Friday, July 22, 2011

Shipping Container Building Update

Connex Box update

As some of you know I’m interested in low cost housing. My reasoning is simple. In a world where the average American worker makes $20,000 to $35,000 a year and the average house sells for around $200,000 the average family will soon be renting instead of owning. We need an alternative that an unskilled laborer can handle; so I’m looking at Rammed Earth, Straw bale, Adobe bricks, Cast in Place Adobe, a product called Super Adobe and Connex box; also called Shipping container, buildings. I’m building a cooking school out of straw bales and a studio out of Connex boxes.

Let’s talk about the Connex box structure. I chose a decommissioned box (no longer being used for international shipping) that was 40 feet long and 8 feet wide and what is called “High Cube” 9.5 feet tall (standard boxes are 8 feet tall.) These boxes come with wooden floors and can handle a properly engineered roof load of around a half million pounds, which allows them to be stacked in interesting ways.

Foundation poured of concrete with rebar to hold fencing a center of wall

The box cast me $2700, delivered, which is cheaper and stronger than the pre-fabed sheds and garages offered currently. I use a cutoff wheel to cut in my windows and doors and if need be it can be moved.

I’m wrapping three sides in 2-inch foam for insulation and on the south side I’m attaching a 1-foot thick cast in place adobe wall.

Fencing in place, notice the scrap wood I use to hold the form at proper width

In the wall I’m adding a diaphragm of used chain link fencing in the center of the wall and attaching more 2-inch foam on the outside of this wall, for insulated thermal mass.

Rebar holding the foam, all of this had to be replaced, the wire is working fine

I had been tieing the fence to the box and the foam to the fencing, creating tension to hold the foam in place and giving me the ability to tie wire mesh at a later point for a stucco finish.

I was doing the tieing with cheap nylon twine, which is strong and wont rust like tie wire.

I drilled hundreds of hole to hold the twine. The new strapping is a much better choice

The other day I was getting some adobe poured in the forms and the chain link fencing came loose from the box. What I hadn’t planned for was the fact that the twine is not UV resistant and all of my twine had basically decomposed.

Plan B, I’m now using Plumber’s tape which is a cheap form of strapping.

This shot shows how strong the twine is and it will work well if you are not waiting to stucco

I can use a screw gun to pull the screws and then re-screw the plumber’s tape in place to hold the fencing at center wall and then I’m using galvanized wire to hold the foam in place and I can use it to attach the stucco wire later. I plan on making a living roof to finish the studio off. Please comment or ask any questions that you may have. This project is a learning lab and I will post my findings.


  1. Hi,
    Thanks for all the information and the update. I am very much delighted to know about this and I feel that this is a very impressive move and great innovation as well.

  2. Thank you!
    If you ever have any questions please let me know!