Green Building Designer Reuses Shipping Containers

A three-bedroom home made from shipping containers was one of several winning entries in the second annual Lifecycle Building Challenge 2 competition during a ceremony at the WasteWise/National Partnership for Environmental Priorities Conference in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized San Francisco-based Contain Your Enthusiasm by Joel M. Karr from Group 41 Architects for using shipping containers to make a 1,300 square-foot home with 9-foot ceilings. Its industrial quality was softened with simple wood trellis elements to provide shading. Approximately 50 percent of shipping containers are designed for single use, and with the cost of re-use too high, they pile up at major shipping points and are left to rust.

"The winners … are pushing the envelope to protect the environment through green building design," said Jeff Scott, EPA's Waste Division Director for the Pacific Southwest region. "Using more sustainable materials and preventing waste helps prevent climate change and create healthier buildings."

EPA acknowledges award winners for their ideas that will help reduce environmental and energy impacts of buildings and assist the building industry to reuse more than 100 million tons of construction and demolition debris sent each year to landfills. Reusing building materials also reduces energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with extraction, production, and transportation of new materials.

In the United States, buildings consume 60 percent of total materials flow (excluding food and fuel) and account for 33 percent of the solid waste stream. Building renovation and demolition accounts for 91 percent of the construction and demolition debris generated each year, while new construction accounts for only 9 percent.

These issues can be addressed by planning for a building or building component's eventual deconstruction or adaptation. By creating building components that can be easily recovered and reused, materials are kept at their highest value, resulting in reduced consumption of energy and resources.

The EPA, along with its partners, the Building Materials Reuse Association, the American Institute of Architects, Southface Energy Institute, West Coast Green, and StopWaste.Org, invited professionals and students nationwide to submit designs and ideas that support cost-effective disassembly and anticipate future use of building materials.

For more information on the competition, the winners, and to view images, visit and