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July 28, 2009 @ 11:10 am
Containers Reimagined as Box Homes

sg-containersShipping containers of one form or another have been around for more than 50 years. “The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger” tells the story most thoroughly, but ever since the first recognized container ship voyage from Newark to Houston in 1956, “containerization” has been the keystone in global trade growth. Durable, standardized steel containers can transport just about anything and carry about 90% of all non-bulk cargo. Typical containers are 20 or 40 feet long and about 8 feet wide and 8 feet high inside. There are around 20 million scattered around the world on ships, docks, trains, planes, trucks and anywhere else you can think of and there is always a ready supply of used containers exiting transport service. These 10+ year old containers can be bought for about $1,000 – 2,000 apiece including transport or less if purchased in bulk.

Having been inside shipping containers (no, not as a stowaway, in a prior job we owned container leasing businesses), I’m amazed by the proliferation of residential uses I have seen. The modern, efficient homes that forward thinking architects/designers/builders have envisioned and constructed are truly spectacular. Containers are great starting point for green buildings due to a number of reasons: repurposing them extends there life indefinitely and prevents them from being melted down for scrap, they can be modified, connected and stacked in many ways to create dwellings with small physical and carbon footprints and there construction entails much less labor and resources than conventional buildings which saves money, energy and the environment. Continue reading about an innovative project in Amsterdam

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These unique dwellings have applications as relief shelters, off-grid cabins and even luxury condos but I will focus on one extraordinarily successful project in the Netherlands. Rotterdam is one of the largest container shipping ports in the world so it makes perfect sense that the largest “container city” in the world was built nearby at Keetwonen, Amsterdam. This enormous complex was designed by Tempo Housing in 2006 and is home to 1,000 university students. From inside you would never know you’re in a container – the units are relatively spacious and well insulated. Each student enjoys his or her own balcony, bathroom, kitchen, separate sleeping and studying rooms, and large windows – I know I didn’t have all of that in my dorm rooms…The complex is also fitted with central heating, high speed internet and since we’re talking about Amsterdam – of course it has dedicated bike parking. Additionally, the complex is so popular that its initial land lease was extended by 5 more years to 2016. Thereafter, the buildings can be disassembled to their component containers, easily transported, and reassembled elsewhere. This is brilliant isn’t it? It’s like a giant Lego™ project for adults. Photos courtesy of Tempo Housing:

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Another one of my favorite multi-unit complexes is Container City in the UK (designed by Urban Space Management). For more cool projects, check out Design Crave and Container Life.

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