Applying the greenness scale

Earlier on I wrote about having a green mind and asked “how green is green”?  I thought it could be worthwhile to use our process of converting shipping containers as an example of measuring greenness in building.

These are the results of applying our greenness scale to our shipping container home: Applying Our Greenness Scale to Our Shipping Container Home

In the meantime good progress is being made with finishing off the conversion process of the shipping containers.  The final coat of paint has been applied to the containers and shutters; the lugs for fitting the steel roof trusses are in place; the double-glazed doors and windows have been fitted; the electrical wiring and insulation are being completed; and we were able to make a start with sanding the floor.

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Material, Function & Form

You may be familiar with the principle that form follows function, originally associated with modernist architecture and industrial design in the 20th century.  The idea is that the intended function or purpose of a building (or object) should determine its design and shape.

In view of our experience with building our own furniture for our converted shipping container home I want to suggest a green design principle that says: the recycled material at your disposal should determine the function and form of the end productContinue reading

1, 2, 3 – Design!

The design process of our shipping container house made the project begin to feel very real.  (Previously I outlined why we decided to build with shipping containers, and what it means to us to be “thinking green”.)

Five critical factors that the design of the shipping container house had to accommodate:

  • The house had to be constructed on a 2 000m² plot, fitting into the environment of Baardskeerdersbos, a tiny hamlet on the Aghulhas Plain.
  • We had two twelve meter shipping containers to use, giving us floor space of roughly 60m².
  • It had to be as eco-friendly as possible, despite being done on a shoestring budget.
  • We did not want to recreate what we already have, i.e. a suburban house in Stellenbosch.
  • Aesthetically pleasing design vs functionality vs costs vs green = a tall design order!

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Having a green mind

Whether we call it eco-friendly, sustainable, environmentally aware, green – or whatever – the fact remains that all of us are to a lesser or greater degree aware of the environment around us and how we impact it.

For us, this awareness is a constantly developing green philosophy and praxis that also influences how we engage with our shipping container house project.  Soon after embarking on the project in 2016 it became clear that there is no such thing as completely eco-friendly / sustainable / green, at most there are degrees of greenness.  This is an important point since it compelled us to constantly check and re-check the so-called eco-friendly credentials of building processes, products and materials.  Like most other spheres of life, “green” is also subject to marketing and advertising that sometimes take liberties with how they represent something as sustainable or eco-friendly.  The result is that a lot of fact-checking and research is required to ascertain the real extent of the greenness of building processes, products and materials.  (I don’t know if this is something peculiar to South Africa, or if it is the norm elsewhere in the world too.)

We used the following criteria to determine if materials or products are “in” or “out”, green enough or not:

  • Where does it come from?
  • What is the environmental impact while using it?
  • What happens when it comes to the end of its life?

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