A few years ago an article by TIME magazine popped up on my radar: “Old Shipping Containers Are New Housing Trend.” At the time I read the article I thought how cool and innovative an idea it was. There is an excess of empty shipping containers lying around without a use that could easily be turned into a living space. Except not exactly. Shipping containers are relatively cheap, costing about $2,800 to $4,800. They come in a few sizes, narrow and long (8 by 20 feet) or narrow and longer (8 by 40 feet). However, “cargotecture” isn’t as great as it seems on the surface.
To start, shipping containers are not built with the intention of becoming a living space. When built the exterior coating of the steel structure is covered in lead-based paints and other hazardous materials to be durable for various kinds of transport. Moreover, the wooden floors that fill the containers contain pesticides to kill any pests and animals that might get in the containers during transport. Sounds exciting, right? When a cargo container is chosen to be used for architectural purposes it must be cleaned of any rust and hazardous materials.
What struck me most about using shipping containers as a habitable space was the dimensions that one is forced to work with. The container is not a usual space ratio of a room or office that is common. It would be interesting to look further into studies of domestic cargotecture and see how people lay out the rooms of a house.