Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cargotecture - A World of Possiblity in a Metal Box

Our country imports more than it exports. One byproduct of this recent development is the metal mountains of empty shipping containers piling up at our shipping ports and transport centers. What to do with them all?

Groups of innovative architects have an answer. How about a house? An artist studio? A weekend get away spot? A clinic in a remote area? Relief housing after a natural disaster? HyBrid Architecture of Seattle and other companies like them around the world are experimenting with building prefab, ecologically intelligent structures from empty cargo containers.

A 40 foot container costs from $500 to $2000 plus a shipping fee to your building sight. That's kind of amusing...a shipping fee for your shipping container, but anyway. A company like HyBrid will outfit the container with window, insulation, and all the desired ammenities from upscale to utilitarian.

The containers as housing are interesting eye candy to some and hideous eye sores to others but our concept of the world is changing. It's time to utilize the junk we've created and reconfigure the way we think about our right to a disposable lifestyle. If not for a house, the containers make perfect low cost structures for clinics in remote or impoverished areas. A building such as this might mean the difference in a non-profit having the money to start medical services or not. Facility expenses can be a huge burden when calculating the money needed to get a project off the ground.

HyBrid has built a studio cabin in Enumclaw, Washington. It's a 320 sq. foot masterpiece full of natural light and urban attitude in the woods. There are intriguing aspects of building with containers, besides the availability and economy. All the structural load in an 8-by-40-by-9 1/2-foot container is carried by the corner castings, steel columns at each of the four corners. This means that doors and windows can occur anywhere else in the structure. Whole walls can be cut out and replaced with glass, and interior walls can be anywhere or nowhere. The boxes can be stacked like giant Lego blocks, cantilevered into space to create intriguing overhangs and practical decks, or cut apart and reassembled into new configurations.

Read the August issue of Readers Digest for a quick snipet about cargotecture or go to to see renderings of the company's designs and vison of cargo communities.

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