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Appetite for Hybrid insulated shipping container buildings is growing
A Cornish company which specialises in converting shipping containers into offices, live-work units, pop-up restaurants and even a golf club is aiming to expand into residential projects during 2017.

South West Steel Buildings, based in Newquay, has been insulating its distinctive units with two of the three products in the Actis Hybrid range – honeycomb insulation Hybris and insulating breather membrane Boost ‘R Hybrid - for the past couple of years because of the impressive thermal efficiency they offer, and the ease and speed with which they can be installed.

Recent projects have included two 5,000 sq ft office blocks and 16 self-contained 400 sq ft live work units at Prow Park business village on the Treloggan Industrial Estate in Newquay, and a 2,000 sq ft golf club at Whitsand Bay.

The company is hoping to carry out a pilot residential project later this year. The homes, whose wall and roof U-value will be around 0.17, would be let at a fair rent or purchased through shared equity or ownership and would form part of a mixed-use development of homes, offices, retail units, community hubs and workshops to create a varied social environment.

If successful, SWSB hopes this will pave the way for further projects in Cornwall and elsewhere in the UK.

“All the local authorities that we have approached love the concept, and can really see the potential benefits stemming from the use of converted containers as residences,” explained development manager Brian Curnow.

“We have met with some fantastic support from both the council and local politicians alike, but due to the pioneering nature of what we are doing we have met with a few stumbling blocks and have been working through them for a good part of 2016 in order to take our product to market, hopefully in 2017.”

The venture began a few years ago with the creation of a mini retail workshop and office development in Newquay whose units were available on a monthly rental basis to help businesses concerned about a long term commitment during difficult economic times.

Since then the concept has proved increasingly popular. The 40ft containers, which can be configured in a variety of ways and are strong enough to be stacked eight high, cost about two thirds of the price of brick and block or timber frame equivalents.

A special technique developed by the company eliminates technical issues by moving the dew point – a problem experienced on the interior of the conversion in some other similar constructions – to the outside of the building.

Brian says the CE marked, NHBC approved, LABC and LABSS compliant Actis Hybrid products are very quick and easy to install and help avoid thermal bridging as they are flexible and can fit round corners.

Indeed, a recent competition for builders and merchants highlighted just how speedy it is to install the honeycomb Hybris panels. Videos of competitors in action (see below) show it really is a doddle, and a range of ‘how to’ video guides (see below) give tips on how to install the product.

Using breather membrane Boost ‘R Hybrid massively reduces the risk of interstitial condensation, guarantees air tightness and can protect the building from precipitation and wind driven rain.

Reflective and watertight, yet vapour permeable, it’s used on the cold side of roofs and walls. Because water vapour molecules are smaller than those in water droplets it lets moisture out but doesn’t let water in.
Thermal modelling trials carried out by certification body BM TRADA have shown that Actis insulated membranes have a dramatic impact on counteracting thermal bridging and act as excellent thermal blankets.

A free online simulator, at enables users to estimate the U-value of an Actis Hybrid project in seconds.

The shipping containers are just one of a number of off site construction techniques increasingly choosing Actis Hybrid projects – with others including timber frame buildings, park homes and ecopods.

Hybris Beat the Team competition entries
Hybris How To Installation videos

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