How do I Build a Self Contained House?


A self-contained home utilizes recyclable materials in the building process with components built in to make the home as self-sustaining, eco-friendly and energy efficient as possible. The home can be made partially to fully off the grid self-contained. Often the principal materials used are non-traditional, mistakenly leaving the home-builder to think building codes do not apply to their project. In most places, the same building codes apply to self-contained structures as they do for traditional structures. It is highly recommended that one choose an architect and home builder who have both green building technology training and experience.

  • Choose the primary building material, preferably with the help of a qualified architect. The popular choice is previously-used industrial shipping and storage containers made from metal. They are ideal because they are structurally sound, strong, flexible and easy to work with affordable. The mobility of the containers allows the owner to move the structure to a new location with ease.

  • Choose the recycled roofing materials. The recommended choices for the roof are a steel-frame panel system which works well in any climate, architectural fabric over a steel frame for moderate climates or bamboo for tropical climates. Green roofs on top of the main roof which entails growing grass on the roof is not only a nice aesthetic but also contributes to insulation and energy efficiency.

  • Choose the interior wall and insulation materials. Recycled wood, composite panels and steel panels can be used for interior walls, along with a double layer steel frame for support. Super Therm, the tradename for a fire-retardant ceramic insulation with a thermal barrier coating is a recommended insulation option that helps to reduce heat loss during winter and to keep heat out during the summer.

  • Select the self-contained water and sewer system components to be used in the home. Many available systems available help reduce household water consumption, harvest rainwater, recycle and treat the wastewater to be reused for washing, making fertilizer, generating power and geo-thermal heat. Drilling a well provides the homeowner with a water source not dependent upon the city. No water bills is a plus.

  • Select the energy source. If the allowable budget is low, there are kits available for as little as $300 to build solar panels with materials that can be found at most hardware stores. These however, won’t provide ample power to run a T.V. or any large appliances. For persons able to spend five to six figures on self-contained energy sources, professional grade solar panels, wind generators or a hydro-electric system would provide ample energy to run large appliances. These also may generate enough energy that some may be sold to the local power company.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the home will be built in a colder climate requiring additional insulation, bio-degradable, open-cell sprayed on foam may be used.

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  • Photo Credit Planète recyclable ! image by Unclesam from container ship express image by feisty from torshavn building image by evade from Wind Generator image by Peter Orsaeo Sr from
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