Wednesday, November 28, 2012

People Just Keep Finding New Uses for Shipping Containers

From Propping up Buildings to Low Cost Hotels Those Boxes Just Keep on Giving
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – We have often written in the past about the use of shipping containers above and beyond their original purpose. Here we highlight some of the latest developments with assistance from guest contributor Bill Hinchliff, regional sales manager for container sales and leasing group ConGlobal Industries who reviews the growing trend to accept the humble box as a cheap but acceptable base for numerous diverse construction projects.

A trend in architecture has taken place within the last year, using shipping containers as sustainable buildings. Shipping containers are strong, eco-friendly, cost effective structures that can not only hold massive amounts of weight, but also last a life time in most weather conditions. This trend seems to have caught the eye of people all over the world. All types of buildings have been created. Buildings such as hotels, art exhibits, swimming pools, gardens, housing complexes, bars, restaurants, and shopping centres are appearing all over the globe. 

Since August 2012, in South Africa, Johannesburg’s Windsor East suburb north of the city is home to a project conceived and created by architect, Kobus Coetzee which initially received much resistance from local residents who saw the scheme as a way to introduce low value, cut price dwellings which would doubtless be an eyesore. Coetzee remarked:

“You deal with tight spaces and have to make it liveable and really nice. How do you prevent sharp corners after you cut steel? We had to figure that out. It comprised steel containers with polystyrene and mesh, which had to be fixed with galvanized straps drilled into the containers through the polystyrene and the mesh. And then it was plastered conventionally.”

The project, completed in just four and a half months, transformed the locality and with it the opinions of residents, costing 25 to 30% less than conventional methods being completed with integral heat pumps, a recreational flat roof and finished with tasteful paving surrounds and landscaping. On completion the construction group found themselves swamped by enquiries from neighbouring African countries.

In Christchurch, New Zealand, after the devastating earthquake that left the city in a shambles two years ago, we wrote of how twenty foot boxes were used as props to prevent the collapse of the Cathedral. Now a modular shopping centre called Re:START has risen from the ashes bringing people back into the city. With an estimated cost to rebuild the damage inflicted on the city priced at around NZ$20-30 billion, making it the most costly disaster the country has ever seen, schemes like this offer an economic, environmentally sound answer to certain situations whilst somewhat ironically actually offering better protection against future quakes. As Bill says it is good to see the people of Christchurch in high spirits, rebuilding after this horrific disaster.

In China, Meng Qingdong was similarly inspired by the 2011 Japanese earthquake and came up with the idea to build an hotel that is entirely comprised of shipping containers. He commented:

“The Japanese government imported shipping containers from China to build temporary houses for the [earthquake] survivors. It’s fast [to build] and [looks] good, and that inspired me to build the hotel. While the outside of the hotel might have someone scratching their head thinking ‘this is not very attractive’ the inside is a completely different story and this hotel offers the same amenities as any other."

What makes projects like these so special? It is the ability for the human mind to always innovate and try to create new ideas. Shipping containers aren’t anything new, but to integrate them into these types of buildings is new (because boxes themselves are relatively new) exciting to architects, malleable and, with the price of building materials being somewhat high, as well as the amount of time that it take to construct a building with traditional methods, it’s no wonder that people are exploring alternative solutions.

As some of our previous stories have shown containers have built everything from easily transported yet semi permanent medical facilities to sports centres plus many other housing projects such as the ‘Snoozebox’ demountable hotels and the 120 bedroom Travelodge in Uxbridge, England which was entirely constructed from eighty six steel boxes in 2008 and where now many visitors are unaware of the inauspicious start this building originally had. With more time and development, expect to see a plethora of this type of construction popping up everywhere.

Photo: Travelodge, Uxbridge under construction in 2008.

ConGlobal employ their own specialist teams to convert containers to a large range of alternative uses.