Reused Sea Container House

New Construction

  • Building Type : Isolated or semi-detached house
  • Construction Year : 2012
  • Delivery year : 2013
  • Address 1 - street : 40400 SAN RAFAEL-EL ESPINAR (SEGOVIA), España
  • Climate zone :

  • Net Floor Area : 277 m2
  • Construction/refurbishment cost : 156 620 €
  • Cost/m2 : 565.42 €/m2
  • Primary energy need :
    32.4 kWhpe/m2.year
    (Calculation method : RD: 47/2007 )
Energy consumption
Economical buildingBuilding
< 50A
51 à 90B
91 à 150C
151 à 230D
231 à 330E
331 à 450F
> 450G
Energy-intensive building

The house is built reusing five shipping containers. The dwelling has been designed to be energy efficient without compromising any habitable or comfort condition.

The concept behind the design is based on the 4R:

* Reduce intake materials.

* Reuse items with a new purpose.

* Recycle items which have already been used.

* Research

The preferred materials are those that come from a natural source or those materials that come from low cost processing or recycling process, without falling into radical approaches involving inefficiencies or unbearable overcosts.

Data reliability




    Salvador Martín Moreno y María Rosa Liquete Ramos

    [email protected]

Owner approach of sustainability

The aim of the design was to build a self-sufficient home, using renewable energy and sustainable materials that would meet at least one of these requirements: natural resources, low cost production and processing or materials suitable to be reused or recycled. The design objectives were: * Avoid falling into sustainability doctrines or fashions that could involve extra costs. * Selection of natural and low environmental impact materials on equal quality-price ratio. * Achieve maximum durability with minimal maintenance. * Reduce environmental impact and building time.

Architectural description

The building is a self-promoting three storey detached house, one is a semibasement, one above ground level and another the atic. The most remarkable fact about the building is that the structural system is a set of used ship containers. The building energy performance has been carefully designed to achieve an A rating and reduce the CO2 emissions and operating costs. A square plan shape has been used to achieve minimum heat losses. At the south edge of the square a winter garden has been attached, to improve heat gain. The ground floor is divided in three areas, one for the main living room and kitchen, and two areas on the sides for bedrooms that correspond with the containers shape. On the ground floor the containers host facilities and services. The top floor is an open space connected to the living room. The design process has involved an extensive data collection and research on container construction, usage, processing and transport. It has also led to an investigation on compatibility between the containers structural support and enclosure. Some energy aspects of the project are: * Alternative energy use: geothermal heat pump for heat, DHW and passive cold. * Underfloor HVAC with room thermostats. * Mechanical ventilation heat recovery * Natural light and ventilation in all rooms. * Efficient lighting, energy saving lamps with PIR sensor. * High performance thermal insulation with vapor and air tightness barrier. * HVAC support with a biomass stove.

Building users opinion

It is difficult to do a balanced assessment when you are promoter, owner and architect of the building all at the same time.
The building is guaranteed to be the result of many hours of research and dedication, not only to the design and calculation, but also during the construction process itself.
Virtually nothing is left to chance and the results obtained are consistent and even improve the expected results in some aspects.
The behavior of the winter garden at the south façade is particularly noteworthy. It is a magnificent thermal cushion allowing warm air on sunny and cool days. Measurements have showed temperatures of 35º at midday in the winter garden while it was snowy outside at 3ºC.
The house has been occupied only on weekends and heated to 22-23°. When the house was left on Sunday, the thermostats were set to 16 º. Upon return the following weekend the Geothermal heat pump had not been switched on, and the temperature had not dropped below 19º, thanks to the splendid insulation used and the convective loop between the dwelling and the winter garden. It is fair to note that these experiences date back from 2011 spring, which are not as severe as those in winter but are harder than the usual in the rest of Spain.
The building's performance has demonstrated to be specially efficient during the summer, when it has not been necessary using the Geothermal heat pump in "passive cooling" mode.

Energy consumption

  • 32,40 kWhpe/m2.year
  • 119,00 kWhpe/m2.year
  • RD: 47/2007

  • 24,40 kWhfe/m2.year
  • Heating Demands: 22.3 kW/m2a
    Cooling Demands: 0 kW/m2a

    From PHPP2007:
    Specific Demands with Reference to the Treated Floor Area
    Treated Floor Area: 241,0 m2
    Specific Primary Energy Demand
    (DHW, Heating, Cooling, Auxiliary and Household Electricity): 100 kWh/(m2a)
    Specific Primary Energy Demand
    (DHW, Heating and Auxiliary Electricity): 40 kWh/(m2a)

Envelope performance

  • 0,27 W.m-2.K-1
  • The envelope has been carefully designed to reduce thermal bridges and insulate the building to make it energy-efficient. One of the advantages of using used containers is that the containers are virtually airtight, preventing air infiltration. On the south façade the winter garden define a 77m3 glazed thermal cushion that benefits of the hot back surface of the stove, the accumulated heat is transferred through a convective loop that circulates warm air inside from above the fireplace and recovers cold air below it.

    Wall_01 U = 0.265 W/m2K
    Wall_02 U = 0.144 W/m2K
    Roof_01 U = 0.113 W/m2K
    Roof_02 U = 0.145 W/m2K
    Ground U = 0.22 W/m2K

  • 0,35


    • Geothermal heat pump
    • Heat pump
    • No cooling system
    • Double flow heat exchanger
    • Wood boiler
    • Heat pump (geothermal)
  • 75,00 %

GHG emissions

  • 3,20 KgCO2/m2/year
  • Calener

  • 75,00 year(s)

Life Cycle Analysis

    Although a professional LCA was not realised, the design and construction process has tried to minimize the amount of materials used. One consequence of the structure used (consisting of used shipping containers transported from a "depot" at 60 km) is that the building is extraordinarily light, among other things because the foundations are minimized. The analysis of materials showed the following results: Kg of material used: 208.760Kg Kg of material produced locally: 117.781Kg (56%) Kg reused material: 20.892Kg (10%) Kg recycled: 13.490Kg (6%) Reusable waste%: 71% Recyclable waste: 14%

Water management

  • 130,00 m3
  • Domestic water demands: 65m3/per/año
    Gardening water demand: 0.3 m3/m2/año

Indoor Air quality

    The building has a MVHR system that ensures optimal air quality and can recover 85% of the heat from the inside warm air before being expelled. 10% of the air renewal is taken from the chamber under the suspended floor at temperatures that are more suitable than the outside air. With outside temperatures of 3º, the air from the chamber has proven to be at 9º.


    Geothermal heat pump


    Heating by a 10KW geothermal heat pump and a 200l buffer tank to balance the distribution system, including DHW and underfloor water heating. The energy collection was performed by a vertical closed circuit drilled on the granitic ground. The system uses a web control software to monitor and control the operation of the geothermal heat pump.

    The dwelling is heated by a geothermal heat pump that involves a DHW storage tank and a buffer tank to balance the distribution system that includes underfloor heating. The choice of the geothermal system has been made to take advantage of the extraordinary geological characteristics of the area. This guarantees an adequate heat exchange and high efficiency heat pump. Being a low temperature the system is optimal for underfloor heating.

    The energy and environmental benefits of using this technology are remarkable, it takes advantage of a widely available and renewable local source that also offers high energy efficiency. The system allows up to 75% saving in heating mode. Given the local climate is not necessary to have an active cooling system, just using passive cooling by recirculation of antifreeze liquid at the geothermal loop gives enough cool to the house without switching on the heat pump.

Urban environment

S. Rafael has a harsh weather with 1320m of altitude. The environment is a urban sprawl of detached houses built on a northern slope with little sunlight. There are a lot of trees, mostly oaks, and the landscape is dominated by the peak of the mountain called "Brave Cave" that is 1900m high. Prevailing cold winds come from the NE in the winter, but in summer the NW wind brings water and storms. The terrain contains large amounts of granite and over it lays a 1m thick fertile earth surface. Below that the granite disintegrates becoming more compact as it deepens. Below 3m it is not uncommon to find big granite rocks. The place is called Arteseros because of the number of wells all over the hillside. The location of the building does not have enough sunlight on summer because of external barriers and orientation. The lack of sunlight to produce solar energy for DHW is compensated with other alternative energy systems such as geothermal heat pump or a biomass stove.

Parking spaces

An enclosed garage is avoided to favor more productive service spaces. This has been done to be coherent with the idea of an energy efficient building and low resource consumption. Below the cantilevered 1st floor there is a large space for maneuver and parking of vehicles to protect them from the hard winter and the summer sunlight.

Reasons for participating in the competition(s)

​​Nuestra motivación para participar en el concurso es difundir los proyectos que hemos realizado con contenedores marítimos reciclados, cuya concepción y diseño están basados en las 4R:

* Reducir los objetos de consumo

* Reutilizar los que ya hemos usado

* Reciclar los productos dándoles otra finalidad

* Research (investigar).

Hemos utilizado preferentemente materiales de origen natural y de bajo coste de transformación y reciclaje, sin caer por ello en planteamientos radicales que supongan ineficiencias o costes inasumibles.

En nuestros proyectos de edificios pasivos hemos valorado el ahorro energético respeto el edificio estándar de referencia, el coste por metro cuadrado (565m2) y las emisiones de GEI en la etapa de uso, estos datos han sido cuidado al extremo y nos llevaron a ganar el premio al caso de estudio más ecoeficiente de Construction 21 en su edición del 2014.

Building candidate in the category

Net zero energy buildings

Net zero energy buildings

Health & Comfort

Health & Comfort

Green Building Solutions Awards 2015

Author of the page

  • Other case studies



    Green Building Solutions Awards 2015