10’ Container for Mechanical Systems

Container for mechanical systems: I think the biggest aspect is you can invest in systems and take them with you. It is an investment not an expense.
Container for mechanical systems: I think the biggest aspect is you can invest in systems and take them with you. It is an investment not an expense.

Guest article by Cliff, who’s planning his sustainable home in a rural area.

“Am pondering using a 10ft container as a systems room located at the back of the vault. It will keep the inside of the house clean without need for additional space or clutter. I can put the coal boiler, hot water cylinder, clothes washer, and electrical fuse box inside. I can terminate any communications (phone, internet) inside as well. It would be short runs from boiler to accumulator tank for reduced heat loss. If I use rainwater any water filtration equipment can be installed there as well. I just need to feed hot water and electrical wires from the container into the home from the rear. I am used to computer rooms that use a central power distribution unit. All outside power runs to the distribution unit and you use flexible wiring to anywhere else. The biggest plus is I will never need to worry about carbon monoxide or fire from the coal burner. I can mount a decent size coal hopper on to the back or side of the container and use the supplied auger feed directly into the boiler.

From a tradesman or service standpoint I think it keeps it in a better comfort zone. Non standard can become a big issue here where people won’t work on it or touch it. Some people will work on anything and some won’t. For standardized trades I best keep it standardized.

From a project management point I can have my electricity and boiler all functional and tested during the build. I can have 2 critical paths instead of one, systems and build parallel instead of build then systems serially. There is some integration but nothing complex. If I ever move all the expensive stuff is in the container. I can just haul it away.

The container makes it much more plug and play. You can work on it yourself at any location in any weather (fully waterproof) long before you actually begin building. If you are building in a remote area it makes it much more possible and easier. A 24 ft container would be much more difficult to move around. Tare weight of a 10ft container is 1,100 kg so movable by a tractor with a front end loader and doesn’t require specialty equipment which can be expensive especially in a remote area.

Thinking out of the square you can even have multiple low cost houses. You can move your systems container to whichever you are about to live at.

As a business opportunity you can sell packaged systems containers. They could be built in a developing country cheaper and then shipped to the end client anywhere in the world. This component option is a pre-manufactured unit designed to simply attach to conventional plumbing and electrical connections. This generic design makes it easy for anyone to install the unit. Because it is a manufactured, packaged, it is cheaper, more efficient and more reliable than any custom design. For a first time owner/builder it would make it a lot easier as he could focus on just building and not need to worry with all the specialty skill sets. You could even have a toilet and shower option.”

Owen: Putting all the mechanicals in a container is a great idea. As I was reading I figured out right away the ease of taking it with you if you ever move. Can’t say that for any other house. And like you say, everything is easy for the electricians, plumbers and heating guys. Plus, it’s easy to lock up if you’re gone. There’s even decent potential in selling units like this.

The closest thing I’ve seen is a pre-built plumbing/electrical kitchen and bath unit. You’ve bumped up this basic idea several fold. It reminds me of data centers that are designed for deployment to remote areas of the world. Everything is self contained in a container, even the generator, air conditioner, Internet, etc. Hmm- what about a backup generator, pump/water purifiers and/or other redundant systems?

13 thoughts on “10’ Container for Mechanical Systems”

  1. Juergen

    It is metal. just paint it with aluminum colored paint. That will reflect most of the suns heat. Put in a fan if you want. You don’t live in it. it just contains things. I appreciate electrical systems don’t like heat but have a higher heat tolerance if not electronic or computer systems.

  2. Ron

    The container is only 10X10. Not that big and not that heavy. You want something that will hold up to abuse and be secure. It is what containers are built to do. You don’t want expensive systems in something you can get into with a can opener or fall apart easily. You want it built like a safe.

  3. From one of our readers:
    “This could apply to any house. Imagine a plug and play where you plug in your systems to another house. It would make capital expenses must easier justified to know it is not sinking money into a residence you know you will not keep for a long time. Retrofitting can get expensive quick. Imagine renting a house but supplying your own mechanicals would be much cheaper. For the property owner his maintenance and capital costs would go down immensely. Systems is where it can be expensive. Rent a shell not a house. I could see something in this area this becoming a trend in the future. I am good at spotting future trends before they become common. It is just second nature to me.”

    Owen: Brilliant. I agree. You can build a shell quite inexpensively with earthbags, adobe, pole building, straw bales, etc. The big money is in the mechanicals (also somewhat the roof, kitchen and bath). Buy the best mechanical system you can afford and take it with you whenever you move. I see this as a niche market with good potential. Think of all the people with cabins, vacation homes, first time buyers like young families, etc. that don’t want to put a lot of money into sunk mechanical costs. And like the reader above said, future maintenance/upgrades of the system would be far easier than ripping out walls, ductwork, etc. Plus, you’d face far fewer issues with code officials. That alone could save you thousands.

  4. Electrical systems don’t like heat. And inside a container it can get very, very hot if exposed to the sun. Therefore, you would need a “sun roof”, installed approx. 4-8 inch above the container to provide shadow.
    Something like this:
    or this:
    or this:

  5. Don’t need a trailer. You CAN purchase 10′ ISBUs, that look just like their big brothers – the 40′ boxes I’m always making Owen crazy with. Then… simply use the twistlocks (located at each corner) as mounting points for either casters (think heavy machinery) or even a small wheeled trolley. We do it all the time.

  6. Not a bad idea but the container is heavy and a pain to move.I think it could be downsized and put on a small utility trailer.But i guess it depends on your needs and situation. I once thought of having a small building like this at two or more locations to move where i liked the weather.
    A portable home like a yurt or dome could fit inside also.If you look around people already sell things like this,some are military based or for emergencys.Hospital field units.Theyre all kinda pricey.


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