GEDO’16: Off-Grid Sea Container Cabin fulfills L.A. man’s childhood dream

Written for Green Energy Doors Open

Nestled in Kawartha Lakes lies an Off-Grid Sea Container Cabin made of 7 shipping containers. Designed by Jason Rioux, Vice President of NRStor and founder of Sea Container Cabin, the ‘Octopod’ features a unique Hub-and-Spoke design. The ‘Hub’ is a large centre octagon-shaped great room and each radiating container is a ‘Spoke’ that serves a different purpose – from a kitchen, dining, bathroom and bedroom to a workshop.

When we decided to debut our newly built ‘Octopod’ at GEDO’16, we really didn’t know what to expect. Located off the beaten path meant this event had to be a participant’s destination. With some luck, timely media and a GEDO podcast found its way to like-minded people who wanted to learn more about building sustainable homes using re-purposed shipping containers. Suddenly the inquiries poured in and people as far away as L.A. and Montreal began booking our tour.

Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed about building this exact home out of shipping containers. When I was notified of the GEDO’16 open house, I knew my partner Mary and I just had to see it in person. Next thing I know we’re on a plane to Canada and driving down the back roads in search of the Off-Grid Shipping Container Cabin. As I’m nearing retirement, and having learned so much from this project, I look forward to building my very own ‘A-pod’.”

– Andy Damiano, L.A. resident

The main features of the ‘Octopod’ include:

  • 1 KW solar power system for the entire cabin
  • Solar powered water pump and elevated water tower system
  • DC wiring for LED lighting and ultra efficient DC refrigeration, direct from battery banks
  • High efficiency DC air circulation fans
  • Cool roof system

Building a new home? It can cost you less – especially in the long run if you design energy smart systems and incorporate alternative construction materials.

Most of our GEDO’16 event participants were interested in how to design lower carbon footprint homes, how to reduce the construction cost per square foot by using alternative construction materials such as re-purposed shipping containers and how to take control of their growing hydro bills by incorporating a renewable energy system.

We truly hope our open house has influenced the next generation of home builds in an environmentally positive way – even if ever so slightly. Thanks everyone for your contribution to a wildly successful turnout at GEDO’16.

Andy and Mary Damiano traveled 4300km to view his childhood dream in person.

As we gear up for GEDO ’17, we will share some interesting stories of people who attended our event and why they ventured down a little dirt road to find the Off-Grid Shipping Container Cabin. If you’re planning to build a new home and wish to permit your very own shipping container home, contact us. We’re happy to help.

 

 

Completed Construction of Sea Container Cabin

In Fall of 2014, we completed construction of Sea Container Cabin model OCTOPOD, our 1400 square foot space project in the outskirts of Toronto, Canada. Here are some images:

Sea Container Cabin Finished Front View

FRONT VIEW: From water’s edge, completed construction of Sea Container Cabin OCTOPOD model, powered by off-grid solar panels.

Sea-Container-Cabin-Solar-Panel

SOLAR PANELS: Powered by Canadian Solar. This cabin is off-grid using only clean renewable energy.

Sea-Container-Cabin-Off-Grid-Wood-Fired-Stove-Top

SAUNA – Material is BC red cedar. Wood fired, constructed in the wedge between two containers with easy access to the water’s edge.

Sea-Container-Cabin-Off-Grid-Toronto-Wood-Stove

GREAT ROOM: Wood fired stove with in-floor heating.

Sea-Container-Cabin-Plank-Flooring

SEA CONTAINER FLOORS: Wide custom pine tongue and groove boards, stained grey.

Sea-Container-Cabin-Aerial

AERIAL VIEW OF SEA CONTAINER CABIN PREMISES

Sea-Container-Cabin-Off-Grid-Moss

What we’ve realized is it’s a bit tough to capture the look and feel of the space without physically walking through the experience yourself. So we’ll take a video to give you a better sense of what it feels like to live in this space. And post some pictures of the final interior decorated by Rebecca Purdy from HGTV’s House of Bryan, Leave it to Bryan and DIY Disaster. If you have any questions regarding this build, or any others we’ve been involved in, please send us a comment or you can always contact us.

Toronto Community Centre adds Off-Grid Solar Sea Container Retail Space

Scadding Court Community Centre located in downtown Toronto, Canada has absorbed our former Sea Container Cabin Showroom (Model URBAN) for their repurposed Shipping Container Market 707.

This new space will become their largest retail store but if you look at the space closely, it’s completely different from the typical repurposed shipping container retail store.

Sea Container Cabin Showroom Scadding Court Community Centre Toronto Market 707

What Makes Sea Container Cabin Retail Spaces Different than the typical SeaCan Retail Space?

  1. It’s off-grid using green energy. Solar power is used in this retail space.
  2. It’s a one-trip container meaning we had this built and shipped to us so this new space will enjoy a very long life.
  3. It’s a high cube giving us 8 feet of finished height.
  4. We validated any sprays used to prepare the one time shipment across the ocean was harmless to humans and inert making it suitable for living quarters
  5. Our spaces are insulated providing comfort in extreme summer and winter weather. But the insulation isn’t just for heat and cold, it also improves sound transfer. If it rains, you can still hold a conversation instead of feeling like you just walked into a heavy metal concert.
  6. There was ZERO cutting of this sea container cabin maintaining security of our premises. Just pull the steel doors and walk away with peace of mind that your retail space is secure.
  7. The sliding door entry system spans the entire 20foot length of the container. It is designed as an attractive storefront without modifications to the original container.

4 Guiding Principles to our Sea Container Cabin Construction:

Rule #1:

We do not cut out shipping container walls that would require reinforcements. The URBAN design has ZERO cuts. The OCTOPOD design’s non-structural back walls were removed but those cuts did not require any reinforcing.

Rule #2:

Design all spaces with sustainable living in mind. Even if you wish to remain connected to the electricity grid, keeping energy conservation in mind will help you make the best energy decisions. Plus, it’ll reduce your monthly electricity bills.

Rule #3:

Construct spaces using the best materials available on the market and consider all available alternatives to typical construction materials. TEST, TEST, and RE-TEST these installed materials and validate they pass our expectations for ease of use, quality, and most importantly, work well for our cold winters.

Rule #4:

Our team of engineers, site designers, contractors and our interior designer Rebecca Purdy are capable of great ideas and only the highest quality workmanship. Our team believes in Sea Container Cabins and sustainable living. They’re smart, patient, have attention to detail and most importantly show pride in their workmanship.  This combination of character traits happens to attract respectful and pleasant folks to work with so our exciting projects have always remained fun projects.

When we started Sea Container Cabin, our goal was to meet all 4 mandates while proving out that construction costs can come in at half of traditional construction costs. So far, we are proud to say it’s been consistently the case.

Practical shipping container living and working spaces that are appealing to the eye , includes the comforts of modern day living and were constructed at a reduced cost can exist.

Want to Create New Sea Container Retail Space? Build a Cottage? Or Add Living Space to your Backyard? 

We’d be happy to share our knowledge with like minded individuals who believe in sustainable living. Reduce, reuse, recycle & renewable off-grid sustainable living does exist. And the Province of Ontario building inspector said it best,

“We weren’t sure what the end result would look like however your Sea Container Cabins challenge the status quo and are tastefully designed and constructed.”

If you have any questions about what we can do for you, or if you’d like a tour of the OCTOPOD or URBAN models to get a feel of what it truly is like living in a Sea Container Cabin, just contact us.

Is an Off-Grid Lifestyle Suitable for You?

Sea-Container-Cabin-Solar-PanelIn most circumstances, people who live off-grid don’t actually choose to be off-grid. It’s more likely that the electricity grid doesn’t connect to their property so the choices they have are to bring in power lines which can be very expensive and is the beginning of monthly electricity bills or figure out a way to remain off-grid.  And just so you know: off-grid people actually like the modern comforts of home including TV, Internet, lighting and heat.

A movement is building, whereby people are looking for 100% renewable solutions and a true independence from the grid.

With the availability of affordable solar, wind, and energy storage options, 100% renewable solutions are becoming more and more practical.

Two ways to live off-grid: With or Without Power

Living without electricity requires a reliance on traditional oil fired lamps and propane refrigeration. Both are poor performing, emit air emissions, and require constant refueling.  It is in fact more environmentally friendly, a lower cost, and a better quality of life today if you consume electricity for both lighting and refrigeration by choosing the right renewable energy system.

The key to successfully living off-grid is to reduce your power consumption.

You can build a smaller power system by conserving power and living without some power sucking appliances such as hair dryers, ovens and clothes dryers. Coupled with using energy wisely, better insulation, wood heating, LED lighting etc. you can afford to live a comfortable life off-grid. The general public has a difficult time embracing the concept of “Conservation First” in our grid connected life but in an off-grid setting, the conservation culture is much easier to adopt. It is driven mainly out of necessity given the limited power available and the raw cost of oversizing a power system for very limited use or inefficient uses of power.

Determine the right size power and energy storage system you require.

There are 2 kinds of Off-Grid Living with power:

  1. Gas fired generators
  2. Renewable energy such as solar, wind or hydro, and energy storage

Gas fired generators burn fuel so there is a variable cost associated with this form of power. There’s also the inconvenience of having to purchase the fuel, haul it home, and store it. Running a generator can be noisy although quiet generators are available on the market (such as the Honda generator every hot dog cart uses). If you believe in sustainable living, renewable energy such as solar, wind or hydro is the way to go.

Solar vs. Wind vs. Hydro

The answer to this question really depends on your surroundings. In our case, the Sea Container Cabin is situated amongst forest so there really isn’t any consistently blowing wind. We do have hydro that’s always flowing but the best spot is a bit far from the cabin so you’d have to run a long piece of wire. For us, solar made most sense. Panels continue to become more and more affordable. And we believe in supporting local manufacturers so installing Canadian Solar panels just made sense.

Why do you need Energy Storage in your off-grid power system?

There are very few ways to use renewable generation without having energy storage.  One such example is the solar direct water pump at the sea container cabin.  The solar water pump takes power directly from a set of solar panels to power a water pump deep down in the well.  When the sun shines, the water is pumped up to a water tower reservoir, which then feeds water to the washroom and kitchen using gravity, providing water supply even when the sun is not shining, and without the need to use battery power to pump the water in the cabin.  Simply put, this is one form of energy storage, called “pumped hydro” where the energy is stored as elevated water.

In order to meet the electrical needs of the Sea Container Cabin, and balance out the off-grid power system, you need to store electricity in a battery system for use when the sun isn’t shining, the wind isn’t blowing or the water isn’t flowing. Many types of batteries are available, including traditional lead acids and more modern lithium based technologies.

Steps to building an Off-Grid system

  1. Determining the amount of energy you require, both your peak capacity requirements, and daily utilization patterns.  It is recommended you do a bottom up energy requirement analysis, looking at every power device you intend to operate, how often it will be operated, how many consecutive days such as full time residence or just weekend retreat use etc.  This will define your power requirements.
  2. Identify the best form of off-grid energy for you – gas fired, solar, wind etc.  This will depend on your local conditions and what mother nature has to offer you. If you can deploy multiple technology types, this will provide you redundancy in energy supply, which is very attractive when available. Then you need to determine how many days of power weather conditions that you wish to be resilient for, such has how many days of poor sunlight you wish to withstand. This determines the size of the energy storage battery system you require. Many other considerations go into sizing the storage system, including allowed depth of discharge of the batteries, number of cycles before the batteries wear out, performance in cold temperatures which is an important consideration for Canada, etc.

Have a Question on Power Systems or Energy Storage Systems?

We have shared a few concepts on how you may be able to live off-grid.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many concepts and design features we have rigorously tested in our Sea Container Cabins. If you’d like more information, call us or send us a note. We’d be happy to help you successfully get off-grid and start enjoying a sustainable lifestyle.