How would you react if your architecture proposed the idea of building you a house inside an old shipping container? Surprise? Horror? Disbelief? All three, perhaps? After all who can imagine making a lovely, cozy home inside a dark, dinghy shipping container that smells to high heaven of salt and sea!
But see – that is where you would be very, very wrong. Unappealing as these containers might seem to you piled high one upon the other in dockyards, an architect only sees possibilities in them. In fact, converting old shipping yards into homes and offices (and stunning ones at that, mind you) is a new trend in architecture – one that has been dubbed ‘cargotecture’ by Joel Egan – a Seattle based architect. It would surprise you to know that architectural use of shipping containers in 2010 was double as compared to the figures in 2009.
Architects all over the world are pretty interested by this new development in their field. New Jersey–based architect, Adam Kalkin whose most recent project includes creating mobile museums to be used by UNESCO in Africa says, “It really cuts across all types of thinking and starts your imagination.” Alex Bartlett, yet another architect working for Bsq. Landscape Design is of the opinion that “people are really drawn to the idea of reusing these containers because they see four walls, a floor, and a roof ready to go.”
Today these steel boxes are being used for various innovative projects, ranging from a 50-container apartment complex in Salt Lake City to the prestigious Art Basel in Miami. They are also being considered as a viable source for disaster-relief housing.
All things considered, old shipping containers do work out to be quite a reasonable housing alternative. Depending on its size, an empty container ranges from $2,800 to $4,800 and you can have a simply designed living space for less than $100 per sq. ft. Not bad at all considering that it is, after all, custom architecture.
Construction costs of cargotecture are also considerably lesser than conventional projects. The containers can be transported to virtually any location with great ease and they are incredibly resistant to the elements of nature. In addition, they can accommodate green roofs and pair well with solar panels. For a homeowner with limited means, cargotecture helps save a lot of money on building materials.
Shipping containers-turned-into-homes do have one drawback – they are quite difficult to heat and cool. However, these homes can also be made energy efficient by using passive cooling strategies and high-quality insulation.
But how would it be to live in a house built out of a shipping container. Can the cold steel walls of this so called ‘home’ give you the cozy and comfortable feel of a real house? Well, Anne Adriance who built a coastal retreat in Maine with 12 such containers that surround a common room made of glass says, “Living in it is wonderful. “It feels private, intimate. It is so simple and yet accomplishes so much.” Do you need any more convincing?