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The Green Life: Recycled Shipping Containers: the New Building Blocks

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June 30, 2009

Recycled Shipping Containers: the New Building Blocks


Homes made from shipping containers may be a far cry from the boxcar children's basic shelter, but you still have to wonder if Warner's novel helped inspire the latest recycled building material. Many of the once unsightly steel boxes now have basements, balconies, and spiral staircases.

Shipping-container homes range from the simple but sustainable one-container Ecopod to the luxurious two-story Redondo Beach Container House, which won an award from the American Institute of Architects for its innovative design.

It’s not just the idea of recycling some of the 18 million cargo containers in use worldwide that has architects excited. In many ways, the containers make ideal building material. Their building-block structure makes construction quick, they’re cheap, and they're built to withstand incredible weight—as much as 15 tons, according to SF Blocks, which sells the containers. That strength helps the boxes protect cargo as they get carted all over the world, but it can also help a home survive a tornado or hurricane.

Don’t want to be stuck using last season’s recycled building material? You can order a do-it-yourself, prefab container home kit from LOT-EK and be the first on your block to have walls of continuously welded 14-gauge steel.

--Sarah F. Kessler

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