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Recycling the Shipping Container

Sep 7, 2011

by Chappell Ellison

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

For those of us who make a point to sort through our recyclables, we worry about the little things: yogurt containers, cereal boxes and egg cartons. But how do you approach recycling when the trash in question is larger than an elephant? Shipping containers, the primary means of protecting and housing consumer goods during long oceanic voyages, each have lifespans of only ten years. A combination of direct sunlight, salty water and rough handling ensures that these cargo containers won’t be active for very long. Worse, it’s sometimes cheaper to retire containers prematurely than to ship them back to their country of origin. The result is the growth of shipping container graveyards, where the seemingly innocuous containers form lego-like stacks of orange, blue and green towers.

Over the past decade, designers, architects, students and tinkerers have viewed these defunct, mammoth-sized receptacles as an opportunity for architectural experimentation. They’ve been converted into swimming poolshouses and office spaces. In fact, shipping container architecture, or “cargotecture,” has become an increasingly popular trend. “Shipping container architecture gets a lot of encouraging coverage in the design world as a trendy green alternative to traditional building materials,” writes Brian Pagnotta for ArchDaily. “There are copious benefits to the so-called shipping container architecture model. A few of these advantages include: strength, durability, availability, and cost.” The change in cost over the years is quite drastic; a new container in 1970 cost $5000, while today, many models are available for only $900.

 

Angel Schatz on Flickr

 

Pagnotta is also quick to point out the negatives of cargotecture, highlighting the toxic chemicals sprayed on the surface of shipping containers to protect them during oceanic transport. “Reusing containers seems to be a low energy alternative; however, few people factor in the amount of energy required to make the box habitable. The entire structure needs to be sandblasted bare, floors need to be replaced…The average container eventually produces nearly a thousand pounds of hazardous waste before it can be used as a structure.” Lloyd Alter, an architect and writer for Treehugger, also agreed with Pagnotta’s sentiments, further emphasizing the impractical realities of converting a container to a living or working space. “[B]y the time you insulate and finish the interior, what are you going to do in seven feet and a few inches? You can’t even fit a double bed in and walk around it.”

Cargotecture highlights a dangerous trend in design — the moment when eco-consciousness becomes an empty gesture. “It’s knee-jerk recycling,” architecture critic Alexandra Lange says of cargotecture. “People think, ‘There are too many containers, they look like houses, let’s make them into houses.’ The problem is their worth as architecture is largely symbolic, given the costs involved in making them habitable.”

Sure, shipping container houses are impractical. In fact, when I look at them, my first thought is, “Where are the closets?” But at least cargotecture forces us to face an unfortunate, physical byproduct of global consumerism. The methods required to get our goods from their point of origin to our front doors remains largely invisible to the consumer. More than just a nod to recycling, shipping container architecture reminds us of our consumer habits, and hopefully our ability to break them.

Is shipping container architecture just a fad or a valid experiment in recycling? Would you pack up your bags and move into a piece of cargotecture?

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3 Featured Comments

  • CestSuperbe

    CestSuperbe said 8 years ago Featured

    I know they've used for (temporary) student housing and I think it was quite a success. So there's a future for them in that respect. I've also seen them in small meadows for the animals; not the most esthetic sight, I must say. I think it would be better to recycle them instead of reusing them and re-use the materials in a totally new manner.

  • WriteTheGoodWrite

    WriteTheGoodWrite said 8 years ago Featured

    I'd read about this before but never knew about all the toxic chemicals. For me that changes the concept of a container house from a creative idea to a useless trend. Are these chemicals getting washed off, contaminating the soil? Who wants to sandblast that entire structure only to add new floors and walls anyway - plus lighting, plumbing and heating? Plus there is a safety issue - what if someone was trapped in one of these houses that caught fire? When I first read about converting these into homes I thought it was a creative, low-cost and eco-friendly option. Now, sadly, I've come to the opposite conclusion...

  • faerywhere

    faerywhere said 8 years ago Featured

    I am a huge fan of cargo container architecture. I was looking into it for an underground house in CA and discovered so many amazing small homes made from these containers. I read about a family in WI (I think) who are making medical clinics for disaster stricken areas out of these containers. They can be transported to areas like Cuba after the earthquake, fully equipt clinics, and when they are place, the doors opened and the clinic is ready to help people.

156 comments

  • Colettesboutique

    Colettesboutique said 8 years ago

    Quite an interesting article. I always wondered what went into turning a shipping container into a house. sounds like a lot of extra work, But the finish product in the last pricture looks pretty cool to me.

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 8 years ago

    I seriously love this! They look a bit ..drab. But with the creative minds we have in this world, I'm sure this idea could really take off! Reusing is the future!!

  • SparklePaw

    SparklePaw said 8 years ago

    They may be impractical, but they are darn nice to look at. Love the clean lines and colors in these photos!

  • CestSuperbe

    CestSuperbe said 8 years ago Featured

    I know they've used for (temporary) student housing and I think it was quite a success. So there's a future for them in that respect. I've also seen them in small meadows for the animals; not the most esthetic sight, I must say. I think it would be better to recycle them instead of reusing them and re-use the materials in a totally new manner.

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 8 years ago

    Wow. I love how creative people are. You don't see that everyday but I bet if you were driving by one you would just have to slow down or stop to see it :) I mean how could you not?!

  • dekoprojects

    dekoprojects said 8 years ago

    Yeah, the second house is amazing. There's one thing I cannot understand - if the containers are sprayed with toxic chemicals, are they used in shipping food? If yes, why nobody cares of the fact? Is the toxic chemical layer only on the outside surface of the container?

  • whenifnotnow

    whenifnotnow said 8 years ago

    I'm not sure a lot of people actually read these articles before they post comments.

  • christianmazza

    christianmazza said 8 years ago

    Good article Chappell.. I've been looking forward to this one!

  • WriteTheGoodWrite

    WriteTheGoodWrite said 8 years ago Featured

    I'd read about this before but never knew about all the toxic chemicals. For me that changes the concept of a container house from a creative idea to a useless trend. Are these chemicals getting washed off, contaminating the soil? Who wants to sandblast that entire structure only to add new floors and walls anyway - plus lighting, plumbing and heating? Plus there is a safety issue - what if someone was trapped in one of these houses that caught fire? When I first read about converting these into homes I thought it was a creative, low-cost and eco-friendly option. Now, sadly, I've come to the opposite conclusion...

  • littlepancakes

    littlepancakes said 8 years ago

    I agree that being "green" has become an empty gesture. Companies that produce a ton of toxic waste label a product green and people rush to buy it without thinking.

  • WriteTheGoodWrite

    WriteTheGoodWrite said 8 years ago

    I used to think this was a creative, low-cost and eco-friendly solution, but now that I know about the toxic chemicals that need to be removed first, and all the sand-blasting involved I am not convinced. How would one remove all the chemicals - with a harsh cleaner and water which would then contaminate the soil? It sounds like a better overall solution would be to stop making shipping containers and find a better long-term and eco-friendly material to ship goods in around the world.

  • LifesMosaics

    LifesMosaics said 8 years ago

    Someone should come up with a recycling facility and find an Earth-wise way of taking care of the bio-hazards. In fact it should be mandated that the original user be charged for the clean up. Ya make a mess, you should clean it up shouldn't you? As for the idea of reuse, get your welders and cutting torches handy and build something! I'll take 9 clean ones please :D

  • bedouin

    bedouin said 8 years ago

    I'm on the side of recycling the metal ~ . Having a short 10 year life span to them makes me think their future as a home would be a costly up keep. Retire them and move on... before the Gremlin and the Pacer move in for some hot tub action.

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    TwinkleStarCrafts said 8 years ago

    Good read. I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I find these 'refurbished into homes' cargo containers to be very unattractive. They remind me of the outside of prison walls. And the point that refurbishing these containers seems to contradict the entire reason we should be recycling to begin with is something we should be paying attention to as consumers. Hey, I have a great idea! Let's start producing goods here in America as we used to so we do not need nearly as many of these cargo containers! They is not always practical so perhaps we should take a page from our ancestors and transport items in casks. Much more environment friendly and the use of them will bring back a largely lost trade. http://www.arcus.no/Cooperage+-+the+art+of+barrel+making.9UFRvIZF.ips

  • RichAnt

    RichAnt said 8 years ago

    I think it has its pros and cons. Nothing is perfect and some peoples job is too find the fault in everything. As a person who has been forced to deal with my consumption. I can see how a small family living in a tin shanty could appreciate a container home. Take for instance all those that needed homes in Haiti after the earthquake. You may not fit a double bed but bunk beds as oppose to dirt floors is a luxurious alternative for some people. From the research I have done these homes would only cost between 10-15k to make habitable. So if six people gave up their venti caramel macchiato for one year we can house one small family.

  • KnittyTurks

    KnittyTurks said 8 years ago

    I wouldn't mind having one or two on the farm for shed use and or animal housing. Personally I don't think I would live in one myself as a first choice.

  • OffTheHooks

    OffTheHooks said 8 years ago

    I had never thought of it from this angle- I always thought cargotechture was a viable alternative to disposing of them. That said, the scrap metal business is booming- can't they be melted down and recycled?

  • KKSimpleRegalJewelry

    KKSimpleRegalJewelry said 8 years ago

    Very interesting! I love the idea of reusing though! And boy oh boy... I love seeing the creativity of other bright minds! LOVE it! ~KK~

  • faerywhere

    faerywhere said 8 years ago Featured

    I am a huge fan of cargo container architecture. I was looking into it for an underground house in CA and discovered so many amazing small homes made from these containers. I read about a family in WI (I think) who are making medical clinics for disaster stricken areas out of these containers. They can be transported to areas like Cuba after the earthquake, fully equipt clinics, and when they are place, the doors opened and the clinic is ready to help people.

  • AliKan

    AliKan said 8 years ago

    Recycling of shipping containers as building is a brilliant idea, a mixture of great design and saving the planet. It is the epitome of recycling, you don't go out of your way to use something up that would otherwise be cast to the side, you use it in a way that is easier than the convention methods. In London there is a great example of shipping container building, it is a "shipping container city" that house the studios of artists. I think we, the users of Etsy, are innovators and as innovators we should embrace this mixture of creativity and recycling.

  • DessertWine

    DessertWine said 8 years ago

    I've seriously considered this as an option. Thank you so much for this article to complete the whole picture. So many horrendous decisions have been made to fulfill our "needs" then more horrible ones in "green" knee-jerk reactions. We COULD just buy more from Etsy!

  • JessaIreneGifts

    JessaIreneGifts said 8 years ago

    Interesting read. Love the recycle idea, but doesn't sound as though it is very green. (Even though they are cute). Makes me wonder what they do when they dispose of them normally, are the harmful chemicals just buried, or do they have to process them before scraping them? Maybe making them into houses doesn't create any more toxic waste than the regular disposal of them. I agree with witethegoodwrite, sounds like we need a better option to begin with.

  • MootiDesigns

    MootiDesigns said 8 years ago

    How interesting. My husband owned a container company and traveling thru Europe we noticed how they were used and stacked up, unlike in the U.S. Thanks for sharing!

  • OhFaro

    OhFaro said 8 years ago

    I love them. Sunset magazine just had a feature on some similar these by Hybrid Architecture ... some great designs and really affordable if you can live in one (1) - I'd need at least 2. Their site is pretty interesting http://www.hybridarc.com/

  • immortalfashions

    immortalfashions said 8 years ago

    only good for ten years! toxic not as good an idea as I thought they were. I have seen some very nice designs though.

  • ekra

    ekra said 8 years ago

    I wonder why the containers can't be reused as shipping containers with a little repair and/or upkeep. Using them as housing sounds like that isn't the best use for them considering they require so much work to become habitable and create hazardous waste in the process.

  • tarikyousef

    tarikyousef said 8 years ago

    Very interesting article. I often think of possible shipping container uses, but the width of the units is often very restrictive. My lumber supplier uses a shipping container as a kiln to dry his lower grade woods, i find that use very interesting. I also always have to remind myself about the insultion qualities of a metal box...R0.

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage said 8 years ago

    A valid recycling experiment. Not sure I could live in one since I;m 6' 1", but love the idea. Maybe they can also be recycled as dumpsters.

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 8 years ago

    I actually think it's a shame we dont make things to be recycled or reused on e they reach the end of their lives, shouldn't we be designing that into our products?

  • steinschmuckdesign

    steinschmuckdesign said 8 years ago

    WOW, I love that, I would take one :)

  • mylenefoster

    mylenefoster said 8 years ago

    I think the creativity in converting these containers will hold interest if the benefits outweigh the cost. Why can't it be recycled and reprocessed like other steel products?

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez said 8 years ago

    Great read, thanks for sharing the pros & cons.

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye said 8 years ago

    Very cool concept!

  • SweetlyWrapped

    SweetlyWrapped said 8 years ago

    Wow! Who knew?! Thank you for sharing :) It's inspiring to see how people reuse such objects. Even when it isn't so practical! xX

  • CamilleMontgomery

    CamilleMontgomery said 8 years ago

    As a young family working with and making a living with salvaged and recycled materials I have been hounding my father for years to "recycle, recycle, do your part." I drove the hours down to see him last month and what did I find other than a barn and horse stables made completely from shipping containers. I smile so big and told him how proud I was of him for being ingenious and finding a way to recycle in a huge way. He just scratched his head and looked confused. What a fantastic barn and horse stables he has now though.

  • PauperHandmade

    PauperHandmade said 8 years ago

    Excellent thoughtful article! I like that you point out the energy use involved in refurbishing them for further use, but as a symbol of our consumerist ways I do agree they serve a great purpose and likely worth the effort and energy in reusing them.

  • ALPHABETSandINK

    ALPHABETSandINK said 8 years ago

    Hummm, so, are all the items shipped in containers actually coated with toxic chemicals also? It makes buying homegrown things much more attractive if you think about it. I do love the concept of actually using the containers, maybe they need to be melted down, burning out the chemicals and then put back into use....root cellars? turned sideways and buried with one side open to form shelters for mountain hiking...??? I'm sure their are millions of ideas

  • lilinspirations

    lilinspirations said 8 years ago

    Very cool! Great read thanks for sharing.

  • deelind

    deelind said 8 years ago

    We housed our horses in shipping containers, they were perfect! Great article, thx.

  • TheDelicateUtility

    TheDelicateUtility said 8 years ago

    A friend of mine was trying to encourage me to work on a reuse project with him utilizing these containers. The idea flickered away before we really got to a true research phase. We were coming up with big dreams for these containers but we certainly had no idea what the hazards would have been in reclaiming them from the chemicals. Perhaps the popular focus should shift away from what to do with the old containers and focus on how to make better, more (for lack of a better word) upcyclable containers for the future. Any scientists or eco-engineers here in etsy land want to tackle that?

  • cjcarter

    cjcarter said 8 years ago

    I've been toying with having a storm shelter buried underground and these containers have come to mind as a perfect fit. While I was unaware of the toxic nature of them, sandblasting does not seem to be too big an issue but the flooring would present problems perhaps. A storm shelter does not necessarily need to be a comfort zone but only protection from mother nature. Outfitting could be quite austere or opulent, optional and extra. I believe this could be a money maker from the right perspective.

  • GettingWeddy

    GettingWeddy said 8 years ago

    There's a local firm here in Lake Jackson, Texas that uses these shipping containers for the structure of their homes, but they don't confine themselves to the "seven feet and a few inches" in width. Rather, (at least on the one I've seen) they use the containers to form the perimeter and support the roof. They claim that by the time you frame out the same structure conventionally, the cost would be higher and the structure less durable. This is their website: www.sophiaenclave.com

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 8 years ago

    Very interesting and food for thought - one does not realize you can't just "move in"! Thanks for this interesting article!

  • Verdurebydesign

    Verdurebydesign said 8 years ago

    This word "recycling" has become trendy and doesn't always mean best for the enviroment.

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 8 years ago

    omg. only $900. i pay way more than that in one months rent. what an incredible article!

  • dieseline

    dieseline said 8 years ago

    The first time I saw this was a few years ago on t.v. They were using them to create houses in places that would have been "tent cities" and were at risk of hurricanes, tsunamies, etc. I thought it was great that they recycled and helped people that would of otherwise been without housing. I wonder if they bothered to clean the chemicals off for people in these areas? I agree with finding better shipping options or shopping locally, though. I do not think cutting them up and then adding building materials should be a long time solution for retired caontainers.

  • BunnySafariPottery

    BunnySafariPottery said 8 years ago

    Ten years ago, I thought it would have been a grand idea to use one of these as a kiln room. After doing research, I discovered the chemical connection. I also read that often times you have no idea what was shipped in them or for how long. They frequently contain molds that have outsmarted the chemicals. I think it would make more sense to recycle the steel. If we all stop buying cheap goods that we are constantly replacing, we wouldn't need so many cargo containers.

  • VintageWorkshopInc

    VintageWorkshopInc said 8 years ago

    Thanks for the article!

  • jfred1021

    jfred1021 said 8 years ago

    I does make be think twice about cargotecture. Seems like a lot of work to convert it to liveable space and the toxic chemicals are bad. I wonder if the amount of toxic waste increases if the container is converted to liveable or is it still just toxic waste if we do nothing but store unuseable containers. We need to find a way to recycle...either to use for planters...use the steel..use for outdoor sculptures by artist. I agree they are invisible to the consumer...thanks for the article and for opening our eyes. Now lets all put on our thinking hats and find a solution.

  • jfred1021

    jfred1021 said 8 years ago

    Ps.. the house pictured above does look pretty COOL!

  • blessedvintage

    blessedvintage said 8 years ago

    I have always wanted one to make a shabby chic urban summer cottage in the mountans. Yet I have concerns about their toxic load. Their are alot around here in AZ. But it would just be cheaper to buy a prefab than having to get this cleaned up and add all you need. Europe has many more option on portable cabins that are interesting and cheaper. My home now is a vintage trailer I have been rehabbing, and I have to look at paints and etc. that were being used in the 1970's that are not safe today. My next home will be a yurt! blesssings

  • FiveWolvesStudio

    FiveWolvesStudio said 8 years ago

    I still feel that there is a place and purpose for recycling shipping containers. One great example is Clinic In a Can--a company in Wichita, KS that converts containers into self-contained medical clinics. A local doctor who travels to his native Southern Sudan every year to practice medicine in what is literally a shack, started the Healing Kadi Foundation and raised funds for a three-unit self-contained hospital which was built by Clinic in a Can. It contains a pharmacy, lab, exam rooms, radiology and a surgical suite. I went to the "open house" a couple of weeks ago and was amazed at what a huge difference this $100,000 "hospital" will make to these people who have virtually no medical care most of the year. I'd love to do the same with veterinary clinics for areas like the Navajo reservation that could never afford a vet hospital or even a mobile veterinary clinic.

  • moboquest

    moboquest said 8 years ago

    Thanks for the aritcle! if you anyone needs to create free surveys for mobile phones, check out http://www.mobosurvey.com

  • AmberGypsySky

    AmberGypsySky said 8 years ago

    Interesting...".cargotecture" is a fun gesture but 1,000 lbs. (which seems a bit of an exaggeration) of waste isn't exactly "eco-friendly". I enjoyed this :) thanks

  • WhisperingOak

    WhisperingOak said 8 years ago

    I am not sure I would move in into a structure that just recently was labeled "free of chemicals."

  • designgirl19

    designgirl19 said 8 years ago

    very innovative, I like the idea of having a swimming pool, spray a plastic coating on the inside and wha-la!!, thanks for sharing, I also like how richant thinks as well!

  • joycecountrywool

    joycecountrywool said 8 years ago

    I agree with whenifnotnow.

  • MishaGirl

    MishaGirl said 8 years ago

    They are like monster sized Legos. I can see it now...a whole city built entirely of cargo containers!

  • kristenmarieartworks

    kristenmarieartworks said 8 years ago

    Since I'm a big fan of Dwell magazine and architecture in general, I've planned to use these for my next crib (and studio) - I love this article! Thanks for sharing!

  • theEmersonian

    theEmersonian said 8 years ago

    favorite article up to date! i wish it was in fact a safer/easier transformation BUT i love, and plan to have one of these containers a part of my life.

  • AukinasGoddess

    AukinasGoddess said 8 years ago

    i heard about these containers, but i never knew about the toxicity...wild. does anyone know the pros and cons to living in a yurt? thank you for sharing.. :)

  • gemworks

    gemworks said 8 years ago

    This is what I do for my day job - http://www.storagesystems.ca - my own business... Generally these are NOT practical at all for making into houses, especially up north. The cost far out weighs the benefits to put in insulation, electical, plumbing etc... They are great for "recycling" into the business community for storage and other uses. They definitely don't go to waste and most have far longer than a 10 year life once they are off the shipping lines and re-purposed for their new lives on land. Interesting article and well balanced - most articles just say "yay, build a container house!", and totally ignore the cost and pitfalls of doing so. Thanks!

  • MissingHeirloom

    MissingHeirloom said 8 years ago

    They seem to pose - on a much larger scale - the same issue new replacement windows do. Tear out windows from an old house - throw those in the landfill - put in chemical laden plastic covered wood windows to keep your house more airtight - all in the name of energy efficiency and ecology. We as consumers must really start to make better and more informed decisions as to what is truly eco friendly - and what appears to be that way.

  • HorseShoePaul

    HorseShoePaul said 8 years ago

    Maybe containers are not practical for housing, but so what? If someone wants to to it great! We need to do something with the containers. No mater what is done with them, the hazardous chemicals must be dealt with. All of the containers cannot be recycled into steel since we do not make much steel in America any more. We import much more than we export so there is a net gain of containers in America. Anyway... good post, it stimulated a lot of discussion.

  • MandyBesek

    MandyBesek said 8 years ago

    Love these! They are sort of like the industrial version of Earthships.

  • tweakjewels

    tweakjewels said 8 years ago

    I live in a tiny little town in the Arctic and many of the homes and offices here are old shipping containers. I lived in one for 4 months and always wondered where the container had traveled and what had been inside!

  • peblsrock

    peblsrock said 8 years ago

    Both my husband and I have studied this for several years and haven't read anything about toxic chemicals being a detractor to using containers as houses. Surely an epoxy based coating would seal anything in that was toxic and add a further layer of protection against the elements. On the outside, the appearance is easily altered with all kinds of attractive materials including wood panels, giving a really modern look to the shape. Re the size, well one wall can be taken out and two containers mated to provide an enormous and usable room size, with the advantage of being able to stack and expand the house rather than move when you have kids or grandma comes to stay with you. I think their adaptability outweigh a lot of other issues. As for the emergency clinic use, my husband and others have sumitted designs for them to be packed with supplies and when empty to become homes for families to occupy safely in all kinds of situations. This is the most obvious use for empty containers and would make more sense than tents that are erected for "temporary" shelter and end up being used for years on end. The clinic idea is hardly new, as there were entire clinics/operating theatres designed for military use and slung beneath Sikorsky Sky Crane helicopters as far back as Vietnam. Using containers is merely a cheaper version of that idea... One last interesting point, is that refrigerated containers are supposed to be the best, with aluminium linings, insulation and a better quality of finish. Has anyone had experience of these? Great article

  • larajb217

    larajb217 said 8 years ago

    I was one those arch students with exactly that dilemma... it was fun to work it.. but yes it was impractical in some ways... great article. Thank you

  • soule

    soule said 8 years ago

    I've been wanting to build my new studio with these for a few years now...I have a friend that made a mobile espresso bar out one!

  • ElfLights

    ElfLights said 8 years ago

    I can testify that these things are a mess- waaay more work than alot of people are ready to invest to make this statement... we tried to bypass certain steps and the space turned into a toxic hovel-

  • gunsanducks

    gunsanducks said 8 years ago

    I've seen people with large yards in rural areas use them as storage space. As a tool shed. Our local baseball park actually stores there valuable field equipment (such as 4 wheelers, bases, etc) in them.

  • SailThouForth

    SailThouForth said 8 years ago

    Interesting... I'd heard of using shipping containers as housing, but I didn't know a lot of these details, especially regarding toxicity. Cool idea but not optimal. The last photo does look awesome, though!

  • MayaS

    MayaS said 8 years ago

    Here is a link to converted container houses built by a company in Quebec (Canada). I went to see one at a house& garden exhibition - it looked great inside and out; the cost is much lower than a regular same size house. http://www.jetsongreen.com/2009/06/maison-idekit-shipping-container-homes.html

  • minouette

    minouette said 8 years ago

    This is interesting. I've seen photos of cargotechture before. I had not heard of toxic coatings. I wish the article specified - what sort of chemicals? Do you mean epoxy paint? I'm marine geophysicist, so I know a fair bit about corrosion and weather-proofing things we take to sea. Without knowing what they have been coated with it's really hard to assess whether this is a reasonable recycling option or not. To the Etsian who asked how to make a shipping container which was not coated with something toxic, that's easy. You simply need to make them out of stainless steel. They wouldn't corrode, but they would be heavier and a lot more expensive. That's why people don't do it.

  • fbstudiovt

    fbstudiovt said 8 years ago

    Ah crap. Toxic? Really? But my husband and i have been drooling over the idea of building a house out of these! Cancer vs cool house... Crap.

  • katrinaalana

    katrinaalana said 8 years ago

    We also thought having container houses would be cool but if there's toxic material and a lot of work to do to make it habitable then having a container living space just lost its appeal.

  • LiciaBeads

    LiciaBeads said 8 years ago

    Re: toxic chemicals... they are a part of everyday life from what we eat, the air we breath, the cars we drive to the fire retardant put on just about every fabric sold in the US. Hard to get away from really.... I don't imagine it's cost effective to convert a storage container into a liveable space but it could be a nice option for outdoor storage or a little external studio. Not really practical to expect large scale construction companies to put a dent in the cargo graveyards when they need so much alteration to make liveable, assuming they are tested safe.

  • Manthreadz

    Manthreadz said 8 years ago

    We've used these for years for storage and office space out on construction jobsites. They take a beating , but are hot in summer and cold in the winter. Downside- you are going to lose some space to insiulate , and some of them can smell. Fortunately ours had a lovely green smell !

  • mrsjade

    mrsjade said 8 years ago

    I love the idea of using these to build. All of you who are sustainable should join our group for environmentalists on etsy here: http://www.etsy.com/teams/7279/art-for-the-environment

  • NatalieDrest

    NatalieDrest said 8 years ago

    Great article, and as always, interesting comments! Many people seem put off by potential toxic chemicals in the containers. At least with a container you know what you are getting and can remove them. When you buy new carpets or couches they also contain toxic chemicals, and out-gas them into the air you breathe.

  • snowgumstudio

    snowgumstudio said 8 years ago

    All of these issues have to be considered with their "or else" alternatives. So, you are stuck with a narrow footprint, or else you have to have multiples or otherwise add space. You are stuck with handling the toxics, or else somebody else is. Some places, e.g. Portland, OR, are dead ends for them. Many come in, but few go back out. The result is acres and acres of surplus containers. In the backcountry, on recreation property, the mobile or RV that has had multiple rooms added on piecemeal is very common. If the urbs and suburbs don't want them, why not truck these things where they'll be wanted? The idea of bridging them with a canopy seems good, too. I'm told that survivalists are burying them, full of supplies for after-the-fall. Any kind of reuse of salvage materials has its hassles. Yet it doesn't take much incorporation of salvage on an industry-wide basis to make a substantial dent in the waste burden of which these would otherwise become a part.

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 8 years ago

    I saw this on a Canadian news show. Very interesting concept!

  • menii

    menii said 8 years ago

    In the Western Hemisphere, it sure is unusual to see anything other than one-off architectural projects involving shipping containers... but in places in the Eastern Hemisphere, like Taiwan, shipping containers are routinely used as temporary structures. Merely strolling down the street, you might see shipping containers used as Betel Nut stands, construction storage, outdoor storage, etc. There exist many companies that specifically sell ready-to-go shipping containers; doors, windows, even bathrooms already installed. I suppose Taiwan has an over-abundance of otherwise useless shipping containers, however.

  • DivineSparkle

    DivineSparkle said 8 years ago

    Why don't they make better containers? Think of the future when creating them. Ugh! This upsets me. I mean, at least do without the chemicals! Make them out of a different material, something! I don't know. I still think that reusing them is better...it takes a lot of energy to build a house anyway...

  • CuttheCord

    CuttheCord said 8 years ago

    My shop only uses recycled materials, which is a constant challenge. To put recycling on a much larger scale helps me understand the difficulties, but it still forces me to see the importance of it and believe any sacrifice should be made to recycle everything possible.

  • ArosDecoupagePlaques

    ArosDecoupagePlaques said 8 years ago

    I've seen these in use before but I couldn,t see myself living in one of these. I really enjoyed the article though.

  • julianamarquis

    julianamarquis said 8 years ago

    Thank you for this interesting article! It really hits home and makes me consider all imports and how much things impact the earth. I'm afraid we are blind to the true depths of our total consumption.

  • nevinackered

    nevinackered said 8 years ago

    In Malaysia these shipping containers are hollowed out and used as accommodation space for foreign workers on construction sites (they even put in doors and windows). They're probably not safe to live in, but it serves its purpose incredibly well, and when the construction is finished the 'houses' are cleared out and moved by trucks to the next place. There's no need for insulation etc because it's warm enough in this country to get away without having it. I also remember in my secondary school (again in Malaysia) we had used these shipping containers as temporary classrooms (cleaned up, re-floored and fitted with air conditioning) while a new block was being built. It was definitely interesting being in a makeshift classroom like that. I think they were taken away after a few years...

  • LaLaCrashTragic

    LaLaCrashTragic said 8 years ago

    Using them as a pool is a very clever idea! I've seen houses (not as spectacular as the above photos) and never realyl thought much of them.

  • brightsoul

    brightsoul said 8 years ago

    So much about being "green" that people don't understand (or won't understand) is that maybe instead of spending lots of money and time and resources to reuse something, we should go back to the drawing board! Perhaps shipping containers should be redesigned to be more reusable.

  • DesignsByRachelP

    DesignsByRachelP said 8 years ago

    Great article. Shipping containers are used all over Africa for various reasons. I've seen them as shelter, offices, carport / mechanics workspace, perimeter walls, etc. etc. They are all over the place. I did not however know about the toxic chemicals on the exterior, that's unfortunate! Thanks for sharing!

  • GeekkiBoutikki

    GeekkiBoutikki said 8 years ago

    I have seen the mini offices but never a house this size, and it doesn't look half bad.

  • ElenasLoom

    ElenasLoom said 8 years ago

    Great article! But actually I don't understand why containers are just stored and re-used in these (rather unpractical) way, rather than being recycled as metal as in case of cars and trucks... Actually, being only metal they should be much easier to recycle than cars (that contain lots of plastics, glass and other materials), and at temperatures that melt steel, even paints shouldn't be much of a problem (at least no more than the paints used for cars...Which, incidentally , contain lots of anty-rust chemicals as well and are probably just as toxic) The price of steel has increased dramatically these last few years, maybe sooner or later somebody will use containers as a resource!

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField said 8 years ago

    Very creative and love the looks of it, but I honestly don't think I would move into a container home.

  • PomLove

    PomLove said 8 years ago

    this is so interesting. i remember seeing an article about these buildings in Dwell... great read.

  • wigglebuttbaby

    wigglebuttbaby said 8 years ago

    I've been looking into converting shipping containers into a house. Yes there is a lot of work, but it can work out a lot cheaper than a newly built house, at least here in Australia.

  • EveritteBarbee

    EveritteBarbee said 8 years ago

    I must say this article is quite biased, and not necessarily accurate. I've converted several shipping containers into studio space and living quarters in the past, with consultation from the manufacturer as well as two health and safety inspectors (not to mention, the one who inspected it to get council permission to use it as a work space) here in the UK, where health and safety standards are considerably more rigorous then back home in the US. While cleaning some of the older more hazardous/ignorantly made containers might generate up to a thousand pounds of hazardous waste, this is by no means the norm. If you can get ahold of a fruit shipping container, many of the newer ones require very little cleaning apart from aesthetics, and wood floors and Walls make a nice, cheap, green interior construction material (depending on where you source your wood). The windows and doors take the most work, but I found this to be much easier than installing windows into my mothers brick house. Don't be deterred, just make sure you do a little research about your container before you buy it.

  • TheHickoryTree

    TheHickoryTree said 8 years ago

    Interesting article. With the high price of metals maybe we need to be looking into cheaper ways to convert these containers into liveable spaces. Perhaps if they stop spraying them with the hazardous materials and use something more eco-friendly, it would make it more economical to do the conversion. I still like the idea of using these for living spaces. What a waste not to. These metal containers might save a couple of trees as well as prevent unnecessary mining which, although important can totally ruin the land. I would also imagine these to be quite strong in a tornado, hurricane, or an earthquake as opposed to a wood structure.

  • choosehappy

    choosehappy said 8 years ago

    Thought provoking in a wonderful way. You covered a lot of great info. I just have one more thought to offer. Continuing to make and use containers this way should end. I'll bet thousands of people on Etsy could create a better methods of shipping.

  • ericawalker

    ericawalker said 8 years ago

    I've always loved the idea of "recycling" shipping containers for living / work space. In fact, we've considered it for studio space. Who knew there are so many toxic chemicals involved... Thanks for the info.

  • ConfettiWestern

    ConfettiWestern said 8 years ago

    Wow, glad to know the hazards of these containers, and the fact that they are NOT worth building with, just because they may seem eco-friendly and are "pretty". Certainly not worth the thousand pounds of waste chemicals. Some of these readers need to actually read the article..

  • littlefarm

    littlefarm said 8 years ago

    These would make an awesome studio!

  • LaBellaJoya

    LaBellaJoya said 8 years ago

    I believe that technology is constantly evolving and pushing forward and developing new ways of reusing materials that are considered unusable. Even though we may not have the means now to safely recycle these, it's definitely worth the experimentation to develop a way to safely reuse them. Never underestimate the power of human ingenuity.

  • sarantos

    sarantos said 8 years ago

    When I first read articles about these houses a few years back, my first thought was "No way! People have no idea what was stored in them, how they have been stored or what they have been treated with." Glad to finally see an article that points that very thing out. Reminds me of the people recycling toxic arsenic laden railroad ties and phone poles to build their garden beds to grow organic food. Ignorance is not bliss.

  • LiddoKiddo

    LiddoKiddo said 8 years ago

    I agree i would love to make a studio out of one!! Great article.

  • TeaAtHomeWithOlivia

    TeaAtHomeWithOlivia said 8 years ago

    Love it!

  • theartofjordanshoppe

    theartofjordanshoppe said 8 years ago

    What a shame - that these containers are 'retired' too early but also that so much hazardous waste comes out of cleaning them. I like the idea and the initiative - I wonder if there is a better solution for all the waste etc? There has to be a solution that meets both dilemas??

  • scentbythesea

    scentbythesea said 8 years ago

    Interesting...My significant other is a longshoreman and his job is to move shipping containers, by car, rail, crane, etc. to get them on their way to wherever the goods they hold are going. The way this article is written and especially the vague final words of the article bother me...."More than just a nod to recycling, shipping container architecture reminds us of our consumer habits, and hopefully our ability to break them." I feel the author is leaving out the human factor when she wishes for "us" to break our "habits". Some of "us" have a different position---containers put food on our table and shoes on our feet. The computer I'm working on (and my Etsy business!) were funded by money earned from moving shipping containers. I wish she had stopped to think that there are many Americans with good jobs that depend on international shipping. The shipping industry that has some definite ecological problems and impact (which can and should be solved) but it's also about hundreds of thousands of families. I don't think the blithe "wish we could cut back" is well thought out---more like a cavalier nod to good intentions. Look deeper next time.

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 8 years ago

    So cool!

  • salvagedspace

    salvagedspace said 8 years ago

    I've toured a small studio that was simply amazing, inside and out! I also have drawn up quite a few floor plans that I hope to use for my personal home someday. I think with smart maneuvering and the willingness to live a somewhat less materialistic life, they can truly become a great home. You can use them as the main structure, but cut out spaces to make things less cramped. Although they aren't 100% green (considering finish out), finding a use that works for something we have so many of is great (especially of such a large thing). Construction will always have its amount of energy consumption - I can only imagine that having a solid and durable frame in place would lessen that intake. In Austin they are also becoming pop up eateries, which is fun and definitely works for a small starter restaurant. Long story short - love them!

  • retrobabydeluxe

    retrobabydeluxe said 8 years ago

    There was an episode on HGTV a while back and they featured a 'how to' show about these containers. The best thing to do with these is keep for storage. if we all had a couple acres of land, we could use these for storage instead of building out houses and using more wood, hencing saving a few trees in the process. Don't know what the cost is to buy or transport them, but it has to be cheaper than building a new structure.

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss said 8 years ago

    "Knee-jerk recycling"– what an interesting term. Yes, we need to put more thought into our use of materials like shipping containers, but this is an excellent, creative start.

  • thestapeliacompany

    thestapeliacompany said 8 years ago

    1,000 pounds of hazardous waste per container?! Whoopsies. That's creating another whole problem. But, the alternative is letting them rust into the ground, chemicals and all. I'm glad to see people are at least trying to repurpose them (and quite beautifully I might add when done creatively, like above). We'll get there, at least people are thinking outside the box... hahaha. :)

  • feltonthefly

    feltonthefly said 8 years ago

    "Cargotecture highlights a dangerous trend in design — the moment when eco-consciousness becomes an empty gesture. “It’s knee-jerk recycling,” architecture critic Alexandra Lange says of cargotecture." Yes, an important point. Just because something can be turned into something else, that doesn't necessarily make it 'eco friendly'. When the process of creating the original thing isn't environmentally friendly to begin with, adding more energy and resources and chemicals to turn that thing into yet something else only compounds the problem. Just because 'recycling' keeps that item out of a landfill doesn't mean that it's the best (or only) solution to the problem. And that 're-cycled' thing sure doesn't deserve the label 'eco-friendly'. I think the author is trying to make a very valid point here.

  • BalancedToo

    BalancedToo said 8 years ago

    Definately a valid experiment. What a lot of great thoughts and emotions expressed here, and on the link sites. @MissingHeirloom of Etsy.com... I so totally agree with your perspective, and think about how much water I use, everytime I wash out a soup can, or yogurt cup prior to recycling. I think, I could pack my bags, and live in a container...With Windows!!!

  • MarieVaughnDesign

    MarieVaughnDesign said 8 years ago

    Absolutely Awesome! I see them as a large abstract canvas!

  • sherri27

    sherri27 said 8 years ago

    I'm surprised we are spraying these with toxic chemicals to protect them. Couldn't we come up with a better alternative for that. Worries me that our household items are being shipped in something toxic...

  • mandymoomoo

    mandymoomoo said 8 years ago

    I remember sailing into Manzanillo Mexico and seeing the giant "lego stacks" I'm wondering now if they were waiting to be shipped back out or if that was the graveyard.

  • SimplyMaco

    SimplyMaco said 8 years ago

    Where are the closets? Drawers under the beds, with smaller wardrobes contained within. And a twin bed is just fine, even with two people (ask a couple of college students in a dorm!)

  • MoonstoneCreation

    MoonstoneCreation said 8 years ago

    very interesting, I'd love to have this be my art or living space!

  • TheElectriciansWife

    TheElectriciansWife said 8 years ago

    While I would not want to live in one, I would love to have one as a tack room and food storage for my horse. The hay would be fire-proof and rat-proof; along with the grain bins. I would also love an area to store the first aid kit, fly spray, and tack.

  • BluJeanBeads

    BluJeanBeads said 8 years ago

    Our parks had a contest (world wide) to create cabins out of these for our parks so that folks can enjoy the great outdoors. Vision these with front decks, sliding glass doors, tiny cooking appliances and little fridges. I love it....I can see this as a route for studio space, single person housing (for homeless) or camping space. Through the 50's and 70's famiies were raised in less then 1,000 square feet. How much junk do we really need?

  • BluJeanBeads

    BluJeanBeads said 8 years ago

    Ok ...I went back and reread. What toxic chemicals go onto the shipping containers? Names? My father and brothers worked in shipyards. I know ships get painted....are we talking about paint? I think before we dismiss an idea we have to ask for complete facts. Don't food and other consumables come in these containers? If they are full of chemicals that have a health risk, I demand to know what that is.

  • AMSkrafts

    AMSkrafts said 8 years ago

    I admire the notion of recycling these large containers to make homes; however, if the process to make these materials fit for habitation creates so much hazardous materials, then we are being counterproductive. Perhaps we can find a way to use other eco-friendly sprays that can protect the containers as well as be biodegradable after the container's lifespan. A challenging problem, but one that could be profitable and sustainable once resolved.

  • JennasRedRhino

    JennasRedRhino said 8 years ago

    I'm amused by the idea that you could pick up your house with a forklift, set it on a flatbed, and drive to wherever with it.

  • wyattsetsy

    wyattsetsy said 8 years ago

    I think there may be some incorrect information in this article. My company did a complete life cycle cost and carbon analysis on recycling these into structural building components (not necessarily a one-container home). In fact you get almost 2x the bang for your buck, and have 1/2 the carbon footprint relative to using "virgin" steel in framing a new building, IF you design correctly. There ARE challenges to design, but you can actually get a WIDE variety of layouts. ISO, US DOT, and Port Authority trade laws prohibit the use of the older toxins that were, at one time allowed in the flooring rot-not treatments (you can thank the Clinton Administration for tightening these laws). The paints in containers are zinc-oxides, used to slow rusting. These are only toxic above 650F. Last I checked, houses don't get that hot, unless they are on fire, in which case you have other things to worry about... :) www.boxenhomes.com

  • snowgumstudio

    snowgumstudio said 8 years ago

    Glad to see post from someone who has actually tackled these issues head on. Awesome! I am hoping to convince some friends to let me make a one-container guest cottage at their farm. Like rhino says, the idea of placing your little building with a forklift is terrific.

  • wyattsetsy

    wyattsetsy said 8 years ago

    NPR, Talk of the Nation show from last week regarding the invention and evolution of the shipping container. Very cool. http://www.npr.org/2011/09/07/140256967/shipping-container-inventor-transformed-world-trade

  • trianglevintage

    trianglevintage said 8 years ago

    would your walls be magnetic, that might be cool

  • bookwright

    bookwright said 8 years ago

    In my opinion, it's not a DIY project.... I am a handy person but I would never consider this type of project. It's best left to the experts similar to traditional home construction, especially when outfitting something from the bare metal walls to a finished product. Here's an article illustrating a sustainable and elegantly designed home in Maine: http://www.mainehomedesign.com/features/1142-self-contained-living.html

  • artworksbycarol

    artworksbycarol said 8 years ago

    I've seen this on hgtv. The people put the container home on the side of a hill in California.They cut out windows, which is important, got to have that natural light.

  • caseysharpe

    caseysharpe said 8 years ago

    I'm sure someone else has said this, but it would be so much wiser to go back to the beginning and think about the end result before we even manufactured a shipping container. If someone sat down and said "what else could we use to seal this?" and came up with a viable alternative, that alone would solve so many problems- and it might open up a secondary market for the shipping containers, which might get larger companies interested. Or imagine, a company that ships, and then refurbishes, and keeps all the profit for both endeavors, while encouraging more sustainable practices.

  • Greengather

    Greengather said 8 years ago

    housing does not indeed sound like the best re-use. storage sounds better. does anyone open them up industrially and use the sides as building panels? you could make warehouses with them. or line cellars with them. there is just no reason to waste that much steel.

  • Greengather

    Greengather said 8 years ago

    wait, wait, i got it. Levees and dams.

  • Officeboy01

    Officeboy01 said 8 years ago

    Missing u--- My home is box with four steel walls.. Cannot imagine living in the cargo crate. Nice for storage, other than humans-

  • Officeboy01

    Officeboy01 said 8 years ago

    California does not count, heck some of the folks there build their whole house of used old tires. Can you imagine the toxic chemicals around the house.

  • tiltomorrow

    tiltomorrow said 8 years ago

    Surrounded by toxic all the time.

  • tiltomorrow

    tiltomorrow said 8 years ago

    Great article. Today will be in a similar container with a lot of storage and drift today. Need to do some heavy cleaning. This afternoon will begin the new process of a new look decor for the rooms.

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop said 8 years ago

    Very interesting. Never considered all the toxins involved. Scary.

  • cupcakegangster

    cupcakegangster said 8 years ago

    I also heard they are being used for liveable housing for people in poorer countries. Many not as big & fancy as we might like but when your living on the ground with a sheet as your walls this might be a manison! I didn't know about the chemicals being used so hopefully this would turn into a problem!

  • BeachHouseLiving

    BeachHouseLiving said 8 years ago

    I think they are fabulous!

  • dungbeetle3

    dungbeetle3 said 8 years ago

    people can also use them for storage sheds as well, perfect for tractors and other farm equipment to be out of the elements.

  • FreakyPeas

    FreakyPeas said 8 years ago

    who knew? I'm glad there are great minds out there!

  • HonestWorks

    HonestWorks said 8 years ago

    Brilliant!

  • eglinc

    eglinc said 8 years ago

    This is great! Recycling shipping containers for housing is ingenious! I know a company that also does this kind of architecture. You can visit http://eglinc.com to see more Cargotecture Projects..

  • eglinc

    eglinc said 8 years ago

    http://eglinc.com to see more cargotecture projects.

  • yourauntiespanties

    yourauntiespanties said 8 years ago

    Nobody seems to have mentioned this yet, there was a show on Discovery Channel Canada called "Junk Raiders" Their entire second season was dedicated solely to re-purposing two shipping containers into a "club house" of sorts. It took a lot of work, and materials, but I think it turned out great! It was an amazing season! I really got into it! http://www.discoverychannel.ca/Showpage.aspx?sid=19241 They depended a lot on Freecycling as well, which was the aspect I most enjoyed!

  • wmalexalvarez

    wmalexalvarez said 8 years ago

    this is really cool! I hear they've also been reused as kill rooms! that Dexter... He's so green!

  • fatlittlesparrow

    fatlittlesparrow said 8 years ago

    Dekalb Market in downtown Brooklyn did a great job constructing an entire flea market out of shipping containers! check it out: http://dekalbmarket.com/

  • bellenessa

    bellenessa said 7 years ago

    These containers would be great habitats for Humanity, if it wasn't for all the toxic waste they generate to make them habitable. I'm sure someone is already working on a non-toxic way to protect the surface of these containers. When that happens, I wish they give'em to the poor to use as houses.

  • TheJoyofColor

    TheJoyofColor said 7 years ago

    This is really interesting thanks you

  • CherryBlossomAvenue

    CherryBlossomAvenue said 7 years ago

    I had always thought the whole shipping container thing was kind of silly: they LOOK like shipping containers unless you really modify them, and with the added thoughts of the toxic chemicals it makes them even more un-appealing. Although, if these conatiners are just sitting around gathering dust and sea salt until they become rusting trophies of our consumerism, we DO need to find a way to use less (or no) chemicals in the future and a way to strip these chemicals safely. Seeing the above picture, all I could think was how many homeless people would be thrilled to take refuge in one of these? I could imagine shelters built like hotel rooms, with containers stacked 3-4 high with outside decking connecting each one and each container could be a mini-home for so many of America's less fortunate, whihc is a sort of poetic justc in the face of mass consumerism, isn't it?

  • AprilofMcleod

    AprilofMcleod said 7 years ago

    Yes, I would love to get several of them and see how creatively I could turn them into a living space - although I want to build a cob home, it may be too wet here in the deep south (Alabama,) for that. But, what really gets me is these would have been PERFECT instead of the billions of dollars wasted on "Fema Trailers." Even the cost of refitting these containers would not have come close, then they could have been repurposed as apartments or offices, whatever. There are thousands of these containers within 100 miles of all the people along the Gulf Coast who ended up in Fema Trailers that were eventually trashed or paid to be stored for years - what a horrendous waste of money and resources!

  • anubist85

    anubist85 said 7 years ago

    Worrying about the toxic runoff from the chemicals simply highlights the fact that we need to find a way to make it safer to use these. I mean the chemicals are STILL going to get into the soil if we have THOUSANDS of them piling up. Being trapped in a container house that is on fire is NO DIFFERENT than being trapped in a traditionally built house, what are you gonna grab that emergency firefighter ax and hack your way through a wall? NO your gonna go out a door or window or die trapped in your wooden house, probably faster since metal isn't flammable. Also, not sure if one has looked but there ARE windows and doors on ALL the container houses. Oh and to one other "problem" , When you build a house you STILL HAVE TO PUT IN A NEW FLOOR, PLUMBING, AND ELECTRIC.

  • commout

    Comm Out said 7 years ago

    I registered just to reply to this thread... There is zero toxic runoff issue unless you choose to generate it. Leave the sandblaster alone. Pressure wash the paint instead. Spot sand rusty areas, rust-convert them, and paint or coat to suit. The idea of ISO containers as building blocks for some sort of boutique, artistically refined architectural fapping experience is brain-damaged. If you are rich, cough up the money for a concrete/steel/stone/whatever durable fireproof house instead. Yes, really. There are plenty of skilled tradesman who can build your vision. PAY THEM (or have more fun and become one of them). ISO containers can make excellent living spaces. If you spend a lot of time staring at the outside of your home, you may not want one unless you side it, stucco/shotcrete it, or paint and landscape it. They do not require complete sandblasting/stripping to use. They do not require a new floor to use. (If I do one for residential use I'll use ceramic tile and mastic to secure it.) There is ample space under the container floor for plumbing and wiring and ducting. If you can operate an electric drill with a holesaw (I like my Milwaukee Hole Hawg) you are good to go. They are water-tight and very durable and highly unlikely to be set afire by blowing embers from wildfires. They are easy to move, set up, and anchor. They are easy to modify with portable tools. Simple metal fab is simple. I had my power pole installed with a breaker panel ON THE POLE and 220/110 outlets. You can wire a subpanel in your ISO at leisure. You can buy 40' High Cube containers. They are 9'6" and the extra headroom is quite nice. PAINT is your friend. I painted my shop High Cube ISOs "woodland camo". I'm not some paranoid prepper, but what I know from military experience is that camo blends in beautifully with TREES. I don't need a building to "assert itself". No building looks better than nature, and my containers almost disappear in my suburban yard. I coat the tops with white latex roof coating. Dropped the inside temps quite a bit. Visit the Sea Box website for MANY container examples used in the industrial and military world, as well as disaster prep conversion kits. You can copy these mods as most are quite straightforward. AprilofMcleod is dead right about them being vastly superior to FEMA trailers. "Trailers" are made of garbage and fly apart in storms. In contrast, ISO containers often float free when the ship carrying them sinks, are good to about 100mph wind speeds unanchored, and are designed for solid anchoring at the corner fittings. If we have another "Hurricane Hugo" self, wife and pets will be in my shop container which is welded to a heavy I-beam foundation. ISO containers "fit": Rural or suburban areas (may require "painting to suit" your situation, so paint 'em!). Handy owners. If YOU do the work then the work becomes cheap even if you buy some tools, and of course you keep the tools. Owners on a budget who want a structure they can immediately use as a shed for construction materials then integrate into larger construction. Have an ISO delivered, put your stuff IN it, camp out in it, and get to work. I use mine for shops since they are ideal for protecting electronics and tools (and I already have a house). If one day Something Bad happens to that house, I'll be having more High Cubes sent my way. A double-wide "trailer" is dangerous in storms and the construction is begging for rodent infestation, but a double/triple/quad/"more"-wide steel ISO home would suit me fine. I'd weld forms around the edge, call the concrete company, and have a nice fiberglass-reinforced concrete roof deck with plenty of thermal mass. 3M 5220 Marine sealant is the Goo of the Gods by the way. I used it to install my electric weatherhead and run various "through wall" fittings on my ISOs. Even if you don't have an ISO, buy a tube and play with it. It makes conventional RTV look like "Elmers Glue" by comparison.

  • swankinvestments

    swankinvestments said 4 years ago

    The article is very interesting, reading it did bring attention to how it might not be as low cost as once imagined. It's also interesting to read how some people re-post their exact same comment multiple time.

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