Posts tagged ‘save the planet’

September 11, 2010

When people get creative they build wonderful things

The interior of a shipping container home

Interior of shipping container home

Although having its origins in the late 1780s or earlier, the global standardization of containers and container handling equipment was one of the important innovations in 20th century. In 1955, businessman (and former trucking company owner) Malcolm McLean worked with engineer Keith Tantlinger to develop the modern intermodal container. The challenge was to design a shipping container and devise a method of loading and locking them onto ships. The result was a 8 feet (2.4 m) tall by 8 ft (2.4 m) wide box in 10 ft (3.0 m) long units constructed from 25 mm (0.98 in) thick corrugated steel. The design incorporated a twist-lock mechanism atop each of the four corners, allowing the container to be easily secured and lifted using cranes. Helping McLean make the successful design, Tantlinger convinced McLean to give the patented designs to the industry; this began international standardization of shipping containers. In the containers go toys from China, textiles from India, grain from America,cars from Germany and much more. And now the “Great Recession” has inspired some people turn to container-living as a home to shelter them.

A woman relaxes in her shipping container home

A simple shipping container home

While a number of resourceful people have converted shipping containers into make-shift shelters at the margin of society for years, architects and green designers are also increasingly turning to the strong, cheap boxes as source building blocks.

A converted shipping container modular building

Converted Container Building

Shipping containers can be readily modified with a range of creature comforts and can be connected and stacked to create modular, efficient spaces for a fraction of the cost, labor, and resources of more conventional materials. Here are some of the exciting possibilities of shipping container architecture, from disaster relief shelters to luxury condos, vacation homes, and off-the-grid adventurers.

beautiful modular home made from shipping containers

Beach Home in Redondo

De Maria Design Redondo Beach House

With its modern lines and appealing spaces, the award-winning Redondo Beach House by De Maria Design turns heads. The luxury beach-side showpiece was built from eight prefabricated, recycled steel shipping containers, along with some traditional building materials. According to the architects, the modified containers are “nearly indestructible,” as well as resistant to mold, fire, and termites. Seventy percent of the building was efficiently assembled in a shop, saving time, money, and resources. One of the containers can even sport a pool! The lessons learned from Redondo Beach House are being incorporated into a line of more affordable, accessible designs, soon available as Logical Homes.

a small city made from shipping containers

Container City

Container City II

Container City I was a success, and in2002, Urban Space Management added an addition, dubbed Container City II. Reaching five stories high, Container City II is connected to its earlier iteration via walkways. It also boasts an elevator and full disabled access, as well as 22 studios.

Container Cabin overlooking meadow

Container Cabin

All Terrain Cabin

Canada’s Bark Design Collective built the All Terrain Cabin (ATC) as a showcase for sustainable (and Canadian!) ingenuity. The small home is based on a standard shipping container, and is said to be suitable for a family of four, plus a pet, to live off the grid in comfort and style. The cabin folds up to look like any old shipping container, and can be sent via rail, truck, ship, airplane, or even helicopter. When you’re ready to rest your bones, the cabin quickly unfolds to 480 square feet of living space, with a range of creature comforts

cozy eco-pad provides shelter and living comfort


The Ecopod

Another container home designed for on- or off-grid living is the Ecopod. Made from a shipping container, an electric winch is used to raise and lower the heavy deck door (power is supplied by a solar panel). The floor is made from recycled car tires, and the walls have birch paneling (over closed-cell soya foam insulation). The glass is double paned to slow heat transfer.
The Ecopod can be used as a stand alone unit or with other structures. It is designed to minimize environmental impact.

Pre-Fab container home built to order

Pre-Fab Container Home

Adam Kalkin Quik House

If you’re considering a container home then look no further than the “Quik House” There’s a six-month waiting list for this container home by architect Adam Kalkin, who is based in New Jersey. The distinctive Quik House comes in a prefabricated kit, based on recycled shipping containers (in fact a completed house is about 75% recycled materials by weight).
The standard Quik House offers 2,000 square feet, three bedrooms and two and one-half baths, though larger options are also available. The shell assembles within just one day, and all the interior details can be finished within about three months. The Quik House comes in two colors (orange or natural rust bloom), and the estimated total cost, including shipping and assembly, is $184,000. You can add even greener options such as solar panels, wind turbines, a green roof, and additional insulation (to R-50).

Student Housing Project Keetwonen, Amsterdam

Student Housing made from shipping containers

Student Housing made from containers

Billed as the largest container city in the world, Amsterdam’s massive Keetwonen complex houses 1,000 students, many of whom are happy to secure housing in the city’s tight real estate market. Designed by Tempo Housing in 2006, Keetwonen is said to be a roaring success, with units that are well insulated, surprisingly quiet and comfortable.Each resident enjoys a balcony, bathroom, kitchen, separate sleeping and studying rooms, and large windows. The complex has central heating and high speed Internet, as well as dedicated bike parking.
Keetwonen has proved so popular that its lease has been extended until at least 2016.

The continued exploration of eco-friendly housing and innovative building will spawn even more unlikely ways to fight the escalating costs of building traditionally and the pollution of our world. Out of difficult circumstances like the “Great Recession come brilliant ideas of how to cope, how to change and how to live. In that spirit it is up to all of us to do what we can to preserve our world for future generations.

Adapted from an original post in 2009 By Brian Clark Howard in The Daily Green