Recycling shipping containers to make homes solves two problems—the plethora of containers piling up at every port in the world and the shortage of affordable housing.
Shipping containers represent one of the greatest innovations in shipping in recent years. Before, it was necessary to load various products on a ship at one port, unload them at another port, and transfer the contents to trains or trucks.
Shipping containers come in standard sizes (usually 20 or 40 feet long). Some are fully enclosed while others are open at the top, side, or end. So long as they conform to standard lengths and widths, they can be made in different heights–and stacked on the ship and then transferred seamlessly from trucks or trains.
This efficiency comes at an environmental cost. Being designed for a specific kind of cargo, they make one-way trips. Ports have to pile them up.
Third world countries have been transforming shipping containers to houses for decades. Manufacturers in the U.S. have long offered double-wide modular homes. Similar in concept, shipping container homes offer more flexibility and more opportunity for creativity, so they have begun to catch on here, too—and not just for affordable housing.
While manufactures make double wide modular homes from virgin materials, using shipping containers is a form of recycling. Shipping container homes greatly appeal to environmental activists, who point out that with cell phones, people no longer need such large homes as we have become accustomed to.
Think about it: a cell phone contains a camera and a video camera, plus an entire music and video library and game center. Where once we needed cameras, storage for photos, video cameras, storage for video cassettes (not to mention CDs and DVDs), etc. that required a lot of space, now it is possible to put it all on a device we can carry around in our pockets.
Floor space in American houses has more than doubled since the 1950s. In part, it’s because the nation hadn’t yet recovered from war-time shortages, so the housing boom saw houses considerably smaller than the typical house built in the 1920s.
But house size has long since recovered and continued to grow, even as family size has shrunk.
Shipping container homes fit neatly into the new interest in tiny houses. A 40-foot container or two can make a very cozy house for much less money than building a conventional house of the same kind.
Environmental activists often install solar panels and/or wind turbines and live off the grid. They like to make their homes retain the appearance of shipping containers.
Other people like to participate in recycling something as large as shipping containers, but still like their large houses. Where one or two containers make a cozy house, a dozen or more can make a palace!
Here are two videos. The first concentrates on small homes. The second shows a few much larger houses. In both cases, some of the homes still look like shipping containers. Others have transformed the outside of the containers as much as the interiors, but arranged them in a way that would be highly impractical using conventional building techniques.
50+ Shipping Container Homes / Small Home Design Ideas
More shipping container homes in California, some not small
About the Industry: Containers / World Shipping Council http://www.worldshipping.org/about-the-industry/containers