Creative Building Projects Using Shipping Containers

In this day and age, green construction methods are definitely in style. Architects, home builders, and entrepreneurs are all looking for ways to creatively reuse materials to create new, efficient, and unique buildings. Perhaps the most interesting green architectural movement of the last decade uses a construction material that is as commonplace as it is efficient: shipping containers.

Shipping containers (also called “cargo containers”) make an ideal building material because they are plentiful, weather-proofed, and built to last. With the tons of freight moved every year across the oceans, there is a massive surplus of cargo containers around the world. Both used and new containers can be purchased very inexpensively due to this surplus. And, since they are already built to withstand the rigors of sea travel, they can endure any type of weather in any location.

These containers can be easily modified in a variety of ways. All they require are some minor welding and metalwork, and they can be reworked into architecturally viable shapes. And, due to the uniform and modular nature of rectangular shipping containers, they come pre-constructed in the shape of rooms.

Architects are exploring the endless possibilities of construction using shipping containers. In Berkeley, California, an art group constructed The Shipyard, a collaborative art studio and gallery space constructed entirely out of cargo containers. Twenty-seven shipping containers surround an 11,000 square foot outdoor lot. Each artist in residence is assigned a studio within a container. At this site, artists create large scale mechanical, metal, and kinetic artwork. These works would be impossible to construct in a more confined gallery space, but thanks to the spaciousness, durability, and cheapness of cargo containers, creativity thrives in this unique community of artists.

Another art-related building project that uses shipping containers is the Nomadic Museum. This museum, designed by architect Shigeru Ban and artist Gregory Colbert, is constructed entirely out of cargo containers. Due to its modular nature, it is easily deconstructed, transported, and reassembled in various locations. So far, the Nomadic Museum has hosted exhibitions in New York, Santa Monica, Venice, Tokyo, and Mexico City. There seems to be no restriction on where it might end up next, thanks to the versatility of shipping container architecture.

Shipping container houses are also a very popular building project using this handy material. These kinds of houses are an ideal building project because all of their architectural materials can be shipped to site, then modified to meet the particular specifications of the project. You can create a small cargo container cabin in the woods, or an extensive apartment complex in an urban setting. Containers can be used alone for a small residence, or combined in a modular fashion to create more complex, multi-story project. Architects are also finding cargo container housing to be an excellent solution for low-income housing since the building materials are so cheap and plentiful. Low-income shipping container housing projects have already been created in London, England, Karratha, Australia, and Amsterdam, Holland.

In the future, we will likely see more and more cargo container building projects as the practice gains popularity. But for now, cargo containers are still cheap and readily available. Some companies even sell kits to create your own custom container home. So if you are considering a creative building project in the near future, think about how you can incorporate this special kind of eco-friendly architecture in your plan. It’s a great way to be unique, and reusing materials is great for the environment as well.

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