JAMAICAN-BORN entrepreneur and CEO of Green Block Development Company Conroy Blake is on a mission to introduce people of his homeland to what he says is a more affordable and sustainable way to live — in a shipping container.
Green Block Development is a United States-based company that aims to provide low-income families to access modern and eco-friendly homes made from recycled shipping containers.
Blake, who was born and raised in Spanish Town, St Catherine, noted that this could be a more affordable, accommodating and sustainable alternative for low-income Jamaicans who could not or cannot afford proper housing.
He noted that the environmentally friendly company has set up a charity called the Green Yard Foundation to accomplish this goal locally.
Blake, who emigrated to the US at age nine years, told the Jamaica Observer that he grew up in the garrison community of Thompson Pen and had first-hand experience of what it was like growing up poor.
“A lot of people live in deplorable housing conditions simply because they do not have the resources to live in a better place,” he said.
Blake explained that a standard container home cost US$65,000 or $8.1 million and had two to three bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, living room, laundry room, a verandah and is fitted with an air conditioning unit, a water tank, among other things.
“In the USA, shipping containers typically cost only US$800 to US$2,200 depending on their size. They are already the perfect shape to be repurposed into homes, so a home built out of them is a minimum of 45 per cent cheaper than the same sized home built with cement,” he said.
He also added that a solar panel system would be installed to offset the cost of utilities.
“We will be donating a percentage from every home we build in the US to this foundation and to offset the cost of building these homes. We are also hoping that we can partner with the Government of Jamaica and other stakeholders who can help us to further reduce the cost of these homes for people who are most in need,” Blake said.
However, the CEO said he has reached out to several government organisations including the Ministry of Housing in Jamaica via email, calls and letters. But, he is yet to receive even one response.
“We want to encourage people to tap into sustainable means of making a living through our Green Yard farming programme,” he said, while adding that the company had recently acquired land locally to start this project.
Blake admitted that living in a container home might not be appealing to some Jamaicans, but he insisted that the pros would make it worthwhile.
He also addressed concerns that might be raised about heat retention of container houses in a tropical climate.
“A container is a tin box, so it will absorb a lot of heat than traditional concrete. However, the insulation that we are using holds heat and cold very well, and every home that we build will be air cooled.”
As it relates to shelf life, the one-time construction worker pointed out that once a container home is properly maintained it could last a lifetime.
“All our homes are made with corrugated steel and are treated with corrosion-free primer before painting, so the structure will last. Containers are eco-friendly as they are repurposed into homes instead of being melted down. A large number of cargo containers are discarded at ports across the globe because of one-way shipments. Reusing a single 40-inch container ‘upcycles’ about 3,500 kg of steel and saves about 8,000 kWh that would otherwise be needed to melt it down,” Blake said.
He added that building a housing structure out of a shipping container takes between two and three weeks, and was also “very secure” as thieves would need a blow torch or dynamite to break in.
“Ultimately, we want to see change in Jamaica. We want to see people living in better homes, eating healthier and just leading more wholesome lives,” said Blake.
By: Deandra Morrison