BYO (Bring Your Own) Adaptive Re-Use
You’ve seen them many times, those anonymous corrugated steel boxes riding around on trucks, trains, and ships. You may have been lucky enough to witness them at rest in a shipyard, stacked like blocks in a Tetris like collage of colors. Many of them have been all over the world, carrying goods from port to port and beyond.
Formally called “Intermodal Freight Containers,” they were created as a reusable transport and storage unit for moving products and raw materials, and there are approximately seventeen million intermodal containers in the world today. Research on this topic has led me to find that a lot of these containers actually end up at the bottom of the ocean (still full of their cargo), swept from ships in storms at sea along shipping lanes. Regulations require containers carrying hazardous materials or chemicals to be placed at the bottom of the stack within the hull of the ship to mitigate the potential that they would fall overboard. The environmental impact of lost shipping containers at the bottom of the ocean is still unknown – although logic leads me to believe that any kind of foreign “waste” in the oceans is not a good thing.
Interestingly, because the United States is largely a consumer based, we have a surplus of these containers on our shores – so what can we do with them? Melting down the 8,000 pounds of steel in each container requires a tremendous amount of energy, so there is a very real benefit to reusing or repurposing them. At the most mundane level, they can be used for short or long-term permanent or semi-permanent storage facilities. A more interesting option is to repurpose these containers as modular building blocks. By creating a habitable structure with these shipping containers, you can bring your own adaptive re-use to any site.
A Wikipedia entry on Shipping Container Architecture highlights the many possible ways that these structures can be assembled to form larger structures, or simply converted on a singular basis to create small homes, guest houses, offices, shops, etc. New or used shipping containers can be bought on eBay (seriously, is there anything that you can’t buy on eBay?). A quick analysis shows that even a brand new container is a more cost effective way to create a 20’x8’x8’ box then building it out of dimensional lumber and drywall or plywood.
The potential for creatively using these containers to create space is endless. Check out some of the examples in the links in this post and let us know what you think!