Three plus years ago, at the very start of my “Build my own home” Journey. I was determined to build a container home in the Philippines. I had the land in the Philippines and a container home design that met my list of requirements. These requirements had to cope with the environmental tests the Philippines liked to throw at you every year. Unfortunately, the cost of container homes in the Philippines is excessive.
- Are container homes earthquake-proof? Yes, get the foundations right, and your home will survive a good shake.
- Are the containers Tsunami proof. To some extent, they are waterproof and will withstand a good soaking.
- Are the containers going to survive a Super typhoon? I would rather be inside a very heavy steel-reinforced box in a typhoon than in a Bahay Kubo.
I have been watching an incredible couple building their own home out of two forty-foot high-cube containers. Armed only with willing, a design plan, YouTube and youth. This couple has achieved something that is incredible. A home they should be so proud of, plus managed a couple of kids along the way.
I had a vision of a house that matched my belief that this was a relatively easy and fast way of getting the home of my dreams built. It has to be easy, right? Build the foundations, move the containers into place, cut a few holes and boom, there is your house.
Then reality kicks in and throws us a curveball with us all. I am now in my fifties. Although my brain believes it is still a young, fit eighteen-year-old, my body regularly disagrees with it.
A Dose of Reality
So, all the books I had read and all the videos research suggested that a container home built in the UK or USA would be around sixty to seventy per cent of that for an average build home of the same size.
Those of us that have spent time in and around the Philippines. Know and understand that nothing is easy and everything takes time.
Here is the next curveball.
I received the quote for the container home I wanted, and it was sixty to seventy per cent more than an average build of the same size in the Philippines. The reason? It came down to technology and building methods.
I have spent the last few months talking about new building methods in the Philippines, and they are slowly starting to become mainstream but still expensive. It was the same for the required building materials and techniques that you need when building a container home.
I soon realised that more than likely, the cost of container homes in the Philippines was not going to make financial sense.
However, for the sake of this article, let’s assume I was young, healthy and had a bucket load of cash. Of which I can only say I am healthy and that the cost of a container home Philippines is certainly an issue.
Container Home Attraction
Call me strange, but I love the look of container homes for some peculiar reason. They are not only strong, but you can come up with some incredible designs with some imagination. If you want to expand your home in the future, just go and buy another container and break out the cutting torch.
If you desire, you can have parts of the containers visible so your guests can see that they are sitting in a shipping container, or you can completely hide them behind some cladding and enjoy the security they provide.
The main attraction for me is the strength and versatility of the containers and the ease of putting them together to form a building.
Cooling Technology for Container Homes
Now I can hear some people saying, why would I want to build a house out of steel in a hot country like the Philippines. All I am going to say is look at your refrigerator.
Your refrigerator is a metal box with an air conditioning system of sorts built-in and a healthy internal coating of insulation.
This was the cost prohibitive part of my design plan.
Once the containers are in place, and the internal framing has been completed, the external walls, floors and ceilings need to be coated in closed cell spray foam. You will see on some websites that they only add sheetrock panels with loft insulation in between the panel and the side of the container.
The loft insulation method will not work well for a container home built in the Philippines. The heat reflective properties will be minimal, and condensation will promote mould growth. The only way to ensure no air gaps between the interior and the steel walls is spray foam.
Currently, the closed-cell spray foam system in the Philippines is available but excessively expensive. This is due to the difficulty obtaining the required equipment and the cost of chemical importation. Not only that, the people who understand the technology and are trained to use it are also not in abundance.
Now, with the ceramic-based paint on the outside of the container walls and closed-cell spray foam on the inside, you now have your fridge and a very energy-efficient home.
So, as we now have a building that will reflect heat away from the exterior walls and retain cool air on the interior of the building, we need to look at cooling systems.
Air conditioning is expensive because of the high current requirements of the compressor in the AC unit. If your house is inefficient and your AC unit is working overtime trying to keep the air cool, your energy consumption will be high, along with your electricity bill.
In Western Australia and the USA, many new builds don’t use AC systems due to the energy costs but use what are called swamp coolers or evaporative coolers. These systems flow water over a special filter and, with a single fan, pull air through the filter. With the air moving through the water, you get the cooling.
I am still considering using these coolers in my current home design. If there is a way I can build my house without the need for AC units. I will jump at the chance.