Thursday, October 10, 2013

Container Homes for All?

Shipping containers are one of of the most ubiquitous objects in the world. We see them everyday on the backs of tractor trailers on the highway, on trains cruising through town, at commercial construction sites and now in your neighborhood. I've been interested in the use of shipping containers for housing over the past several years. There’s plenty of news about them each month, with hotels and coffee shops popping up around the world, and using them for affordable housing is the new re-use that’s getting lots of news.

Last year, Brighton Housing Trust has been worked with developer QED to raise funding for an ambitious program that would recycle containers into transitional housing for persons who are homeless in the UK cities of Brighton and Hove. The key to the programs likely success is that the containers were already retrofitted by Tempo Housing, an Amsterdam housing program, that failed to convert the entire project into a viable housing project.

Although a single 40 foot long shipping container would only provide about 320 square feet of space, this is comparable to many SRO and converted hotel/motel projects. Now this might sound cramped by most US standards of living, but it’s also the size of several of the IKEA mini rooms that I see in their catalogs. The point is, that for temporary housing this might be a great fix, and the UK is not the only place looking into these types of solutions.

Container Home by Container Home Solutions India
On a recent work trip through the Eagle Ford Shale area of Texas, where the oil and gas business is booming, I found examples of recycled shipping containers being used as housing. These are not just ideas that are permeating the first world.

A recent post on Inhabitat revealed the use of containers for housing in India. The home not only used recycled containers, but beer cans to construct a 900 sq/ft home. Not only did the designers/builders  Kameshwar Rao and Neeraj Kumar build a home for themselves, but spawned a company, Container Solutions India, that is focused on building more affordable creative housing using containers. And, the idea of recycling containers is not limited to just housing.

In Brooklyn, NY, Mexico City and elsewhere recycling shipping containers into commercial space that can be creative and impactful on the urban environment. The Dekalb Market in Brooklyn was one the earliest temporary uses for commercial space that provided an relatively low-cost path for a vacant lot to be transformed, and to test the viability of commercial space in one corner of the city. Mexico’s Container City is another example of not only testing commercial spaces, but designing habitats that might not otherwise be funded through traditional commercial banking or finance channels.

The flexibility and speed with which these Lego blocks of the building world can be formed into new private and public spaces bodes well for their future. I’ll just have to keep my eye out for the latest from around the web.

Best aye,


Here are some other great stories and links.

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