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Community and Q&A

Can straw bales be used on the exterior of a shipping container home?

OrrinH | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

I am interested in building a shipping container home. Insulation is one of my biggest concerns. I have read a lot about the benefits of straw bales. I am very interested in using this as the exterior insulation, but have not found any info pro or con. Any help will be very beneficial.
Thanks for your info.

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  1. User avatar GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Orrin H.,
    Anything is possible, but I don't think that your plan makes much sense. You won't be saving any money.

    You'll still need a foundation, stucco, roof framing, roofing, electrical wiring, plumbing, interior wall finish, and flooring -- and you'll have to cut a lot of holes in the steel container for windows and doors. After all that work, you'll end up with a low-ceilinged tiny house.

    You'll probably want to read this article: What’s Wrong With Shipping Container Housing? Everything.

    -- Martin Holladay

  2. Brendan Albano | | #2

    Why not just build a regular straw bale house?

    The shipping container doesn't seem to be serving much purpose for you if you're also planning on using straw bales. The container is just going to limit the design of your interior for little benefit.

  3. Charlie Sullivan | | #3

    My favorite way to explain the irrational attraction to shipping containers is by analogy to the story of stone soup. If you haven't heard that story, it's about a hungry traveler who tells villagers that he can show them how to make soup from a stone. He gets them to boil water for him and he puts a (clean) stone it. He pretends it is becoming good soup, but suggests it would be even better if they added a little seasoning. Then maybe a few vegetables, and some beans, and so on until they have provided all the ingredients of a good soup. They are impressed at what a delicious soup he has made from a stone.

    The shipping container is just like that--a way to claim that you have made a house from waste materials, when in fact, you still need to do all the expensive things. And unlike a stone in soup, the shipping container constrains the design excessively, and costs real money.

  4. User avatar
    Dana Dorsett | | #4

    Many people have hacked houses out of cargo-cans in ways that reduced the structural integrity to the point where it might not meet spec for structural capacity required for a house without adding more steel.

    This is one of the very few I've seen that was done right (with real engineering input) from a structural point of view, but they ended up using WAY more closed cell foam than would be considered "green" by purists. The designer/owner is an architect.

  5. Shakeyray2000 | | #5

    Hello everyone,

    I have seen a lot of cons of building a shipping container home as well as it being a horrible idea in general. However, for my particular location (Florida) I believe it's a great idea for those that would like something small and strong. I have a solid brick home that is pretty strong but you are at the mercy of a hurricane (5) or tornado (F1-3) if it comes right for you. Hence, would it be accurate to say these places in Florida, and the islands that face 200 mph wind gusts (or higher due to global warming), could benefit from a smaller scale home from a shipping container? Keeping in mind, a simple floor plan that is only one container higher for maximum resistance to these harsh conditions?


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