Sustainable & Affordable Living Is Just a Shipping Container Away

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Are you tired of cookie-cutter houses in the suburbs? Do you want to live sustainably in an off-grid home? Are you an advocate of reduce, reuse, recycle?

If so, there may be a solution for you.

Shipping containers—those large metal boxes you see on barges or at ports—are being restored into homes for the adventurous and the environmentally conscious. The structure is a solid framework for an innovative home, allowing its residents to live away from current systems. The unique structures have already taken off in Australia and New Zealand, and are making their way to Canada.

The KAN is an organization out of BC that’s designing shipping container homes, offering construction and design, and even workshops to the do-it-yourself-er.

“The project started with the vision to create a platform for educating the public on the systems and construction methods for sustainable, off-grid living,” says creator and co-founder Kyle Kozak. “Once the designs came to life and we started to see public interest, we became more excited about the KAN’s potential to offer new housing solutions in an ever-changing housing market.”

Kozak and his co-founder Tyler Wied are attempting to fill gaps in Vancouver’s runaway housing market—where a record of $735,000 over asking was set two weeks ago, then broken again last week with a home sold for more than $1 million over asking. Together, the pair have over 20 years of work in construction, design, and development, and have worked in 10 cities in three countries. Although BC is their launching point, these structures are “just as viable in Muskoka or Cape Breton, either as a permanent housing solution or for vacation.”

The shipping container homes may be small, but there is allure in saving thousands or millions of dollars on a home. “We predict the KAN would appeal most to young urbanites looking to fit into an over-priced market,” says Kozak. “There is certainly the appeal of a stand-alone structure in a city of condos.”

But the appeal of these structures is certainly not just about living downtown. As of 2011, over 80% of Canada’s population is living in urban centres. This has created a counter-sentiment to live away from the traffic, a need to get away. Similarly, people are becoming more conscious of the environment, and want their homes to reflect that feeling.

“The KAN is simply another small step in a long history of people looking for more ecologically responsible solutions to all life’s challenges. The shipping container became a sensible building option considering the ubiquity of the material and its inherent strength. Furthermore, the modular system greatly reduces waste.”

These structures are unique in the way they provide sustainability to their inhabitants. They utilize low-to-no volatile organic compound (VOC) products in the insulation, and provide compact water collection and PV/Th solar energy.

“The KAN provides systems for independent water collection and energy production,” says Kozak, “which will only become more popular as they become more necessary.”

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While some locales can be difficult to live off-grid in, most have permits that can be obtained; it just depends on the municipality for schedules and timelines. Once a container arrives on the land, a KAN can be built in as little as two weeks.

If you’re wondering how difficult it is to develop one of your own, the KAN is also offering workshops to would-be builders.

“We have aligned ourselves with tradespeople and distributors, and are continually developing our educational resources,” he says. “We are currently in discussion with clients in Vancouver looking to develop their own customized KANs, and have started funding a project for our first prototype and workshop.” Their workshops begin soon, and they’re also releasing a book to explain the process.

Ultimately, both Tyler and Kyle believe that homes like the KAN will become more popular as the desire for sustainability spreads and the need for more inexpensive living grows.

“Ultimately, our goal is to help move the off-grid and self-reliant living trend forward by providing products, services, and education to meet those ends,” says Kozak. “We see ourselves travelling the world, building unique and ever-evolving forms of the KAN, while educating the people on self-reliance and sustainability.”

You can find out more info on the KAN at the-kan.com or on the KAN Facebook page.

About Jam Michael McDonald

Jam is a content editor based in Toronto. He's been the editor of a community newspaper, a national magazine, and two startups. Although he lives in a tiny condo, he uses every corner, and is an avid cheerleader of the compact home movement. You can find him every day on Twitter @mcjamdonald.

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