The humble shipping container is finding new life in the U.K., where Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects has obtained approval to construct a series of homes out of the ubiquitous containers. This “cargotecture” project is aimed at providing cheap, social housing using recycled materials.
These microhomes will have a kitchen and living room in the front and a private bed and bathroom in the back, with a deck at either end. The top of the containers will be covered with sedum, a kind of succulent with shallow root systems and minimal watering requirements, which make them ideal for green roofs. To account for the draftiness of shipping containers, each home will be insulated along the roof, walls, and floor, and double-glazing will be applied to either end.
Shipping containers are an appealing construction material for social housing since they’re so much cheaper compared to the costs of labor and materials needed to build a more traditional home. Although prices can vary depending on the square footage and the nature of the construction, a shipping container home can easily cost less than £82,400, or about $100,000. In contrast, the average cost of building a house is around £238,900, or $290,000. Not only that, but they’re modular, durable, easy to transport, and save thousands of kilograms of steel from going to waste (about 3,500 kg, to be exact, or about 7,700 lbs). But they’re not without their downsides, as well.
Despite this, shipping container homes are quite popular in the U.K. REACH Homes, a community interest company, is planning to build 600 shipping container homes in Sheffield — each costing as little as £35,000 (~$42,500). In Bristol, the Help Bristol’s Homeless charity has constructed shipping containers to help the local homeless population. Of course, shipping containers aren’t just being used to provide affordable housing or to help the homeless; the world’s tallest shipping container building is scheduled to be constructed in London.
Admittedly, it’s only nine stories high — not very tall for anything that could be considered the “world’s tallest blank” — but it’s still an impressive project.