One of the most frequently asked questions when someone is confronted with a shipping container home is “why should I build my home out of recycled shipping containers?” I’m so glad you asked because there are several reasons:
The term modular simply refers to a method of construction based on a defined unit of measure. In the case of a home constructed from recycled shipping containers the module is the container itself – ranging in size from 8 feet wide by 10, 20 or 40 feet in length by 9′-6″ high (if using high cube containers). By employing modular design principles we can save time in design as well as construction which leads to more time to properly coordinate with consultants and contractors to ensure the end product is in keeping with the clients’ vision.
A typical shipping container, or ISBU (Intermodal Steel Building Unit), is constructed of a high grade Corten Steel welded frame, which is capable of withstanding extremely high loads in all directions; loads far beyond those required for standard residential construction. These containers are also pre-designed to stack horizontally as well as vertically, allowing for rapid site set-up which saves time, which saves money. The modular nature of containers also saves aggravation in the coordination of multiple disciplines because there is little room for error in dimensional tolerances.
Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle – these are the three core tenets of a sustainable lifestyle. Currently, in the USA, and many port cities all over the world, there is a surplus of used shipping container clogging up shipping yards with no use and no eventual intended purpose. It has become cheaper to simply make new containers rather than ship empty ones back to their original port of call, thereby giving us a surplus building material that is readily available for reuse. By reusing and repurposing these surplus containers we are first giving new life to a product that would otherwise be scrapped or just sit idle. Second, we are saving valuable lumber resources for future generations (while some lumber and wood framing is required in a container home, it is not nearly the volume of a traditional home).
The key to any successful project, especially a residential project, is ensuring affordability. If you factor all of the structural costs that make up a typical single family home, adding in the time that it takes to fabricate and construct those pieces into a framed house, compared to the cost per square foot of a shipping container (which is your entire structural envelope loaded onto a truck and shipped to your site) and the time saved during erection of multiple containers on site, you can see very quickly that even at the earliest stages of construction both time and money are being saved, thereby bringing down the overall cost of construction, thereby making the total cost of the home less, not to mention more durable and sustainable, which is good for everyone.
When many people think of a shipping container home, automatically visions of Mad Max probably come to mind – run down, dirty, otherworldly settlements of criminals in post-apocalyptic societies fighting for survival. While this makes for great entertainment, it simply isn’t true. A shipping container home can look as traditional or as modern as you like. It is all in how your designer/architect detail the home and materials used.
Please feel free to browse the “Container Designs” section of this site for some images and floor plans of homes designed based on a shipping container module. And if you don’t see something you’re looking for, contact us and we’ll either help you find it or help you design it.
Check out STACK design + build out of Boston, MA. I think its a few MIT or Harvard guys messing around with containers. Seems like something you’d be into.
Joe, thanks. I’m actually familiar with stack db. They developed the Box Office park in Rhode Island a few years ago. Great stuff. Thanks!
This is also an interesting article, some students converted a container to a very modern art gallery: http://www.treehugger.com/modular-design/containerspace-a-shipping-container-as-zero-carbon-art-gallery.html