The surge of shipping container homes issued a serious challenge to conventional housing and architectural solutions. They are hitting the mainstream and it seems that the trend is here to stay. This comes as no surprise, since they present cheap, portable, environment-friendly, and flexible living modules.
Many architects and designers are inspired by these steel boxes and have developed some brilliant concepts. Some claim that containers are the best thing in architecture since brick, while others are more skeptical. So, should you believe all the hype or pay attention to downsides and flaws? Would you really want to live in a container?
Shifting urban landscape
Shipping container homes have transformed the daily home lives of many people, and they are also used as places of business. From industrial office spaces to pop-up retails and small cafés, many entrepreneurs have taken the advantage of these unique structures. It seems that they are becoming more popular in architecture than they are in their original purpose – shipping.
In cities such as Amsterdam, containers are used to provide housing for students. The BBC has located its broadcasting studios in containers in London. In Mumbai, citizens have witnessed the impossible – a skyscraper built from steel boxes. Companies like Royal Wolf are aiming to give Detroit’s struggling neighborhoods a breath of fresh air, and similar projects are emerging across the world.
Houses made of recycled containers are cost-effective. Unlike regular buildings, containers are also portable and allow you to move them to new, better locations. They can be used in difficult terrain, especially on a sloping block of land, where building a conventional house would be costly. Still, you would have to prepare the site and build proper foundations for the new container home.
Things to keep in mind
Jones-Glotfelty Shipping Container House, Flagstaff AZ, by Angel Schatz on flickr www.ecosadesign.com on flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Apart from all of the advantages, there are some issues many tend to overlook. Old containers are often fragile and their structural integrity must be inspected before purchasing. Sometimes, extensive steel reinforcement is needed, particularly when connecting multiple containers. Another reason for caution is that they may have some chemical residue left over from their shipping days.
Although you can assemble a new container home in much less time than it takes to build a conventional structure, equipping containers with a heating and cooling system is no child’s play. A bulk of the savings is enabled by not having to spend much on the container’s exterior structure. Fitting the interior is another story.
Lego meets IKEA
One of the biggest advantages of containers is that their structure and outline allows great flexibility in design and architectural solutions. It is possible to combine multiple containers – much like using big Lego steel bricks. Some proud container homeowners have managed to create large interior spaces and transcend the limitations of a container’s dimensions. They are also thrilled by being able to get creative and invest their personality into the space.
A touch of contemporary design, for example, can transform these crude boxes into appealing retreats. Architects and designers seem to adore the minimalist interior design and the extensive use of glass. You can install floor-to-ceiling windows, sliding doors, solar panels on the roof, etc. Nearly 50 percent of the walls can be removed without compromising the integrity of the structure. Not bad for a crude metal rectangle, indeed.
The shipping container trend has yet to run its course, and the results so far are promising. It is a low-cost and portable housing option that allows you to explore a vast array of design possibilities – as some would say, this is what happens when you mix Lego bricks with IKEA. Brick and mortar houses will not vanish, but their foundations are seeming shakier now. It is estimated that there are some 2.5 million shipping containers sitting empty around the globe. One of those boxes could be your new, sustainable home.