Eco-sustainable and mobile housing by Contain Life

Turnkey accommodation, eco-design, made in France and mobile: the challenge taken up by the start-up Contain Life which gives a second life to old shipping containers.

Transforming old shipping containers into houses isn’t new. But the French start-up Contain Life goes further: in Carcassonne, in the south of France, it reconditions containers to make comfortable studios for private and business use for people with a buildable piece of land wanting to create cottages or bed and breakfast rooms. And as these dwellings have just 20 m2 of living space they don’t need a building permit, just a prior authorization. The houses can also be moved easily - the two modules are designed to be unbolted and then shipped by road.

The idea of a mobile, eco-friendly mini-house came to Jean-Baptiste Jarretou after returning from a trip to New Zealand, where he discovered housing built from shipping containers in use as emergency accommodation following natural disasters. His plan to build an eco-responsible, transportable building made locally with sustainable materials then matured. Supported by the Créaude business incubator and the Synersud network, which brings together innovative companies in Occitania, Jean-Baptiste Jarretou brought together artisans, designers and local engineers. For the interior design of the containers, he approached Nicolas Kuseni's interior design agency in Montpellier.

He wanted to provide really comfortable accommodation: a living room separated from the bedroom with multifunctional wooden furniture, equipped kitchenette, bathroom with shower suitable for people with reduced mobility and a proper 18 m2 terrace.

The technical aspects are covered too. Also hosted at the Aude incubator, Patrick Denieul's AEREBAT engineering office designs double insulation and a thermal shield inspired by aerospace technologies - it reflects the infrared rays of the sun in summer and keeps the heat inside in winter. The cladding is Corten steel and wood from the nearby Montagne Noir. The aluminum doors and windows are made in Carcassonne.

The manufacturing process begins with sandblasting and stripping; the containers are prefabricated in the workshop, mounted on metal structures and then assembled on site, saving time and costs in comparison with traditional constructions. The external cladding is also available in burnt wood, a traditional Japanese technique that consists of carbonizing the boards to extract oxygen and increase energy performance – and they require no maintenance for at least eighty years! Two containers are needed to make one house. All for a budget of around €49,000 (60,000 US dollars).

 

Containers: the alternative homes of the future?

As early as 2005, the Netherlands was the first to consider converting shipping containers into housing. In France, there have been several projects, such as the A Docks student residence in Le Havre inaugurated in 2010, and the Habit@t 21 eco-friendly residence in Bègles, designed by Kiha Conception. Some promoters / manufacturers have even begun producing individual homes – for example Green Habitat in Corrèze. All those forgotten shipping containers lying around French ports have a bright future!

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