I found an article on msn.com today that caught my eye. Apparently there are architects creating houses out of leftover shipping containers. That’s right, those huge boxes (40 feet long by 8 feet wide) that transport lamps, furniture, etc on freightliners. They are recycling them into neat, eco-friendly housing that costs less than traditional home building. Here is an excerpt of the article by Melinda Fulmer of MSN Real Estate.
Initially developed as an experiment for art installations, emergency housing and vacation homes for wealthy modernists, cargo container housing is moving off the fringe and into the mainstream.
"People have begun to think of it as viable instead of weird," says New York architect and artist Adam Kalkin, who began building homes with containers in 2000.
Kalkin and a handful of other architects and builders have begun using the corrugated steel boxes for everything from high-rise apartment homes and coffee shops to senior residences and even luxurious suburban homes.
Indeed, Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based architect Peter DeMaria has launched a home building firm, Logical Homes, that will offer nine different models of container homes on lots around Southern California, an area where he has several other projects built or underway.
From the outside, the Logical Homes models, which range from 640 to 3,520 square feet, appear to be mid-century tract homes, their large corrugated boxes covered with special finishes or "skins" and enhanced with custom paint and large windows.
On the inside, they have bamboo floors and energy-efficient appliances. Insulation is provided by recycled denim; an optional ceramic paint helps form a greater sound barrier against the outside world.
The price tag for all this eco-chic? DeMaria's homes average around $150 to $200 per square foot, compared with about $220 to $250 for much of the traditional building in the area.
Generally, architects say, container homes are about 20% cheaper to build than those made with traditional construction, ranging from $87 a square foot for the most basic container home to about $200, depending on location and finishes.
Thinking inside the box
DeMaria and other architects have embraced the idea of shipping containers largely because of their price. With a surplus of hundreds of thousands of containers sitting vacant on U.S. docks due to the imbalance in trade, used containers sell for $1,000 to $2,500, depending on their size and condition, DeMaria says.
With lumber and steel prices rising, these building blocks are a bargain, and with their 9 1/2-foot height, they have just enough of a clearance to serve as actual rooms, rather than glorified storage sheds.
They also have the advantage of being easier to assemble on site than traditional framed construction. That can speed up the building process on an apartment building by as much as 40%, says David Cross, founder of SG Blocks, a St. Louis container retrofitting firm.
And they are exceptionally sturdy, a selling point in hurricane-riddled Florida and earthquake-prone California. "It's a heavy-gauge, steel-frame house," Cross says.
The tricky part, says St. Louis architect Dan Rosenthal of the Lawrence Group, which designed shipping-container housing for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, has been finding people to retrofit them. "There have been a lot of them drawn up, but very few have been built," he says.
SG Blocks, which Rosenthal now collaborates with, was founded less than two years ago and is one of the few filling this unusual building niche. It modifies containers into building units or "blocks" at 17 different port locations owned by cargo giant ConGlobal Industries, its container supplier.
Cross says he expects to work on as many as 1,000 containers next year. Some will be used in groups of three or four for single-family homes, or as many as 400 for multistory apartment buildings and condominiums.”
It goes on to say this:
“Green and clean
In fact, some cities are beginning to embrace the idea because of its affordability and its green sensibility.
It was this environmental stewardship that convinced real-estate investor Oona McLoghlin to take the plunge with a 14-container mixed-use project — two apartments and ground-floor commercial space — underway in Venice, Calif.. "I just loved the idea that you could put existing material that was completely going to waste ... and put that into excellent use. The concept is a wonderful one," she says.
There are about 11 million shipping containers in circulation worldwide, according to SG Blocks, and 300,000 of those are sitting vacant in ports worldwide, enough to recycle into 90 million square feet of new living space.
Retrofitting these units into viable building units takes only 5% of the energy needed to convert this kind of container scrap into steel beams, Cross says.”
So what do you think? Would you live in a house made of containers? Although they would look out of place in historic Lancaster City, I think it’s a great idea and a great way to recycle.