Earth Promise: Cargo Bins Are Not Just For Cargo Anymore

Recycled cargo containers, container homes, repurposed bulk-containers, steel shipping container architecture—no matter what lingo is used, this is the moderately new green alternative for an affordable and nearly indestructible home or office.  The skyrocketing cost of constructing/designing residential and office spaces has forced architects to think differently.  They need to not only alter their thinking about the design process, but the technique by which the project is constructed.

Actually, cargo container dwellings are not a relatively new concept around ports in developing countries.  After much research on these zero-waste modular livable spaces, I realized that many people have been using these containers, supposedly for temporary housing, for over 20 years.  People from Gyumri, Armenia were provided with these steel shipping containers as short-term housing after the devastating earthquake in 1988.  Container housing could prove to be ideal for emergency shelters after natural disasters, such as Katrina.

Vacant steel shipping containers sit taking up ample space at ports. Believe it or not, it is more expensive to ship these empty containers back to their country of origin.  Instead, new ones are purchased from Asia; thus there is an excess supply of cargo containers.  There is no financial incentive to ship the containers back.  With the recycling initiative in mind, reusing our resources puts these idle pieces to use. According to the Web Urbanist,

Whether it’s a single-family home, small or large apartment, school or community center or even an office complex, cargo containers allow for fast construction and long term sustainable use.  There are many advantages: they are plentiful, they are easily transported, they’re stackable, relatively inexpensive (as little as $900 for a used container), they can be prefabricated, and they’re extremely durable.



Here are some educational cargo container sites:

In 2001, Container City was born.  Urban Space Management, a design company based in England, came up with a cost effective and environmentally friendly architectural model using unused steel cargo containers.

Architect Peter DeMaria, is one of the renowned Americans involved in re-designing the cargo containers.  To view some of his projects, click here to see his freight container based projects.

To view some examples of cargo architectural designs based in Zurich, Asia and London, visit the Web Urbanist site

The Daily Green  has a great slideshow of shipping containers transformed into ultra-hip livable spaces.

Container Homes Info provides a detailed history of the cargo shipping container and elaborates on the correct terminology of these containers: inter-modal steel building units (ISBUs).

Container4Home  is a site that promotes their book that includes “everything you need to design and bulid a very cool home.”

 Be sure to watch this video clip from History Channel’s “Modern Marvels” about London’s Container City - a project which uses shipping containers into livable architecture.

Check out other areas areas of Earth Promise to help the environment.


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