Home Science Energy When is a cargo container not a cargo container? When it's a house!


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When is a cargo container not a cargo container? When it's a house!

  • 07 November 2008
  • Written by 
  • Published in Energy
With the global recession upon us, many unused shipping (cargo) containers are just sitting around on waterfront docks all over the world. Because of this surplus of empty containers, some industrious architects and builders are using them to build houses and other such “green” based projects.

Shipping containers, or intermodal transport units (ITUs) are ISO (International Organization for Standardization) steel boxes that are loaded with materials, sealed, and shipped on container ships, railroad cars, aircraft, and trucks all over the world.

The system is called intermodal freight transport cargo transport. However, with the slow-down in the world economy, many of these shipping containers are not being used, and not being returned to their country of origin.
There are five common lengths used for the containers around the world: 20-foot (6.1 meter), 40-foot (12.2 meter), 45-foot (13.7 meter), 48-foot (14.6 meter), and 53-foot (16.2 meter).

The United States often uses the 48-foot and the 53-foot ones.

Check out the WebUrbanist.com article “10 Clever Architectural Creations Using Cargo Containers: Shipping Container Homes and Offices.”

Many of these homes look very stylish and modern in design.

According to the WebUrbanist article, the first U.S. home built out of shipping containers was one built in 2006 in California by Manhattan Beach, California-based architect Peter DeMaria.

See his website for more ideas on Cargo Container Homes.

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Today, these homes are not being built only by specialty "green" builders any more, but are in the mainstream of homebuilders as the cost benefits of such buildings are being realized.

DeMaria states, "It's not just a bunch of mad scientists tinkering in a garage making these buildings. It's people who understand the economics and understand the environmental benefits." [ABC News: “Home Sweet Shipping Container?”]

And, there are plenty of these empty containers lying around, just ready to be built into a home or office. According to the ABC News article, millions of these cargo containers reach the United States each year from all over the world.

However, it is now less expensive for these foreign countries to make new ones than to ship these used ones back to their home base.

Experts estimate that around 100,000 of these containers are available to be converted into homes at any given time.

And, they predict their numbers could go up to 700,000 in the near future.

Please read the ABC News article for additional information on various businesses now dealing with the construction of cargo container homes and offices in the United States.

Page three tells you a listing of worldwide container home builders and designers, plus other information.

The FabPreFab.com website “ContainerBay” contains an alphabetized listing of these cargo container builders around the world.

The website states, “There is growing interest in the use of shipping containers as the basis for habitable structures. These "icons of globalization" are relatively inexpensive, structurally sound and in abundant supply."

It adds, "Although, in raw form, containers are dark windowless boxes (which might place them at odds with some of the tenets of modernist design...) they can be highly customizable modular elements of a larger structure.”

Peter DeMaria is interviewed about cargo container homes on the video website, “DeMaria Talks About Cargo Container Design and Sustainability.”

The website of U.S. home improvement TV show host Bob Vila talks about container homes in the article “Converting Shipping Containers for Housing” also talks about this housing alternative."

The article states, “Containers make structural sense. They are manufactured with heavy-gauge Corten steel to make them strong and fairly impervious to the elements."

It adds, "They are ideal building blocks and can be stacked up to nine rows high without compromising their structural integrity.”


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