Creative Green Housing: Shipping Container Homes
National Geographic presents “Amsterdam’s Lean, Green Shipping Container Homes” featuring a unique and unexpected functional building material: discarded shipping containers.
Steel shipping containers that have run their course at moving sea cargo are now finding a second life as creative green housing units, thanks to “cargotecture“. According to NG, there are approximately 2 million steel shipping containers that are unused at ports at any given time. An estimated 18 million steel shipping containers are actively used at transporting cargo worldwide, all of which are destined for retirement after serving their purpose at sea. But the internationally standardized 40 feet long by 8 feet wide by 8 feet high are highly durable and designed to support up to 30 tons of cargo. Cargotecture takes advantage of these characteristics by reusing steel containers as convenient and affordable refurbished ready-to-use building units.
Amsterdam is one of the cities that have embraced the concept of cargotecture to meet the need for affordable housing, especially for its student population. Several students featured in the NG photo journal are shown living in apartment complexes and student dormitories made from steel shipping containers. The shipping containers are fitted with electricity, plumbing, insulation, flooring, and other utilities after being cleaned.
The shipping container homes need only a part of the energy, material, and funding that a new housing construction would entail. NG cites statistics from SG Blocks stating that refurbishing a shipping container for housing would take 1/20th of the energy needed to reprocess the same amount of steel. Fitting a shipping container as a housing unit also lengthens its functionality lifetime for another hundred years.
A steel shipping container reportedly costs only a few thousand dollars before fitting, making it a low-cost alternative to typically expensive housing units. Moreover, steel shipping containers can be reused not only as creative green housing but even as cafes, shops, and office buildings. Because of the ISO shipping containers’ uniformity in size and shape, they can be stacked as high-rise urban buildings without the need for additional support or external reinforcement. Not only can they be assembled in specific building configurations, their portability also makes them a potentially valuable option for disaster response programs as temporary housing for evacuees and disaster victims.
Steel shipping container homes can also be viable alternative housing units for disadvantaged people living in slums. NG quotes a grievous figure of 800 million people surviving in slums where there is often a lack of sanitary facilities, electricity, and clean water. Compared to typical construction costs, steel shipping containers can be refurbished with facilities on an economically-friendly budget. Amazingly, NG shares that half of Earth’s human population live in cities today. Projections put this figure at 60% by 2030. Yet the total land space of all our planet’s cities combined is only 2% of Earth’s land. NG gives an estimate of 95% of projected urban expansion taking place in developing nations’ cities, highlighting the challenges of increasingly crowded urban areas.
Creative green housing ideas like steel shipping container homes can be a substantial help to growing cities and their increasing populations around the world.
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