The steel shipping container, invented half a century ago, is the linchpin of global trade, used to transport everything from electronics to cars to wheat.
Designers and architects recognized the conversion potential of cargo containers early on, but only now are the steel structures beginning to fulfill their promise as building blocks. The "cargotecture" trend is hot, hot, hot. In America, the number of projects doubled in 2010, and it's showing no signs of cooling down.
Converting shipping containers to housing makes good sense. As a structural material, they're strong, cheap, and sustainable. An empty container will cost you anywhere from $2,800 to $4,800, and bare-bones architectural designs can be had for as little as $95 per sq. ft. Reusing old containers is good for a project's carbon footprint, and the modular containers are easy to build with, meaning less construction time.
Also, the steel used for shipping containers is designed to withstand the elements (without needing paint), and is strong enough to support the heavy load of a green roof. Finally, with the money saved on construction, shipping container homes give homeowners the freedom to green energy options like rooftop solar panels.
Photo: Front view of shipping container converted into an art studio in Amagansett, New York. (via Inhabitat)