What is Shipping Container Architecture?

Shipping Container Architecture is a style of architecture that has been around for several decades and has been gaining popularity in recent years. By repurposing the large, steel containers that carry imported goods from Asia and Europe onto North American shores, Shipping Container Architects are able to leverage a huge number of these sturdy, standard-sized structures that are too expensive to ship back empty to their countries of origin.

Here is a quick background:

Pre-fab – The idea of creating residential or commercial structures out of pre-fabricated pieces isn’t new. Historically though, pre-fab building has been associated with poorer quality and, therefore, carried less caché. In recent years, facilitated by a desire to keep costs low and to reduce carbon footprint, the movement is gaining momentum.  Now, in locations from teeming Hong Kong, population 7 million, to tiny Hillsview, South Dakota, population 3, shipping container architecture has become the epitome of “New, Now, Next.”

Cost Benefits – There is a surplus of decommissioned shipping containers available for sale in the USA today, keeping the cost of purchase relatively low even as demand climbs. Even factoring in the work required to transform a shipping container from a steel box to a stylized, reliable, human-centric building, shipping containers can be less time-consuming and labor-intensive than other forms of building/architecture.

Aesthetic – The increased prominence of Shipping Container Architecture can be linked to the growing popularity of the industrial aesthetic in architecture and design. For example, a condominium or office space retrofitted out of an old factory can fetch a greater purchase or rental price thanks to old wooden beams and exposed brick. These aesthetics combined with the inherent strength and durability of the shipping container structure, increase the popular appeal of buildings created from shipping containers.

Sustainability – Because the foundation of Shipping Container Architecture is the repurposing of existing material, it is, by nature, a sustainable alternative. This is especially true considering the reduction in carbon footprint from avoiding the melting down/destruction of these large shipping containers.

Popular Uses – Often used for permanent structures like retail shopping malls and residential homes shipping containers are also used extensively for events, exhibits and trade show displays. Because of its inherent versatility and portability, Shipping Container Architecture addresses many criteria, but the most important are the offering of unique, environmentally sustainable solutions for many space and housing challenges.

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