Shipping containers are the same all over the globe. According to the World Shipping Council, there are 17 million of them in circulation and due to international trade imbalances, more than half these containers never make it back to their point of origin. Rows upon rows of empty containers, stacked without any identified use, is a common sight at ports. Can these retired containers be used as affordable building materials? The answer is YES, and they have exciting design potential too.
Architecture using shipping containers for their structural strength and inherent building qualities of waterproofing is called Shipping Container Architecture.
Shipping containers offer themselves as modular building elements, as they are of the same width (8 feet) and two lengths (20 feet and 40 feet) across the world. This facilitates easy interlocking, stacking during construction and transportation. The shipping containers are supported by vast transport infrastructure — sea, rail and road. Due to their structural strength and resistance to heavy lateral loads like ocean water forces, corrosion, mold, termites and fire, they can be readily used to carry heavy loads. They can be effective building elements and helpful in structural stacking to create storeys while being cost effective (they cost between `85,000 to `1,82,000 on an average) as compared to masonry, which is much more labour intensive.[…]