We?ve all seen a steel cargo container on the back of a huge truck, maybe barreling past us on the highway. Currently, around 17 million shipping containers exist worldwide, but only 6 million are in use. That leaves 11 million shipping containers unused, and they take up a lot of space! But the world is finding a new use for steel shipping containers, from homes to businesses to farms. Each recycled shipping container saves resources in two ways: it reuses about 3,500kg of steel, thereby not using other building materials to create the needed structure.
A steel cargo container offers a wide range of design options for housing. The smallest, at around 160 square feet, is suitable for a tiny house or caravan-style space, and the larger containers, which almost double that, offer further possibilities. However, arranged in multiples, the possibilities are endless. Projects are underway to create student housing, emergency housing, and temporary housing for the homeless.
From a portable office to a container pop up shop, a steel cargo container can be just about anything your business needs it to be. Think, as the saying goes, outside the box. A few years ago, Google used recycled containers to create a floating showroom on a barge in San Francisco. A sportswear company built interest and interaction by creating a hidden store inside a shipping container and challenging customers to find it. Another new trend, following the food truck craze, is larger portable concession stands, complete with interior seating.
A Paris-based company has developed some great ideas for growing food in steel cargo containers, particularly strawberries. Using the right lighting and filtering mechanisms, in
climate controlled containers, they had great success, and the implications for food equality, especially in urban and low-income areas, are astounding.
Other organizations and companies around the globe are actively seeking ways in which this type of agriculture can be improved and made widely available. So far, two consistent benefits are the ability to grow food year-round, and higher yield in shorter time than conventional growing.
Overall, no matter the purpose, using recycled storage containers has several important benefits. They are readily available, and inexpensive to buy, modify, and install. They are durable against harsh environments, and designed to withstand extreme weight. Made in standard sizes, and built with the ability to interlock, it is easy to combine steel shipping containers, creating custom designs for a variety of uses. The best part is that they are also easily dissembled and moved to another location or new arrangement. The moving process is also easy, since the containers? original use was, after all, to transport items over the road or on a ship.
As our society grows ever more aware of ecological and environmental concerns, we are finding new ways to reduce, reuse, recycle, and make wise use of our resources. Housing, food, and commerce can all benefit from the growing creativity and engineering that are improving the steel storage container reuse efforts.