Are Shipping Containers a Passing Fad?

When no less a person than Bill Gates chose “The Box” by Marc Levinson as one of his favourite books, it spoke volumes about a subject many would previously have bypassed. “The Box” is the story of the shipping container revolution and how it had a massive impact on globalisation. This single innovation changed the world economy. Now shipping containers are being re-used in architecture, called cargotecture. Is this going to have as big an impact on housing as it had on cargo? Or will it be a phase that fizzles out?

Housing crisis solution

The two key advantages of shipping container housing, sustainability and cost, make it ideal for short term fixes to shortages and under-housing, whilst freeing up existing bricks and mortar stock. It also provides a quick and affordable solution for accomodation, emergency clinics and pop up shops in disaster zones. Temporary housing, student housing, and starter homes are all good candidates for this lower cost construction. Shipping containers are strong, stackable, moveable, cuttable, cheap and plentiful. They have a lot going for them as a building material.


Student lodgings

In Amsterdam, a fine example of a container village is The Wenckehof, completed in 2006. Designed to be temporary, it has proved so popular that it is now a permanent place of residence. Berlin and London have followed by erecting repurposed shipping containers for students to live in.

Looking beyond the basics

Architects such as CRG have envisaged container skyscrapers, which would alleviate the slums in developing countries. These would consist of containers stacked up like Lego bricks, in a cylindrical column. In Canada, architect Keith Dewey built a family home with eight containers. It had state-of-the-art features such as underfloor heating. Dewey believes that there is no limit to what can be achieved with container housing. The steel has longevity as it can be used again and again, and it can also be moved around.

Many countries have experimented with ideas and proposed new uses for shipping containers, and it is hard to see this trend going away anytime soon. From a lookout tower in Tasmania to a periscope in Brazil, more and more ingenious concepts are emerging. Flintham Cabins is excited by the possibilities and would love to talk to you about cargotecture – contact us today.

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