Ship Me a Building: Used Shipping Containers as Architecture
Tough economic times, and a growing desire to be more “green” has led to a renaissance from creative architects looking to find cheaper, more creative ways to design spaces. Ports around the world are overflowing with used, empty shipping containers, but now they are being repurposed to create funky residential and commercial structures. Shipping containers aren’t for everybody, and their limited width and height do create some limitations, but with a bit of imagination you can do some pretty amazing things with these versatile boxes.
First, to use these as occupied buildings, you have to insulate them, heat and cool them, add electricity and add plumbing. All of those elements will encroach on the already cramped dimensions if you have to fit these elements within the exterior skin, but it can be done. The walls between units can also come out, and the ceilings and floors can be removed to create multiple volume spaces, but any more extensive demolition of the framing begins to break down the cost effectiveness of the system as well as the “green” benefits of reusing these containers.
Puma City is a traveling store that is touring the world, and will eventually be “parked” somewhere to become a showcase store for Puma. It is made up of 24 containers stacked and offset from each other with strategically removed walls and floors to create amazing interior spaces and cool exterior decks.
Obvious other uses for these containers are for classrooms and small living quarters, like hotels or apartments (see the picture of the infill office/house that is made of 4 stacked shipping containers squeezed between existing buildings on either side). Shipping containers do well in a stacked arrangement because the steel frames were originally designed to be stacked like Legos on board ships.
Due to the limitations mentioned previously regarding insulation, electrical, and mechanical systems, another cost-effective and creative use for these boxes is as an inexpensive “skin” to create a large interior volume like these pictures of the Nomadic Museum. The “walls” are stacked shipping containers that create a large interior gallery, and the whole museum is taken on tour to ports of call around the world. The containers themselves can store all the parts and exhibits during transit.
At Visioneering Studios we’re currently working on a church project incorporating shipping containers as interior spaces inside a pre-engineered metal building to create a funky, cost-conscious, and “green” youth facility. I hope to share pictures of that with you in the near future, once the design develops further.
Would you like to live, work, or worship in a shipping container? Keep your eyes open because they may be coming to a city near you!