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[Cob] building with shipping containers, straw bales, and cob

Jill Hogan jill.hogan at
Sun Jun 29 14:41:35 CDT 2008

In 1997 when I moved on to site with my caravan I bought a container. It was one of the best buys I have ever made. It has for eleven years stored all my building materials and furniture until my cob house could take the furniture. It would have cost me a fortune in storage. The containers they sell are damaged, usually on top and mine started leaking, and despite all advice from the guys at the local hardware it continued leaking until I said blow this and cobbed over the roof putting a slope to one side and pipes to drain the water off into a rainwater tank. We lime rendered over the cob. Not another leak and it half the temp inside the container. We get temps of 42 deg C and down to freezing in winter being a semi desert area. I am about to turn the container cut windows and a door into it and cob it to use it as an office.
There are wooden containers and metal containers mine is metal one and incredibly strong. The wooden ones deteriorate very quickly.
Regards Jill

023 625 1533
We are sponsored by Cape Lime, Robertson.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Shody Ryon 
  To: Elizabeth Evans ; coblist at ; Selvoy Fillerup 
  Sent: Saturday, June 28, 2008 5:06 AM
  Subject: Re: [Cob] building with shipping containers, straw bales, and cob

  Even though I have no official say about which topics are posted, I am glad this topic was posted and I like the replies too. I would like to give my unexperienced opinion about this which is that the structure of shipping containers offer little in the way of shelter as they are and the modifications required to them in the way of insulation, windows, etc can easier be dealt with in more standard, as well as alternative building techniques. Containers are also somewhat high in embedded energy and might therefor add a large carbon foot print, for those that care.

  Their advantage might be the speed and ease of dropping one off at a location and the low labor intensity of on sight work, because it is dropped off assembled, if no or few modification are made to it (on site). As strong as they look, I do not think the middle of the walls are strong enough to berm earth against and therefor would not be a good candidate to build full cob against the exterior, without the go-a-head from a cob expert or structural engineer. Without this go-a-head, if the wall gave way with all that weight behind it and it fell on someone, that person would be lucky to survive. Most of the strength of the shipping containers are in the edges so they can be stacked high, but little or no weight is pressing on the exterior of the walls toward the interior, so they are not built to be strong in that way, as I understand it, from another list.

  I assume the attraction of a shipping container is that it is an enclosed space that appears usable as a living space. Since hominess and insulation are 2 high priorities for many of us regarding our abode, containers may not supply these in adequate amounts and the enclosure they supply may have to be replicated with other material to the extent that one may ask (her) himself, “why did I get that container again?”

  A wood framed rectangular cube might cost less to to frame than the cost of the container (with out the siding, drywall, etc). It would have joist and stud spaces that could be insulated covered with gypsum board, roofing and siding, or completely built with cob for less, but with more labor intensity perhaps, but could also be shaped like a giant cat.

  If you would like to be able to pick and leave in a moments notice, a container might offer some value in that regard, however, I would see if a pick up is really available. I was told that drop-off accompanied with $2000 are easy to come by, but pick-ups are not easy to come by at all.

  I realize others like the idea of using shipping containers as houses or elements for construction. Variety is the spice of life. To those that like them, I genuinely and sincerely hope you all build houses that you love and are very happy ;-)


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