Trade Resources Industry Trends Are Shipping Containers The Answer to The World's Housing Crisis?

Are Shipping Containers The Answer to The World's Housing Crisis?

1.8 (25 Votes)

The world is facing a housing crisis.  Currently, millions of people do not have viable homes to live in.  Countries, such as India and China, continue to grow and progress, creating a great need for more affordable housing.  Moreover, much of their population is expected to move from rural to urban areas, thus resulting in a need for more urbanized housing in smaller areas. The price tag for a newly constructed home may be out of reach for many, thus exacerbating the crisis. Addressing the need of high demand for housing in the future can help growing economies to continue their development. 

One creative idea that continues to surface is the use of shipping containers. While using shipping containers for housing isn’t a new concept, the movement for their use has been gaining traction over the years. Companies that use shipping containers to transport goods often find it cost prohibitive to ship them back for reuse.  Instead, it is cheaper for them to purchase and use new containers, as opposed to shipping the old ones back. This creates a massive unused inventory. Some estimates place the number of unused shipping containers throughout the world at 40 million. Unused containers are often exposed to the elements, resulting in millions of rusting containers scattered throughout the world. 

Unused shipping containers can have an impact on the environment. Repurposing the containers by melting these steel structures down can use up to 8,000 kWh of energy, per container. Multiply that by the excessive inventory on hand and you’ll see that this can result in a severely negative impact on the environment. Converting these to home or office use, however, requires considerably less energy – 400 kWh.  Their steel frames make them easy to stack, cut, and insulate. The containers can be fitted to provide plumbing and electricity. Repurposing shipping containers is not only safer for the environment, they create a durable, safe, and reliable housing. 

Much of the work necessary to convert a shipping container to serve as a home can be done offsite. Once completed, they are transported to the site for installation. Empty land can quickly blossom into communities filled with these modular homes. Entire neighborhoods can be built to completion in the span of a few months. Moreover, shipping containers can also be used for retail stores, restaurants, and other establishments. Their boxy look can be used to their advantage, creating eclectic urban neighborhoods that attract professionals and younger families. 

Not only is converting a shipping container better for the environment, as opposed to melting it down and repurposing its steel, the modular home that it creates uses significantly less electricity than the traditional single home.  It is estimated that the monthly cost of electricity can run $50 per month, much lower than larger homes.  In addition, their compact structures allow for more people to live in one area, which can result in a better use of land and resources. 

While shipping containers may not be the end-all solution to the current and impending housing crisis, they offer a viable alternative. Repurposing containers can also have a lower impact on the environment, making these a viable and sustainable solution for the future housing crisis.

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Topics: Construction