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Issue 8.1

Containing Carbon: Assessing the Carbon Impacts of Repurposed Shipping-Container-Based Housing

Constructing habitable buildings from repurposed shipping containers is commonly seen as an inherently sustainable approach to building that reduces environmental impacts. While numerous studies have analyzed the relative energy performance of container-based buildings, few studies examine the relative carbon impact of high-performance container dwellings concerning other high-performance residential construction types. This paper presents a life cycle assessment that compares the material carbon emissions, operational carbon emissions, and carbon use intensity of a shipping container dwelling with an equivalent high-performance, light-frame wood dwelling across the critical time frames for meeting global climate goals. Analysis shows that the light-frame dwelling produces approximately 22% fewer carbon emissions and suggests that shipping containers do not necessarily offer an unequivocal path toward low-carbon building. 

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