Earlier this month, I gave a lecture at the Krasl Art Center (Krasl) in St. Joseph on the rehabilitation of shipping containers, primarily for housing purposes. This event was part of the Creativity and Sustainability Lecture Series provided on a monthly basis by the Krasl. Locally based Lake Michigan College is currently undertaking an initiative to determine a sustainable use for shipping container in the community, an initiative funded by a Greenforce Initiative Mini Grant.
Recycled shipping (or freight) containers bring efficiency and innovation to green building practices. Shipping containers are water tight, stackable and incredibly strong: ISO standards require the roof to be able to withstand 300 pounds per square foot and each corner of a container is able to take a vertical weight of 150,000 pounds. These steel boxes are between 8.5-9.5 feet tall, 8 feet wide and between 20 and 40 feet in length. They are made of corten steel and therefore rust-proof and, in many ways, an engineering marvel.
ISO standards limit the number of shipping cycles for which these containers may be used and recycling them is exceedingly cost prohibitive – melting one down requires 8,000 kilowatt hours of energy. There are approximately 1,000,000 surplus containers worldwide at any given time and since the United States imports more material than we export, we have a surplus of shipping containers that are no longer eligible for use in shipping cycles. Shipping containers have been creatively employed through a variety of ways to assist in providing creative housing solutions across the globe. Shipping containers provide structure and a strong roof, though to make them inhabitable, they still have to be insulated; wired for electricity, heating and cooling; and have plumbing installed. In addition to being developed for residential use, shipping containers are being utilized for commercial and storage purposes as well.
Follow the link for more examples of shipping container re-use in the United States and around the world. You may also view the powerpoint presentation I gave at the Krasl. Pictured below are some examples of how shipping containers can be transformed into comfortable living spaces.