For years, used railroad and ocean steel shipping containers have been stacked and stored in scrap and salvage yards throughout the country. According to the World Shipping Council, at any one time, there are over four million shipping containers in use throughout the world.
The latest trend to hit the world of architecture is the steel shipping container home. Is it the magic bullet for inexpensive, quick, and easy-to-build housing?
In the past couple of years, several architects have come to the realization that cargo containers are nearly indestructible. They’re hurricane-proof, fire-proof, flood-proof, and they’re cheap. And used ones can be bought on average from $1500 to $2000. Some of these containers even come insulated.
Many have traveled the world many times on cargo ships during all severe types on weather without serious damage. Not only are these containers beneficial for their permanence, their easy transportability is a strong asset for those ascribing to a more portable (i.e. nomadic) lifestyle.
In the past, these containers have been used for temporary military housing. The current architectural usage of shipping containers has been for permanent housing. These projects are primarily being built in California, where some counties allow shipping container construction used for housing. Note that there are also some California cities, such as Rancho Palos Verdes, that have specific laws prohibiting shipping container construction.
California architect Peter DeMaria’s house in Redondo Beach is made of eight shipping containers stacked two stories high. This project is the first to implement stacked shipping containers and is the first such a project approved under U.S. Uniform Building Code standards.
New Jersey architect Adam Kalkin has designed a cargo container easy-to-assemble kit house called “The Quik House.” One kit model includes skylights, mahogany sliding doors, and both a stainless steel kitchen and stainless steel fireplace hearth.
Kalkin is also currently working on a Quik House kit geared specifically for disaster relief. His workshop is on his former New Jersey high school’s campus. He’s also put together a “Quik Build Disaster Relief SWAT Team” consisting of engineers, architects, energy and water experts, and builders. Kalkin states that this team would be available to provide immediate emergency disaster housing around the world.
Steel shipping container housing can hardly be called a panacea to the world housing crisis because there are only a finite number of these containers available for construction recycling. The good news is that this finite number is in the thousands.