The first U.S. multi-family condo built of used shipping containers is slated to break ground in Detroit early next year.
Strong, durable and portable, shipping containers stack easily and link together like Legos. About 25 million of these 20-by-40 feet multicolored boxes move through U.S. container ports a year, hauling children’s toys, flat-screen TVs, computers, car parts, sneakers and sweaters.
But so much travel takes its toll, and eventually the containers wear out and are retired. That’s when architects and designers, especially those with a “green” bent, step in to turn these cast-off boxes intostudent housing in Amsterdam, artists’ studios, emergency shelters, health clinics, office buildings.
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It would seem that this is rather an unrealistic idea.
The cost of a (bad condition) shipping container ($2,000 plus delivery) is high for the size contained. Housing made from conventional construction (e.g. wood frame) would be less expensive, easier to build and more comfortable.
There are serious difficulties with this material: How to cut/weld/drill the thick Cor-ten steel to attach things to the walls, or make windows/passageways (whereas anyone can cut/drill/screw to wood frame); and then there’s the horrible issue about how to prevent condensation/mould in a climate like Detroit in winter – you’d need sprayed foam and lining, because of the uneven walls, reducing the internal volume even more.
So I think shipping containers are great for unheated, secure storage; not so good for human habitarion.