Building design incorporates 65 shipping containers


June 29, 2011

A Los Angeles design firm has proposed using 65 shipping containers to build an environmental education center in the city of Long Beach (Image: APHIDoIDEA)

A Los Angeles design firm has proposed using 65 shipping containers to build an environmental education center in the city of Long Beach (Image: APHIDoIDEA)

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Because they are sturdy, waterproof, transportable, and perhaps only a little bit smaller than some low-rent apartments, disused shipping containers have become very popular for conversion into low-impact buildings. Past efforts have included using them as emergency housing, trendy relocatable bachelor pads, and portable restaurants. Now, Los Angeles design group APHIDoIDEA has proposed putting 65 of the things together, to create an environmental education center for the city of Long Beach.

The eCORRE (Environmental Center of Regenerative Research & Education) Complex would provide the public with information on topics such as solar energy, water collection, interior daylighting, rooftop gardens, passive cooling techniques, and reuse of grey water. The building itself would consist of classrooms, offices, an exhibition hall, and a public plaza. On the outside, it would also feature an open amphitheater, and - practicing what it preaches - a rooftop garden incorporating a rainwater collection system.

In order to create the building, the shipping containers would first be stacked together in a two-row rectangle. The middle of that rectangle would then be raised up in an arch, to create the plaza underneath it. The two rows would then be separated, to allow access to the inside of the containers. Finally, the arched containers would be angled toward the Sun, to maximize solar gain - some of them would be glass-fronted.

It should be noted that while the outer shells of the containers would form the walls and roof of the complex, the rooms themselves would not all consist of single containers. That said, however, systems such as power and water could be contained within individual containers, and essentially "plugged in" to the complex.

The use of shipping containers is appropriate for Long Beach, as the city is home to the world's second-busiest port. While it's still not known if the eCORRE Complex will ever be built, APHIDoIDEA's design was a finalist in the U.S. Green Building Council's ETDC 2011 Emerging Talent Design Competition.

Source: Inhabitat

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

I never understood these articles. I assume shipping container are re-used. Pure metal, so they are very recyclable. Why would you want to build ANYTHING our of used steel, you are just causing the market to mine more steel.

All of these areticles ASSUME that you need to do something with used containers, but never explain WHY. ANYONE?


It looks like an inefficient us of steel to me.


Dumbest things I\'ve ever seen.

Facebook User

abe - June 29, 2011 @ 06:10 pm PDT---- It is currently cheaper for China to build new shipping containers than it is to ship empty containers back to China.


I have to agree with Abe on this one. Typically shipping container designs are an excellent proposition for third world housing solutions. In this case however, I think the obvious necessity of additional structural steel negates any positive benfit of the reuse of the containers. You\'d be better off just designing the structure you need, then strip containers and use resulting panels for cladding. The design reeks of placing an importance on trying to look more eco than actually being eco.

All that said, the design would be somewhat intersesting if there were a dock within seight providing some contextural value to the design choice.

Andrew Rockefeller

Greetings! Since shipping containers are already made and available, they are an accessible commodity, that with a little creativity, effort and resources can be converted into useful, viable structures. They save additional materials, energy and time. We as a society must begin to think \"outside the box\" of conventionality if we are to remain successful. Recycling materials is paramount to this end. GOD Bless!


Could they be recycled? Sure, but being sold as components for building they generally go for more than the going scrap rate. That is the dollars and cents business model to why they all simply are not scrapped. Shipping them empty or full of scrap back to China requires that they be rated as \'sea worthy\' which means they are NOT in the category to be scrapped out anyway. The ones that are being decommissioned are no longer rated as sea worthy. So finding uses for them is a good thing. I have three on my property that I am using for out buildings, one is a shop with attached lean to style greenhouse, one is a storage building soon to be craft area and the third is an insulated reefer that I\'m hoping to convert to a guest space. They are also not all \'pure steel\', most have wood floors and many have other materials that would need to be separated for scrapping. In my case they make very affordable solid structures. I know many other people who use them in similar fashion. However I will be surprised if this gets approved as the counties have been denying building projects using them as they don\'t have the engineering calcs and codes to apply to them in such a way.

Robert Sawtelle

A bit of study and research on the topic of container architecture would help inform the comments here.

Albert Sudonim

Ask the ultra-poor around the world living in cardboard boxes in garbage dumps.

It\'s the labor.

If you had raw steel and wanted to make storm proof-houses, how much would that cost?

How would you deliver them?



Just call me ANYONE. A shipping container\'s usefull life as a shipping container is just 5 years, I don\'t know why. When the used containers are put to building uses you don\'t spend the energy to melt them down to form them into building materials or other items, you just do some refinishing and modifcations.

Dave B13

I think it would be better to use shipping containers for the poor to live in. For example in Haiti, thousands live in tents. The containers could be raised a little off the ground for plumbing and electricity could be brought in for lighting. Then small doors and windows could be installed and natural insulation such as palm fronds be placed on the roof to protect from the sun in hot areas.

Adrian Akau

I had a site office in one of these steel containers for two years. It was too hot inside when it was summer and full of condensation running down the walls in winter. It is not a good idea to use them as a home for anyone.


Gerard Sharry

A simple Google search online would answer most of the questions being raised by those who have commented here. I have been researching this topic for over a year, by reading books, and by interviewing people with experience.

My usual gripe, that applies in this case even more so, is the architect\'s proposal to use shipping containers to make it obvious that the building is built from used shipping containers. A better and more challenging concept would be the plans for a building made from shipping containers that looked like a normal building once it was completed, yet still maintains the structural advantages of the shipping container.

It\'s not necessary for the final design to scream, \"LOOK! I Made This Whole Building Out Of Used Shipping Containers!\" The mere fact that they were used in the construction should be enough. The biggest compliment to the builder would be that people would need to be told what the main building material was once it is finished.

The home that I plan to build out of shipping containers will blend in and look much like every other house in the neighborhood, except that it will be stronger and have a much higher R-value, keeping heating and cooling costs low.

Gene Jordan

With warmer weather we are having transient problems in Santa Cruz, CA. with storage rooms, garbage bins, foreclosed houses, and old motor homes being slept in. Shipping containers would be much better than trespassing to camp. Those encampments are filthy and unhealthy.

Chris Jordan

A forty foot shipping container has 298 square feet (27.685 square meters) of space. Not as roomy as most first world people are use to, but for a cheep, weather, earthquake, and termite proof house not bad.


Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. You don't mine it.

Kevin Stein

The current trade deficit makes ISBUs (Shipping Containers) viable. Containers are "at end of life" after five years due to depreciation and write-down, not box failure. It's a finance thing, not a "design and detail" thing. A 40' High cube container allows creation of 308 square feet of living space. This allows the creative among us to actually house a small family in ONE Corten Steel box affordably. Look around you and think about the state of the US economy. This isn't just about "third world housing" any longer. ALL families deserve a strong roof over their heads. ISBUs can accomplish that. And, BTW: if your site office is in an ISBU and you weren't reflective enough to properly insulate the box (an easily accomplished task), you deserve to sit in your own sweat as you curse your betters... who put you there... :)

Renaissance Ronin
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