We’re no strangers to shipping container architecture, but Team China’s Y Container house at the Solar Decathlon definitely impressed us with its interesting use of these common building blocks. The Solar Decathlon, which came to a close this weekend in Washington D.C., challenges collegiate students to transform our understanding of consumer housing by developing innovative, eco-friendly, and energy efficient homes. Team China constructed the Y Container house using six recycled shipping containers, interconnected in such a way to form a Y shape. Considering their trans-Atlantic journey, the design makes a lot of sense in terms of shipping, but the home also boasts a surprisingly comfortable interior. And despite a modest choice of shipping containers, the house looks pretty futuristic, hosting a triangular solar panel roof and a wooden strip wrap that both softens the façade and helps keep the home cool.
Tonji University is no stranger to the Decathlon — their Bambu House turned a lot of heads last year in Barcelona with an aggressive bamboo façade and structure. This year the team is using common shipping containers to highlight the flexibility in design of the trendy, if not difficult, steel box. The design consists of three pairs placed at 120 degree angles with a roof covering where they meet. Each container stands 9.5 feet tall, 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. The three zones are set up for cooking, living, and sleeping, with a central multifunctional space in the middle. The three outdoor spaces are set up accordingly for private and public functions.
The house is shaded by its 40 panel 8kW solar array, which was donated by Sanyo Electric Co. While the containers may be low tech, the walls use a one-two punch of high tech materials to maintain comfort. Vacuum insulation panels are highly effective and reduce the thickness of the walls. Phase change panels passively help maintain temperatures during the day, reducing the peak cooling load, and therefore energy consumption. Cooling is introduced by a split system, and heat is provided by a large flat solar thermal system that caps one of the home’s sections. The captured energy is used to heat the floor via radiant tube and the domestic hot water. Prevailing breezes can be captured from any direction and vented through the center roof. The team scored their highest in the Comfort Zone category, proving that the Y Container’s cooling and ventilation work quite well.
While the exterior looks great, the inside seems a bit drab with little natural lighting and a sparse interior. However, movable walls add a great level of functionality to the design. The triangular custom designed furniture is another great touch, allowing a single piece to be used for seating, storage or as table. For a target market of a growing young family in the outskirts of Shanghai, the Y Container will be a great fit.