I WONDER IF MCLEAN, the American trucking entrepreneur who was credited with the first truly successful shipping container in 1956 envisaged exactly what his latest invention would be used for. Who would have thought that shipping containers would not only revolutionise the way cargo is transported on ships across oceans, leading to an enormous improvement in cargo safety and capacity, but also go on to be recycled and used extensively in several innovative ways outside the industry?
Well, whether or not he saw the great potentials shipping containers held, I believe we have to applaud the genius of the human species for not only developing them to be indispensable transport tools but also forging them to be a bastion of limitless innovations and creativity in the area of property, building and housing development.
Shipping containers, (which are mostly made from either steel, Aluminium, fibre-reinforced polymer etc. to a combination of all, with closed-tops, hinged doors and corrugated walls on the top and bottom sides) have been utilised and reprocessed into several fascinating structures with attendant benefits, such as:
- Maximisation of limited spaces (most important to countries with the problem of space constraints)
- Saving of costs in the poorer parts of the world where constructing a traditional building can be very expensive.
- Functioning as temporary shelter houses or disaster shelters for people who have been displaced from their homes as a result of disasters or natural calamities.
- Provision of exquisite recreational atmospheres.
- Maintenance of a sanitary and hygienic surrounding.
- Finally, provision of an incredible aesthetic and fashionable trend of shipping container architecture.
A New Versatile Building Block
SOME INGENIOUS APPLICATIONS include: conversions into workshops, offices, student housing facilities, schools, laboratories, well equipped gymnasiums and fitness centres, base structures for restaurants, large shipping container homes, hotels and their adoption for high rising commercial attractions. They have also been reprocessed into open theatres and Bistros, vacation and beach residences, discothèques, swimming pools, even convenience features such as movable toilets and emergency hospitals.
A Tool to Address the Problem of Homelessness and Poverty
ASIDE FROM THEIR BENEFITS and applications, another emerging idea in the use of cargo containers for property development is the role it plays in the global housing crisis and if it really is the future of affordable housing. It is no news that house prices are soaring across the world which is placing home ownership out of reach for millions and according to housing charity shelter, more than 50,000 households a year are being forced out of their homes with more than 9 million renters in insecure rented accommodation in England. Fortunately, as millions of people need homes, millions of shipping containers are also going unused and even though the idea of living in a shipping container might seem odd to some people, it is important to note that they make for comfortable accommodation.
In their transformation into high quality affordable houses, they are easily insulated and fitted with everything that is required for human inhabitation like: windows, doors, indoor partitions, electricity and running water. Serving as cozy abodes in little or no time.
Furthermore, there are so many unused containers left to rust around the world (due to the shipping cost of sending them back to their port of origin) and putting these millions of containers into good use provides a considerably greener alternative to other building types.
Finally, It is worthy of note that even though necessity, (which they say is the Mother of invention) may have prompted the use of shipping container for property development, innovation and creativity are now at the front lines, gifting us with limitless applications; because when it comes to the creativity of Mankind… Well, our imaginations run as wild and inexhaustible as they come.