29 October, 2008

From Containers to Greentainers

With shipping containers finding themselves in the spotlight so much as sustainable/ecologically friendly housing, and now also as data centers, things must perforce change..  For a start, law of supply and demand:  The more containers are taken out of circulation for housing and data centers, the more in demand they are going to get and the more they will cost.

The more that people start shipping their computing power and their houses around, the more expensive freighting is going to get, as these "greentainers" start multiplying.  In their advantage is that you can ship modules from a small number of facilities to the end location probably for much cheaper than you could build them in situ, and due to the sheer variety of ideas, there is a whole wealth of structures that can be built.

But there are also downsides.  Building in a container doesn't give the ideal shape for energy efficiency and conservation.  The steel walls may delay energy gains and losses, but they don't isolate them.  Container home or datacenter modules are heavy.  And the modules are still made from steel dug up from the ground, smelted, purified, and then formed into material for making the containers, and then manufactured into containers.

So I predict that new strong materials made from recycled plastics and other sustainable sources will soon become the major component of the new lines of greentainers.  When you can have all the strength (and then some) that original steel containers had, at one tenth to one quarter of the weight, you achieve significant fuel savings in transport, you gain strength and rigidity that traditional steel containers do not have, the walls can have thermal properties tailored for the relevant use, and a whole new kind of container will spring up, many of them only sharing the twist-lock spacing and size with the old steel behemoths of yesterday.

If you take on board some of my ideas, don't forget to throw me a bone so I can afford to buy a container or two to experiment with!


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