A research programme that’s looking at how to recycle used shipping containers into emergency housing in disaster areas isn’t so outlandish. In fact, ISBU (for “Intermodal Steel Building Unit”) construction has taken off big-time in recent years, due in part to a global glut of used shipping containers created by the rapid expansion of exports from China.
While that surplus has dwindled in recent years, fans of shipping container housing point to numerous other benefits: built to stand up to rough climatic conditions, steel containers are corrosion-proof, fire-proof and — when anchored in place — able to withstand both hurricanes and earthquakes, according to the ISBU Association International. In fact, the group calls the containers the “strongest building construction on the planet.”
There’s actually precedent for using shipping containers for emergency shelter: following the deadly earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province in May of 2008, some people whose homes were destroyed were housed in a shipping container complex that was covered under a tent to shelter them from the sun, as the photo up top illustrates.
The for-profit organisation PFNC (which stands for “Por fin, nuestra casa” or “Finally, a home of our own”) aims to recycle surplus containers into safe housing for poor factory workers in Mexico. Homes like the one pictured here (right) will include one or two bedrooms, a stove and refrigerator and 3/4 bath … all for a projected price of under $10,000.
Global Container Partnerships is using shipping containers to provide low-cost buildings in places like Jamaica, Haiti and Liberia. One old container is now a school (pictured at left) in Mandeville, Jamaica.
The Dutch organisation Tempohousing converted and stacked multiple shipping containers to create a five-level labour hotel (right) that’s being rented by an employment agency to provide housing for workers from Poland. Each unit in the hotel has three bedrooms, shower and toilet, kitchen and TV/dining area.
In Australia, a company called Formas creates a variety of shipping container buildings for use as homes, businesses, classrooms, tourist cabins and worker housing. The complex pictured here (left) provides housing for miners working in western Australia.
In Uruguay, a former shipping container now functions as an outdoor sports shop (pictured at right) in a beach area for tourists.
Finally, a company in Mobile, Alabama, has come up with an innovative container-based solution to prison overcrowding (left). Jails on Demand converts the containers not only into sleeping areas for prisoners, but day rooms, shower and toilet areas and kitchens.