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Repurposing Shipping Containers as Homes, Offices and Warehouses

If you spend any time browsing Facebook or lifestyle sites on the web, you’ve probably seen some amazing pictures of shipping containers that have been repurposed as homes and workplaces around the world.

This trend has been gaining momentum for years now, and as a result something that was once exceedingly rare has become increasingly common. The reason for this big surge in popularity is due to the many benefits of reusing these containers, which go beyond their low cost and reliability. Let’s take a look at all the ways shipping containers are shaking things up in the world of design and construction.

The Basics

Shipping containers were a major development in the shipping industry, the brainchild of a North Carolinian named Malcolm McLean who owned a cotton trucking business.  McLean had a major realization one day while watching stevedores load and unload cargo, a process which took an incredibly long time because everything was packed differently.

McLean dreamed of a system of uniformly-sized, stackable and lockable containers that could speed the process up. He eventually sold his trucking company, bought a shipping company, renamed it SeaLand and introduced what would eventually become the modern shipping container.

There are currently over 17 million shipping containers in the world, with 5 or 6 million actively being used for shipping. Those containers that are in use will travel over 200 million miles this year, moving goods all around the globe.

The Port of Los Angeles processes the highest number of shipping containers per year in the US, over 6 million. These containers have a service life of over 20 years, but many of them end up out of the shipping cycle for use as storage, or in an increasing number of cases, as homes or workplaces.

A Perfect Fit

Shipping containers are the perfect building blocks for super reliable, easy to build, inexpensive structures, so they’ve become a great choice for builders looking to work on a budget or those who just want to have something unusual but sturdy.

The idea of using containers for building has its origins in American and Japanese avant-garde architectural movements in the 1960′s, but it wasn’t until the late 1980′s that a patent was filed for the technology to quickly and easily convert shipping containers into buildings. What led to this development? In the United States, the answer is simple: we had a major surplus of containers!

The US imports much more than it exports, so often containers entering our country won’t be refilled and shipped out again. According to the US Department of Transportation: Maritime Administration, in 2012 the US imported 17,541,120 containers yet only exported 11,935,906. All those extra containers mean that the price is always low, so they’re a very affordable option.

And many firms that work with containers will be quick to inform you that they’re also an environmentally friendly and sustainable option, since reusing them saves major resources and eliminated massive amounts of large waste. Their stackability and serious durability make them a very attractive solution to many people’s building needs. They can be built into a wide variety of configurations as needed to fit the specs of any project, even a modular vertical urban farm.

If you need a partner to help you strategically manage and successfully move your products out of the port and onto their final destination, be sure to download our latest eBook — Speeding Time-To-Shelf and Cutting Costs  a must read for today’s Logistics Managers.