6 unusual uses of shipping containers
In the first part of this three-part miniseries about shipping containers, we took a trip down memory lane, talking about the history of shipping containers. In the second part, we described the most used types of shipping containers and their typical use. In today’s, last part we will also focus on the use of containers, however, this time, we will take it from the other end – we will have a look at the most unique uses of intermodal containers.
Although there are no official statistics, it is estimated that there are more than 14 million discarded containers and more are added each day. While the metal parts of the containers are designed to last more than 30 years, the reason why carriers discard containers is the plywood floor. That has to be in perfect condition for the carrier because they need to drive a forklift on it. However, the floor in slightly used condition does not prevent people from building various products from it. Not everyone needs to drive a multiton forklift on it.
It didn’t take long until people realized that containers can be used for fast and quite affordable buildings constructions. First attempts were made already back in the sixties. And if you’re imagining ugly, small, dark houses, you couldn’t be further from the truth. When you renovate the containers and use wood on their exteriors, they are almost indistinguishable from a wood house.
People do build also simple, small weekend houses from twenty-foot containers but there are way more ambitious projects too, for example, this vila overviewing Lake Travis in Texas, US.
Another ambitious building is Urban Rigger project designed by famous Danish architect Bjark Ingels who in cooperation with entrepreneur Kim Loudrup decided to solve the insufficient supply of student housing. He realized that most of the universities are located close to seas or large watercourses.
The result is a construction made of nine containers of a triangular floor plan on floating concrete pontoon, creating twelve independent housing units with an approximate living area of 25 square meters with a bedroom, small kitchen, and bathroom. There is also a common backyard in the middle, sun terrace, bathing platform, and basement under the water with utility room, storage facilities, and laundry room.
What kind of house would it be without a pool?! And when you build a house from shipping containers, why not use the container as a pool as well? You can have a smaller, twenty-foot long pool but also 40-foot long pools where you can already do some real swimming. Often there’s also filtration or small utility room built in the container.
The sides of the pool can be painted in such colours so that it matches the exterior of the house or they can even be made of glass so that you can see through. The pool from the picture below is made by Canadian company ModPools and it can even be used as a hot tub during winters. Such convenience has its price though, it costs $35,000.
If you live in those parts of the world, where warm summers alternate with cold winters, then sauna complements the pool pretty well. Even that you can make out of a shipping container! This one is designed by Robuust Architecten studio.
To build a garage from a container is fairly simple. If you are fine with just one parking spot and slightly limited space when getting out of the car, one twenty-foot container will do. You don’t even have to do any special adjustments, you just need some platform so that you can drive in it. However, there are also way more comfortable solutions such as the one below for two cars, made from two forty-foot containers.
Portable cafes and restaurants
There are also many cafes, restaurants, and fast foods and made from shipping containers. Even Starbucks sees the advantages of such a solution and has 45 container-made cafes within the USA. The one in the picture was recently moved from its original location to Northglenn. The whole process of disassembly, transport and reassembly took only 21 days.
Tunnel containers were used for makeshift bridges already by US soldiers a few decades ago. There are several smaller bridges in the world made out of one or two containers. Architects from Yoav Messer Architects have, however, came up with way bigger project. They have won the Econtainer Bridge competition with their design of 160 meters (525ft) long bridge made from containers in Arial Sharon park in Tel Aviv.
People have of course made other things from shipping containers, including a biomass boiler, mobile hospitals, growing rooms, and many others, however, they can’t all be included in one article and these are the six most interesting ones according to us.