The Shipping News

January 27, 2008
January/February 2008
A version of this article appears in the January/February 2008 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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The West Coast Green conference was held September 19–22 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Home Energy is a media sponsor for the event, and our staff handed out well over 1,000 magazines; pressed a lot of flesh; and were involved in well over 100 hours of passionate, stimulating, exciting conversation with builders, contractors, architects, homeowners, and others about green home building and renovation. Exhibitors there handed out free organic beer and wine, and really great swag like a cool LED flashlight from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). You could sit on a coach made of grass and calculate your total carbon footprint at the PG&E booth.

I found out that Moraga, California, where I lived before moving to Walnut Creek, is something of a center of residential green building in the Bay Area. The Moraga Barn is being renovated into offices and a learning center for a green construction company, Canyon Construction. Story goes the barn was once a house of ill repute. Soon it will be showcasing green building technology, which offers its own sensual pleasures.

  A result of the years-long trade deficit with China is a plethora of shipping containers piling up at U.S. ports. They come into ports loaded with goods from China, but they don’t get shipped back with U.S. goods. The shipping containers are often insulated, are built to withstand heavy loads, and are airtight—they are made to float if dropped overboard from oceangoing ships. As building blocks, literally, for housing, they are relatively inexpensive and efficient. Singly, without much modification, these containers are used for emergency and very-low-income housing.

A presenter at West Coast Green, Cate Leger, of Leger Wanaselja Architecture, in Berkeley, California, designed a two-bedroom house using three shipping containers. Two 40-foot long by 8-foot wide by 8 ½-foot high containers are stacked one on top of the other, and the third is cut in half and one half is stacked on the other half to form the basic structure. The home is beautiful aesthetically, spacious, and easy to get around in (see for yourself in the photos). It will be around through many earthquakes where it’s planted in infill space in the Richmond Hills—it’s built like a brick shipping container.

There is so much going on in green building—from houses made from shipping containers to LED lights to repurposed brothels—that make it a good antidote to much gloom and doom in the air these days about our environment. The beer was pretty good, too.

Jim Gunshinan is Home Energy’s managing editor.

For more information:

For more on West Coast Green, go to

Check out Canyon Construction at

And for more on Leger Wanaselja Architecture and the Richmond Hills house, go to

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