At the end of my last housing post, we’ve seen modular parasitic buildings. The Muthesius school of fine arts Kiel, where I made my Bachelor’s degree, had a similar thing which I loved. In lack of basement space, they added some shipping containers to the old buildings’ walls. These “architectural parasites” connect to the fire stairs and are used for extra storage and as balconies.
But except for shipping and storing things, containers can also be used for building homes. Not those office shacks that are used on festival check-ins, building sites or campgrounds, but real neat homes.
a short container history
In the 1930’s, a Truck driver named Malcom Mclean was annoyed by the inefficient practice of several workers unloading boxes from his truck and carrying them into the cargo ships’ hull. So after thinking about it for a while, he sold his shares in the truck company. He reinvested the money in two ships and a shipping company. 1956, the first container ship left Newark for Houston, equipped with converted truck trailers.
Since then, containers have revolutionised the worlds trading economy. There are several reasons for that.
- The one that originally lead Malcom Mclean to invent containers: you can just load this one huge box from the truck onto the ship instead of carrying a truckload of small boxes by hand, which takes much longer. If worked out thoroughly, this inevitably leads to:
- A huge amount of standardisation. Today we have mostly two types: the standard 20-foot container, and the 40-foot one, which is identical in all but length. After arriving at their destination by ship, they can be loaded onto trucks and trains anywhere in the world.
- Their high durability: They easily last 12 to 14 years each.
After their years in the shipping business, they’re still great for upcycling. You can buy one for less than a thousand euros, and then make a container home from it.
Of course you can spare yourself the work of upcycling one, and buy a container for living in for as little as 8000€. But for my taste, their appearance is too simplistic, which is no wonder at these prices. So let’s take them like in the slideshow.
Depending on the design, these homes have a varying degree of an industrial aesthetic. I agree that this is not for everyone. But if you do like it, you can extend the upcycling to your home, building it cheaper and more sustainable than a lot of other homes. Just place and connect them, cut holes in the walls, and install insulation. Or, instead of insulation, you might also bury your container home. In Copenhagen, containers are proposed for swimming student accommodation. There are even plans for whole pop-up-villages made of containers.
However, the best application areas for container homes are the ones that feature their ability for being shipped around or brought to a place quickly. So, for mobile concepts or for fast solutions, container homes, maybe prepared in advance, can be quickly shipped by cargo ships and trucks, connected, and are ready to use. This usage does not have to be living, but can also be the “swiss army knife of sustainable farming”.
Also published on Medium.