green building

We are your gateway to the growing range of eco-friendly building products and materials for building, maintenance, renovation and painting. Green buildings are energy and resource efficient, as well as environmentally responsible. Through the way in which such buildings are designed, constructed, operated and maintained, they reduce, or even eliminate, negative impacts on the environment.

“Green” is often used as a catch-all phrase to mean many things related to the environment. But what does it actually mean to be green? There are three main aspects to consider when thinking about the greenness of products or materials:

* Where does the material or product come from?

* What is the environmental impact while you are using the product or material?

* What happens with the material or product when it comes to the end of its life?

One of the cornerstones of using eco-friendly products and materials is to buy local. Local is lekker is often said, but how far away qualifies as local?

The term “local” is used to describe manufacturing and distribution based nearby rather than national and/or international. It takes place close to consumers’ homes (i.e. within x kilometers of a consumer) and is transported over shorter distances.  Using locally produced building materials and products shortens transport distances, thereby reducing air pollution and the carbon footprint of air, road or rail freight. Often, local materials are better suited to climatic conditions and they support the growth of local economies.


The challenge is that there is no universally agreed-upon definition for the geographic component of “local”, i.e. how far away from you is “local”?

How do you decide which building product or material to buy? Building-related products can roughly be divided into three categories as a way to increase consumer awareness about what we buy.

* Building products that are manufactured from recycled materials are the greenest option.

* The second best green option would be products that are manufactured from the by-products of natural resources that were previously mined, extracted or harvested.

* The least favourable option would be products that are manufactured from natural resources that are mined, extracted or harvested for this specific purpose.

By empowering you to be more eco-conscious about building materials and products, we empower a range of people to become green consumers.

In deciding which building product or material to buy, at least four environmental aspects should be considered:

* The origin of the material used to manufacture the product.

* The environmental impact of the material or product while you use it.

* The degree to which a product or material is durable, i.e. the environmental impact of maintenance.

* Where will the product or material end its life, i.e. rubbish, recycled, re-used or re-purposed?

shipping container homes

We offer a comprehensive approach by an experienced professional team to be by your side throughout the process of transforming your dreams about a shipping container home into a reality. Cool Boxes! is about creating alternative living spaces using re-purposed shipping containers. It is based on lived experiences of crossing the line between conventional building and a building process steeped in alternative options, while all the time making the linkages with more sustainable, eco-friendly choices.

Green Building Council SA

How can we be of service?


We don’t believe in a “one size fits all” approach to building with shipping containers. We offer unique design options to best meet your needs. We go out of our way to accommodate your ideas.


Our experienced service team can guide you through the process of putting your ideas and concepts into a design, submitting municipal council plans, matching your spatial needs with shipping containers, clarifying interior design and lay-out options, and providing advice about complimentary building materials (including green building options) to ensure that your fantasy becomes a reality.


Living in shipping containers is not just a theoretical concept, but a lived reality – having dedicated more than 18-months to researching, conceptualizing, designing, building and now living in my own shipping container house. It is about creating alternative living spaces, crossing the line between conventional building and a building process steeped in alternative options, while all the time making the linkages with more sustainable, eco-friendly choices.


We offer you the option to use materials and products that are less harmful to people and the environment alike. We provide information about alternative green building products and materials.


We can provide you with a practical framework to ensure that various aspects of your project adhere to green building principles:

How the project is managed, especially with reference to waste management.

The indoor environment, including aspects such as thermal control and hazardous materials.

The energy and water efficiency of the building.

The use of building materials such as steel, timber, recycled material etc.

The impact of the building on the surrounding natural environment.

Possible emissions and pollution.

Green innovations that may impact positively on your project.

dream | design | build

Blue Sky




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Meet the Cool Boxes! team

Carla Ackerman


Founder & Project Manager


Carla has been a project manager in various fields for 20+ years.  She keeps the client happy, the team together and the project on track. She also brings sustainable, green options to the table. Carla is a member of the Green Building Council of South Africa.

Carla Ackerman

Big Box Containers


Shipping container specialists

Big Box Containers is the preferred supplier of shipping containers to Cool Boxes. They are one of two conversion specialists that we use. Founded in Cape Town in 1997, they are one of the biggest privately owned container rental, sales and conversion companies in Africa with branches in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Big Box Containers

John Biermann (SAFramehomes)


Conversion specialist, roofing and lightweight steel


SAFramehomes is our other preferred conversion service provider.  They are also our preferred roofing and lightweight steel construction provider.  John brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the table.

John Biermann

Dave Pitt (Wayland Engineering)




Dave ensures the structural integrity of design and structure, the foundation footings etc.  He has 20+ years experience behind his name.

Dave Pitt

Tom Dillon (Fineline)




Tom deals with municipal plans and working drawings, as well as the council submission process.  He’s been drafting for more than a decade.

Tom Dillon

Frequently Asked Questions

Big Box Containers (Cape Town) is the preferred supplier of shipping containers to Cool Boxes!


Founded in Cape Town in 1997, it is one of the biggest privately owned container rental, sales and conversion companies in Africa with branches in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Currently a 12m (40 foot) high cube box costs R34 770 (VAT included).


Currently a 6m (20 foot) box costs R25 650 (VAT included).

The interior dimensions of a 12m (40 foot) high cube box are:


12m long x 2.34m wide x 2.68m high.

The door opening is: 2.34m wide and 2.58m high.


The interior dimensions of a 6m (20 foot) standard height box are:


5.91m long x 2.34m wide x 2.38m high.

The door opening is: 2.28m wide and 2.27m high.


It is entirely possible to combine a number of boxes in a design to achieve the desired floor space that you want.

The project duration will be determined by factors such as:


(1) How quickly the site is ready where the containers must stand.


(2) How long it takes to finalise your design and lay-out so that plans can be drafted.


(3) How long it takes to finalise your plans.


(4) The time that it takes for municipal plans to be approved.


(5) How quickly a deposit is paid in order to secure a place in the job queue.


(6) The number of other projects in the job queue.


(7) The complexity of the conversion that is required.


(8) The weather. (Rain can cause unintended delays.)

They would definitely be if it is not well insulated. It is, without decent insulation, just a huge steel box! Roughly 50mm are lost on the available internal floor space per wall and ceiling as a result of the insulation that we use.


As a rule of thumb: the better the insulation that you can afford, the more comfortable the shipping container house (or any other house for that matter) will be, and the less you will have to pay for heating or cooling your home.


This is also the reason why it is a good idea to put a roof over your shipping container home. It provides an additional shield against heat, and allows rainwater harvesting.

There are no automatic restrictions. Restrictions could be related to historical areas in a town, or the specific rules of a body corporate or rate payers association. You should check with the specific municipality in the area where you want to build a container house.


Take into account that it may be possible to adhere to such restrictions by using cladding on the outside of the container home, which means that it does not look like a shipping container from the outside.

Cool Boxes! ensures that it does by drawing up municipal plans and submitting it to a municipality for approval. The design will adhere to the principle of “rational design” as outlined as any design by a competent person involving a process of reasoning and calculation and which may include a design based on a standard or other suitable document.


We have both a registered draftsman and engineer as part of our team to ensure that all design aspects adhere to the National Building Regulations.

Asking “what does a shipping container home cost” is like asking how long is a piece of string? Various factors determine the project costs.


Site preparation. What does the site look like where you want to place the container house? Is it accessible to large trucks and a crane? Is there a noticeable gradient? We provide advice about accessibility, the extent of site preparation that will be required, the footings on which the containers will be placed etc.


Number and size of boxes. How many square meters of floor space do you want? We provide you with design and lay-out options to maximize your required floor space. Taking into account your needs, we provide you with draft design sketches (some of them in 3-D).


Transport. Where will the boxes be transported to? Transport costs are influenced by the distance from Cape Town as well as the number of trucks that will be required – which is determined by the floor space that you want.


Design and lay-out (conversion required). What kind of design do you have in mind? How do you want to organize the interior of your container home? What should the exterior of the containers look like? We help you to visualize the available space that the shipping containers will create as your home. We provide you with options for a roof, windows and doors, internal walls, insulation etc.


Finishes. What kind of finishes do you want? We provide options and advice about floor finishes, interior wall finishes, cladding, bathroom and kitchen finishes, lights etc.


Extras. Do you have additional requirements such as rain water harvesting, a grey water system, alternative energy (e.g. solar or wind) etc. We make sure to incorporate any extra requirements that you may have. In addition, we can provide you with green, sustainable material and product options.


Services. Keep in mind that your project will require some degree of services such as water, electricity and sewerage that will impact the overall project costs. We can provide you off-the-grid options for water and electricity. Apart from our core team we have an extended network of providers for painting; electrical work; plumbing; irrigation, pumps and water tanks; grey water systems; carpentry; building etc.

dream | design | build

Contact us today to discuss your shipping container home

072 382 6712