Regular readers of TreeHugger will know that I am not usually a fan of shipping container architecture. My dad was a pioneer in the business and I have been surrounded by them since I was 10 years old, and have watched with some bemusement as they became such a meme. (See my history with them here). I always thought them too small, too toxic, and most importantly, part of a much larger infrastructure where they were not designed to sit still for long, but to move.
That’s why the work of the Danish company CPH Containers is so interesting. They are designing container projects for temporary use; their first installation is in a part the underutilized industrial harbour that is going to be converted to housing over the next decade. (You can see some of it in this visit to Paper Island, home of food truck heaven). Adele Peters writes about it in Fast Company:
“Most cities actually have a lot of land that is not being used for the next 10 or even 20 years, because of how cities develop,” says Michael Plesner, cofounder and partner at CPH Containers, the company planning the movable village. “They need to plan [subways], and they need to do all sorts of expensive infrastructure. When the more established city comes, we can just move the villages we plan to build. It’s kind of a frontier city that we propose, to pre-develop some of the outer areas of the city.”
CPH describe the designs as “honest aesthetics”- “materials and construction details are visible and accessible. This makes it easier and cheaper to separate materials and change and reuse individual components or rebuild parts of the house.”
There is a special service container that handles wastewater and supplies electricity and heat. Plesner explains: “The whole infrastructure around the city is also movable. We tried to make a city where you don’t dig in the ground.”
The shipping industry is seriously in the tank right now, and the Danish giant Maersk dumps 80,000 used containers every year. That should be more than enough to supply CPH with the feedstock for the 2000 housing units that they are dreaming of building before 2019.
It’s a clever plan, where the offsetting of the boxes means that there is less cut away from the sides while creating zones at the ends for sleeping and bathroom. It’s all very danish modern with wood clad walls covering wood fiber insulation. A lovely “winter garden” is attached to the prototype.
CPH plans individual shelters, a village “which changes location on the edges of Copenhagen as the city develops. The residents are urban developments new pioneers that creates life and finds the potentials in new urban areas ahead of the traditional urban development.” They also envisage a container Food Court.
But most importantly, it moves:
It is scalable construction without need of foundation and can therefore be installed in a fraction of the time it takes for normal construction. Moreover you can move container construction around. This opens up for entirely new ways of thinking about cities and housing.
This might be an example of shipping container housing that makes sense.