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Upcycling of Shipping Containers

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

It has been estimated that there are over 17 million shipping containers in circulation worldwide, and only about one third of these are in active circulation.  Since these shipping containers typically see an active use of only about 20 years, and since they are a resource-intensive product, there is a growing trend to re-purpose (up-cycle) old used shipping containers.  In fact, old shipping containers have a shocking amount of potential applications, many of which are overlooked and typically depend on the creativity of the person using the containers.

Used shipping containers can be re-purposed in order to create a variety of interesting and modern-looking spaces, enclosures, and structures.  In general, these can be categorised into housing structures, yard/landscaping features, recreational applications, commercial applications, structural elements, and artistic designs.

There is already one cleverly designed housing development in London that is made almost purely out of old shipping containers.  These containers were arranged in such ways as to provide comfy lofts and even have built-in windows and staircases.  Other living-related applications include the building of new wings on houses.  Need an extra room in your house, but you’re limited to a tight budget?  Consider designing your new room from an old shipping container.

Even some food truck businesses are being replaced by “food shipping containers”, which are modified to have hinged walls that can be closed overnight but opened for business.  Shipping containers also have the benefit of being fire resistant.  If a grease fire starts in a food truck, at least the whole store won’t burn down.  The container is also usually much cheaper for the business owner than buying a large truck or trailer.

Among the more striking and creative uses of old shipping containers are landscaping applications like sun rooms, gardens, tool sheds, and pools.  A shipping container can have the sides removed and placed onto moving hinges in order to have pop-up walls that can be returned to regular position during bad weather but lowered on nice sunny days.  By simply digging a large hole and filling it with a container with a removed-top, you can have a very basic swimming pool—of course you’ll want to paint the inside white, or another light color.  This sure beats the normal cost of swimming pool installation.  You can even build a multi-use structure that has a tool shed inside, and a garden on top!  If space is limited in your yard, this can be an excellent solution.

The use of shipping containers for novel applications has two major benefits.  The first is the low cost of shipping containers, compared to traditional building materials.  Shipping containers provide the buyer with a pre-made structure that already has great strength and durability and does not require any construction (aside from modifications).  Secondly, there is a great benefit to the environment by using recycled containers, which require a large amount of mined iron and enormous industrial processing.  By using shipping containers for your next do-it-yourself home project, you are potentially saving money and helping the environment.

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