There is a shipping container building revolution coming, but it won't look like a bunch of silly boxes.
Shipping containers are wonderful things that have changed the world – of shipping. In architecture, not so much, but architects and designers keep trying. Now, I literally grew up around shipping containers, back when they were expensive and not left sitting around in ports, and have always wondered why designers keep trying to squish people into boxes that were designed for freight, which is hard to do. It takes a great deal of talent and imagination to a) make it work and b) justify it as a reasonable and sensible thing to do in the first place. Here are the best and worst of the year in TreeHugger:
Yup, when it’s a hundred and ten degrees in the California desert, there is no better place to be than inside a shipping container. What could be more comfortable than a steel box? It is indeed a wonderful exercise in maximizing surface area, making impossible connections, creating unusable spaces.Critically acclaimed on just about every design website, the project is evidently starting construction in 2018. More: Shipping container house takes jumping the shark to new heights
It will be interesting to see how the designers cope with waterproofing and all the other issues of moving parts; there are a lot of complicated connections here. But they have done it. They have built the box that unfolds to five times its size in a matter of minutes. It is a dream I have personally had for decades, finally come to fruition. I am very impressed.More: Ten Fold Engineering thinks outside the box
We have often wondered on TreeHugger whether shipping container architecture makes sense. Now Indonesian architect shows us what is perhaps the most nonsensical and silly use of shipping containers yet, where they are a nothing more than a tilted hat on top of a monster house on the island of Lombok, an Indonesian island east of Bali.So why are they there? Drama. Excitement. In your face.
In the presence of this location on the hill, of course we have to be careful because this building will automatically become an icon of the surrounding environment.More: Monster house is topped with a pair of tilted shipping containersThis shipping container house makes sense
All the usual points about the silliness of shipping container housing apply here. There is no structural efficiency, there is no economy, it is impossible to insulate, it is one giant thermal bridge, it proves how shipping containers are not the right size for habitation (since they are cut to pieces) and everything about it is just about "look at me, look what I can do." As a building, it is totally nuts.Editor Melissa, who lives around the corner, described the owners' restaurants as "almost too rustic-hipster-cool, but the quality is undeniable." Same is true for the house. More: Shipping container house in Brooklyn doesn't make sense, and I don't care
Why we should be afraid, very afraid
More: Hotel in Manchester, UK is built out of some very strange shipping containers
Across the US and the UK and, in fact, everywhere, millions of jobs have been lost to offshoring and to automation. Construction is one of the last industries that has been barely affected by these changes, and that still provides lots of “blue collar” jobs to people all over the country. If this takes off, we might well see the kind of disruption in the construction industry that we have seen in everything else, where our buildings become like our iPhones: designed in America but built in China. We might get our housing faster and cheaper, but we might also lose thousands of jobs as the industry is offshored.
Shipping containers have changed the world, and they have changed architecture and design by globalizing components and materials. (Read what happened to granite counters here). But they have not changed the building industry -- yet. But watch what happens in the UK and the USA over the next few years as the labor market tightens.
Forget the silly houses with shipping containers sticking out everywhere; there is a real revolution coming and it won't look like a bunch of boxes.