I think a lot about the responses I get when I tell people about our principal building material. Although, with each story in the news and each additional project, more and more people are getting it. Shipping containers are viable buidling materials, call it cargotecture, containerization, or whatever. In an interview with CNN, architect and author Jure Kotnik says, “In some ways I’m surprised it’s taken the mainstream architectural community so long to utilize containers in this way–as their modular, standardized shape lends itself so well for creating interesting buildings.”
Kotnik says there are about “400 established architectural projects making use of shipping containers around the world. From Volvo, Puma, Rolex, Nike to Ikea — loads of big names have been turning shipping containers into shops or spaces that they think will enhance their brand image, in part because it is a universal symbol … it’s also become increasingly cool.”
A couple of container buildings have popped up recently. London’s Boxpark is a shopping mall made of 60 standard-size shipping containers, stacked two stories high and five rows wide:
image from TreeHugger
There is also a new drive-in and walk-up Starbucks in Seattle made of a few stacked containers:
image from New York Times
Many have complained about a giant corporation like Starbucks using the R-words (reuse, recycle, etc.) on the side of the building, but they are reusing a container that otherwise would join the millions left in shipyards and ports each year.
Beyond reusing containers to combat the excess of them in the world, in a recent New York Times article, architecht and designer Peter DeMaria says that upcycling a shipping container “takes 5 percent of the energy needed to take steel, melt it down and create a new beam” to be used in just one part of new construction. “Chopping down timber, polluting water streams, degrading the landscape by digging up mines … all these things affect biodiversity and harm the environment,” says Anna Surgenor member of the UK’s Green Building Council. “This is why it’s so important architects think about how they can use recycled materials during the design process.”
So, why are we using shipping containers to construct our new house? The are readily available, recycled, and relatively cheap, and they are a proven, strong building material…besides, the results can be stunning.
image from r | one studio architecture
Why wouldn’t we use shipping containers?