus building without using a shipping container? No.

    I lived in a shipping container for a year (in Stepanavan, Armenia, where I was building housing in a relief project following the 1988 earthquake). There are three main limitations to shipping containers:
    1. They are narrow.
    2. They have relatively low ceilings.
    3. They are uninsulated.

    You will need to surround the exterior of each shipping container with R-40 to R-60 insulation. That means that you will end up building an exterior structure to hold the insulation, roofing, and siding — which is almost as expensive as building a house from scratch. (You can't insulate on the interior because of width and height limitations.) And when you are all done, you'll be left with an 8-foot-wide room.

  6. Anonymous | | #6

    I know people that has a office in it and it work such find,the budget was also great. It also help to use recycleble materials,you can always save money, and get your dream house they are eco frienly house. New ways to help mother nature and survive the economical crissis.

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