There’s No Place Like… Container

Containers have long stopped being used as temporary accommodation and started a new life – ecological, smart, functional and affordable. Goran Ergic from Avala Container Homes managed to create a modern, sustainable and simple solution for a house, holiday home, and office space. He managed to achieve that by reconstructing abandoned and empty containers and by implementing smart systems and usage of ecological materials.

EP: Smart buildings and houses are becoming more popular when we talk about sustainability; therefore, the architecture has a new ‘task’. How did you come up with the idea to start upa business that involves reconstructing shipping containers to achieve smart construction goals?

Photo: Private archive of Goran Ergic

Goran Ergic: I have always been interested in different types of architecture and construction. It all started one day on my property by the sea. I realised that it would be great to use the potential that we possess most efficiently. I knew that the construction of brand new objects is quite expensive and that the carbon footprint of those objects is high. Because I spend a lot of time in nature riding a bicycle, I wanted to build an object that is easy to transport and won’t harm environment. That is how I came up with the idea to recycle shipping containers, and that way give them a new purpose. Not long after that, I decided to buy a container and to start with reconstruction. It lasted longer than I thought mainly because this is still not my principal occupation.

The most important thing is to choose appropriate materials to save the resources, and that is the reason why I have decided to implement Smart Home Systems. Bearing in mind the fact that most container houses are being used during winter or summer seasons, this type of technology enables the security and easier control of the houses.

EP: The fact that there are millions of containers worldwide that are being rarely used and that take up too much space is quite interesting. What are some of the advantages in comparison to other ways of construction?

Goran Ergic: Instead to end up in one of the smelters and that way produce more carbon dioxide emissions, containers that have served their purpose can now get a new one. Depending on the way they are reconstructed, they can now be in harmony with nature. Not only can you move them numerous times, but you can also change their purpose. Worldwide, they are used as holiday homes, residential and office space. Nowadays, they are very popular in the catering industry because of their fast and affordable construction and attractive appearance. A standard 40 ft container can be fully functional in about 15 days. Containers are made according to certain standards so that they can be easily attached together.

Photo: Avala Container Homes

Containers are very resilient and can withstand all weather conditions, and they are very safe during earthquakes. There are more and more people in the USA that choose these types of buildings because of security and their ability to resist hurricanes and storms. Even though I mentioned this a few times, I would like to stress a significant fact that they are very affordable. If they are used in developed countries, why wouldn’t we start using them here?

EP: Considering the fact that you live abroad, why did you decide to start your business in Serbia? Are you thinking about applying for one of the grants for the development of entrepreneurship, innovation and the concept of sustainability in our country?

Goran Ergic: I moved with my family to Serbia during the 1990s, and I spent my childhood here. I spent the last seven years abroad, but I always longed to come back to Serbia and start my business here. Besides being nostalgic, I believe that Serbia is the best country for developing a business like this. When it comes to grants, I might apply for them at one point. At the moment, it is not possible because I still spend a lot of time abroad.

EP: Can you tell us more about the smart home concept and why it is important? What exactly does it entail?

Goran Ergic: I believe that this concept is relatively new and my aim is to develop this innovation and bring it to this part of Europe. Besides being mobile, we implement smart systems into these objects. Smart systems enable the control of the entire object even when you are not physically there. For instance, you can turn on/off heating; open/close shutters; turn on/off lights, etc. So far, smart systems have been considered a luxury, but I would like to make it available for everybody.

Photo: Avala Container Homes

EP: Do you think that there is a future for this concept in Serbia? How would you describe a typical customer of the modular home or office space?

Goran Ergic: Even though I had a different opinion at first, I think people in Serbia are ready for innovations. We are behind when it comes to requests since most of them are from the western countries, but recently there have been many inquires from Serbia asking about the advantages of these buildings. Interested people are usually people who are environmentally conscious and follow modern trends in construction and architecture. These people understand the contemporary style of life and changes that are happening. Climate change has a huge impact on nature, and it was especially felt during the last year. We need to take care of nature, and to save the resources and this concept perfectly fits into this idea.

EP: When we talk about container houses, are your clients using them as temporary accommodation, office space, holiday home or home?

Goran Ergic: As this business is being still developed, so far the main demand is for holiday homes and residential houses made out of multiple containers. As the business keeps expanding and customers coming up with new ideas, the purpose will change as well.

EP: When it comes to real estate, what do people consider as the most important thing? Why are more and more people interested in fast construction, modular houses, and residential container homes? Is it because of the affordable price?

Goran Ergic: There are a few reasons why people choose container homes. Besides modern design, price is one of the key factors. The pace of construction cannot be compared to conventional construction. Also, the quality is much better compared to other types of prefabricated houses. When it comes to the environmental aspect, there are two main reasons. First of all, forests are not being destroyed as they are for other prefabricated houses. Secondly, something that is abandoned and not being used anymore gets a new purpose and contributes to the protection of the environment.

Photo: Avala Container Homes

EP: What kind of materials do you use when reconstructing containers and how much time is needed?

Goran Ergic: I always use the best quality materials to achieve the best possible durability and quality. All the materials that I use need to have eco-labels. Protecting the environment is one of the main motives why I decided to invest in this business. Besides that, eco-labels are a norm and standard that needs to be respected in the European Union. Energy efficiency is accomplished by triple glazed windows and polyurethane foam, which enables sound and
heat isolation and which is at the moment the best on the market.

EP: Is it possible to rent your container buildings?

Goran Ergic: At the moment, we don’t offer that service, but I hope that we will have that option in the near future.

EP: What is one of the greatest challenges in this job?

Goran Ergic: Even though that there are always going to be new challenges in this job, so far the biggest one was the research that I had to do before even starting this adventure to get an ecological building of high quality. I believe that other challenges will appear, for example, delivering the object on time.

EP: Why did you decide to name your company – Avala Container Homes? Is it because of the association with Belgrade?

Goran Ergic: Belgrade is my city, and I go back to it very often, and that is why I wanted the name to be associated with it. Avala is one of the most beautiful natural parks in Belgrade and a mountain where I would love to place a few containers and create an ecological oasis. Personally,mountains are the best place for vacation and finding your inner peace.

Interview by: Jelena Cvetic

This article was published in the new issue of the Energy portal Magazine NATURAL RESOURCES, march – may, 2020