Shipping Container Architecture
When most people think of the humble shipping container, they often don’t see it as a possible home. Thousands of these containers are left to rust at ports, and often aren’t reused. What many people do not realise is that with little conversion and imagination they can be made in to the perfect, sustainable home. Through this article I aim to convince you that a shipping container is the ideal substitute for bricks and mortar.
My experience with containers began during my second year at University. I was asked, as part of a group project, to design a future city for London after a catastrophic flood. The brief was to use shipping containers as sustainable homes, suspended high above the flooded banks of the River Thames.
Through some research we found some existing container cities in London. One of these was based opposite the O2 arena at Trinity Buoy Wharf. Designed by Nicholas Lacey and Partners, they used the modular shapes of the containers to place them in an array around a core used for access. They kept the general aesthetic of the containers the same, only adding circular windows for light. The containers could even be painted any colour the client wished.
The conversion process is fairly simple. Firstly windows are added to the client specification. Services, such as plumbing and electricity are then installed. Lastly, insulation and plasterboard are lined to the inside of the container. The beauty of the concept is that they are modular and can be stacked and further containers can be added if expansion is needed. At Container City 1 the demand was so high that they simply added a further level of containers, installed by a crane in 2 days.
The containers are versatile enough to be used for offices as well as homes. Shops have even been created from them, one example of which being the new gift shop at Thorpe Park.
This example goes to show how adaptable the containers are, and that they can be decorated to suit their location. Other companies have also used containers to create shops, including Puma.
If you don’t like the aesthetics of a container there are ways to create homes or offices from them in such a way that it is almost impossible to tell what the building is made from. This stunning home has been created from the containers with the doors removed. In there place are epic glass doors and windows, flooding the spaces with light.
With their sustainable qualities, and ease of conversion it is hard to see why containers aren’t more widely adopted for construction purposes. We use bricks and concrete because they are the standard construction materials. The construction industry has learnt to change and implement many other types of material on large scale in the past (steel), so is the possibility that unused and empty shipping containers could become regularly used for construction so hard to imagine? I don’t think so.