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Building with Shipping Containers

An idea whose time seems to have arrived is the use of stockpiled shipping containers as modular units for building homes. Because of the balance of trade worldwide, these hefty steel boxes are piling up in ports around countries and posing a heavy storage problem. Several architects and builders are taking advantage of this surplus to recycle the containers.

A container has 8000 lbs of steel which takes 8000 kwh of energy to melt down and make new beams etc... The process of modifying that entire 8000 lbs of steel into a "higher and better use" only takes 400 kwh of electrical energy (or 5%). Granted it takes a bit more "muscle" but it is also called as Value-Cycling which may be the next step up from Re-cycling.

Each container measures 8 feet wide by 40 feet long by 9 feet tall. SG Blocks sells the finished structural systems (also called SG Blocks) for $9,000 to $11,000 per unit. The finished units have one or two walls removed and include the necessary support columns and beam enhancements.

Container units are stronger than conventional house framing because of their resistance to "lateral loads" -- those seen in hurricanes and earthquakes -- and because steel is basically welded to steel. The roof is strong enough to support the extra weight of a green roof which has vegetation growing on it if the owner should want it.

As for their energy efficiency, when the appropriate coatings are installed, the envelope reflects about 95 percent of outside radiation, resists the loss of interior heat, provides an excellent air infiltration barrier and does not allow water to migrate in.

One idea that has occurred in the meantime is that this system might benefit from the use of SIP's (Structural Insulated Panels) for the roofs, rather that standard truss framing. SIP's are very well insulated, install quickly, and use much less wood than convention roofs.

Shipping containers are self-supporting with beams and stout, marine-grade plywood flooring already in place, thereby eliminating time and labor during the home-building process. Cross said construction costs are comparable to those in conventional building. Four to seven units are used in a typical home. This finished house is virtually indistinguishable from conventional housing.

Building with Shipping Containers, part 2


Instead of nailing the siding Super Therm is used, a ceramic paint made by several manufacturers; it can be used as a paint, an adhesive, an insulator, a fireproofing material and an acoustic barrier. With this ceramic paint, the insulation capacity is equal to a conventional house, or even better!

The cargo containers, with a life span of about 20 years when used for their original purpose, have an "infinite life span" when stationary and properly maintained, they are like a treasured antique: they may not be inherently valuable, but the history and the storytelling add value.!

Environmentalists have embraced the design, applauding the recycling inherent to several designs. And advocates for affordable-housing like the design, since the total cost of a housebetween $150,000 and $175,000 after the buyer settles upon the

various optionsworks out to be between $73 and $90 per square foot, about half the cost of the conventional $200 per square foot for reasonable quality.

Some developers have recently opened several factories to manufacture such Quik Houses. There are a lot of elbows flying in this process, and this is the best way to protect the quality of the house, to keep the accounting transparent, and to make sure developers are not unwittingly responsible for heinous crimes to the built environment. Once these factories become fully functional, developers plan to export many of their products, commenting that "the possibilities of working on a world scale are very exciting".

Over two hundred thousand containers hit shores worldwide every day of the year. Containers can be shipped to the interior of any country via trains and trucks. Shipping containers are like Lego toys and the modules can be assembled in thousands of ways.

In general it is a good thing to recycle materials that otherwise have no further use for their intended purpose, and this is true here. As for whether one can make a comfortable house out of these metal boxes, the biggest question is: insulation...it is essential, but there are many ways to insulate these containers, so this is not a big concern. Another concern that many people would have is whether a metal box would

have adverse health effects because of EMF (electro-magnetic frequencies) generation or propagation. Some people are sensitive to these while others are not.

According to the tags on the doors, the timber component (the floor) almost invariably is treated with serious pesticide. There are multiple purposes to the pesticide treatments: a) to prevent transplantation of harmful insects around the world b) to protect the structure of the floor c) to protect the contents from infestation and damage. So care should be taken to either remove the flooring (if pesticide has been used) or protect it from affecting the contents of the container.

There is no doubt that these containers can be used to fabricate very strong shells that would withstand substantial abuse from the ravages of nature.

Building with Shipping Containers, part 3

With the green theme growing in popularity across every stretch of the world, more and more people are turning to cargo container homes for green alternatives for office, and even new home, construction.

Many shipping container buildings look precisely like that which they are constructed from: old cargo containers used for shipping things around the world. That aesthetic is fine for some but others prefer something that looks at least somewhat more conventional and blends in with their surroundings but that also recycles these structurally sound elements in a new design.

There are countless numbers of empty, unused shipping containers around the world just sitting on the shipping docks and taking up space. The reason for this is that its too expensive for a country to ship empty containers back to their origin in most cases, its just cheaper to buy new containers from Asia. The result is an extremely high surplus of empty shipping containers that are just waiting to become someones home or office.

There are plenty of benefits of to the so-called shipping container architecture model. A few of these advantages include: they are plentiful, they are easily transported, theyre stackable, relatively inexpensive (as little as $900 for a used container), they can be prefabricated, and theyre extremely durable. Residential applications are also becoming a popular topic of conversation among green supporters.

In other parts of the world, places like Odessa, Ukraine already have the the biggest shopping mall in all of Europe which uses stacked shipping containers to form alleys throughout the 170 acre site.

In Asia, the Dordoy Bazaar in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is almost entirely composed of empty shipping containers stacked two high and chock-full of inexpensive trinkets and toys. So, in other words, shipping container architecture is nothing new, but it is new when it comes to residential and office applications.

This great example of shipping container architecture was created by architects Pieter Peelings and Silvia Mertens. They live and work in these shipping containers which are stacked four high. The entire space is 2.4 meters wide by 5.5 meters deep by 12 meters high. The bottom floor is used for work, dining room is located on the second floor, relaxation room on the third, and spectacular rooftop views from the fourth container including a relaxing spa.

This award-winning office design by Clive Wilkinson is made out of stacked shipping containers is the home office of Palotta TeamWorks, a US charity event company. The 47,000 square foot warehouse is filled with shipping containers that have been transformed into modern office spaces. This design layout saved the company a ton of money on construction costs, and it allowed the entire space to be more open and airy.

Building with Shipping Containers, part 4

The worlds first hotel built from recycled shipping containers has popped-up in Uxbridge, West London. Each prefabricated container comes fully-equipped with

fixtures, furniture, and windows from a factory in China. The company, called Travelodge, says that constructing a hotel this way is 25% faster and 10% cheaper than the more traditional construction methods. Also, construction is much quicker, because all that has to be done is to fit each container together like it was a giant Lego set. Rooms at this London hotel start at about 20 EURO per night. The London area may see more these portable hotels pop-up around the city as the 2012 Olympics approaches.

Opened in 1998, the Simons Town High School Hostel is constructed almost entirely of used shipping containers. This amazing place is constructed out of 40 large shipping containers to be exact, and its big enough to accommodate up to 120 boarders.

The hostel manager gets his own 2 bedroom flat, while the other staff share 2 separate flatlets. Area residents were concerned that the project would prove to be an eyesore to the community since it was made from grungy old shipping containers, but the final result proved otherwise with a modern-looking structure that is incredibly durable and aesthetically pleasing at the same time.

This shipping container home from the so-called Zigloo Domestique project in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada is a residential home created by Keith Dewey. The home is built out of old shipping containers, and the owner chose to paint them with an industrial strength minty-green enamel, commonly found on shipping containers today, in order to maintain the containers roots in the shipping business.

While the exterior of the home may look a little rugged, due to the protruding containers, the 2,000 square foot interior of the house is quite comfortable and modern. The project cost about $150 per square foot, compared to a similar quality traditional construction project that can cost about $250 per square foot.

This stunning home is almost like a piece of art that you can live in. Constructed using 12 recycled shipping containers, the 12 container home home has all of the modern conveniences of a traditionally built home but with a unique element of style as well.

A modern kitchen, huge wide-open floor plan, and gigantic windows that bring in tons of natural lighting are just a few of the great features of this home and in addition construction costs were relatively inexpensive when compared to traditional construction.

Building with Shipping Containers, part 5

This 2,000 square foot home, built in 2001, is actually built around a smaller cottagestyle house that has stood in that location for decades. The cottage house almost looks like a gigantic version of a dollhouse inside of the huge storage shed that forms the exterior of this innovative house.

The 3 bedroom 2.5 bath home is also made from 5 large shipping containers - 3 on the bottom, and 2 stacked on top of those. This place also contains all of the modern features of a normal home, but its supposedly built to last much longer. The creator of this innovative home is actually selling these homes for as little as $96,000, or less than $120 per square foot - not a bad deal considering traditional construction of a new home averages about double that amount.

This 3,000 square foot L.A. home features multiple storage containers in its design each with its own purpose. Theres a storage container for the entertainment area, library, dining room/office space, master bedroom, and bathroom/laundry room. This place has plenty of large windows which provide plenty of natural lighting as well as awesome views of the garden and koi pond outside. Aside from using recycled storage containers, this home also uses recycled steel scraps in its construction which further adds to the green vibe that this home resonates - not to mention saved a ton of money on construction costs.

Above is an amazing shipping container living space that transforms on demand into a modular work of recycled architecture. This living area is made from one large shipping container that is modified to open up with the push of a button to form a usable living area. This space has everything you need: bathroom, small kitchen/bar area, and a couch to relax on. All it needs is some sweet transforming furniture.

The Freitag Shop in Zurich is built entirely out of 17 old, rusted shipping containers. The 85 foot high structure really emphasizes the companys dedication to eco-friendly products, which includes messenger bags made from recycled tarps and tires. The structure features staircases between each level of the shop and a viewing area at the top of thiseco-friendly skyscraper.

Container Cities are designed to provide affordable, stable and easily constructed alternative solutions to creating conventional office, workspace and live/work spaces.

When they are done designing the containers themselves become a colorful structural system complete with nuanced design additions and modifications that blur the line between container and architecture. These modular creations can also be constructed and deconstructed/move relatively easy for short- and medium-term structural solutions.

Completed in 2003, this East London youth center took only 1 day to construct the exterior! The structure is composed entirely of 7 used storage containers. The result was a cost-effective solution to traditional construction. Mile End Youth Centre has been considered the future of inexpensive construction for buildings such as this one.

Building with Shipping Containers, continued

The awesome Riverside Building in London is a masterpiece of storage container recycling. This large office building is constructed out of a total of 73 used storage containers. It took only 8 days to piece together each container into a total of 22 office space units. Construction of this building was completed in 2005, and the result was a cost-effective office space and awesome views of the Thames River.

Check out this retro-looking prefabricated house located in the Austrian countryside. This inexpensive home was created by Espace Mobile who sell prefab homes like this one for between 55,000 and 95,000 Euros.

Each one of these homes comes with a 3-year warranty, and each section of the house is 4 meters wide by 1-15 meters long. Each section can be pieced together to the customers liking. This place offers spectacular views of the countryside through its floor-to-ceiling windows.

The Linx Shipping Container Shelter offers an innovative solution for temporary shelter applications, such as for construction workers. The shelter is made out of 20 foot long shipping container that can be stacked 2-stories high.

The structure includes a kitchen, dining room, showers, bathrooms, office space, and sleeping areas - not exactly your average construction worker shelter.

Hybrid Seattle takes a highly stylized and creative approach to creating container architecture designs. Many of their works are, so far, purely academic exercises showing the potential possibilities of shipping container structures. However, they have build some small-scale modular housing units to test their theories and are in the process of developing a larger cargotecture housing project this year.

Lot-Ek is always on the cutting edge of strange and interesting architectural designs so it is no wonder they have their own visions of shipping container houses. Their solutions rely on a relatively simple external configuration that provides for more complex spatial possibilities on the interior of their structures. They are fully equipped with everything one would want in a home and lacking no luxury.

So if all of this got you somewhat more interested in the idea of having a shipping container structure of your own there are firms like Royal Wolf who create and sell reconstructed shipping containers. A lot of their applications are fairly low-tech (but thus also way more affordable) such as storage or work-site offices, refrigeration and so on. However, they have extensive experience creating living spaces, recreation rooms, kitchens, diners, workshops and more for private citizens and the military.