Having last looked at a temporary use of shipping containers as building blocks, with O+A's festival backdrop in Amsterdam, we're back in permanent territory (as permanent as new buildings are, that is) with 4D and A Architects' shipping container housing at New Jerusalem Orphanage at Gauteng, South Africa. The project is among the more ambitious uses of shipping containers we've seen, using 28 containers in all. Gizmag spoke briefly to its designers to find out more about it.

In an email to Gizmag, Mia Anfield of 4D and A wrote that the idea to use shipping containers came from the fact that two were already on site for storage. The company had already been interested in the work of Adam Kalkin, an American architect and prefabrication specialist who was among the first to put shipping containers to use as houses. The designers, it seems, simply put two and two together.

Completed in December, 2011, the entire construction period lasted six months, though Anfield points out that this was delayed by the arrival of materials to the site, many of which were donated. The project used 28 6- and 12-meter (20- and 40-foot) containers arranged both vertically and horizontally.

One consideration when building with shipping containers is thermal performance, particularly during cold weather or on hot, sunny days. We put this to Anfield, who said that design measures included "orientation of the building, timber screens constructed of eco-friendly composite decking, use of a roof garden for thermal mass and the inside walls and ceilings of the containers were clad in dry wall plus 50mm Isotherm foam insulation." The containers were raised on plinths to encourage the flow of air.

As part of the project, the old brick-built sleeping accommodation was converted into a new kitchen and dining room. The orphanage has also been fitting with solar thermal and photovoltaic systems.

Update September 7, 2013: This article has been amended, as the previously stated dimensions of the shipping containers, at 12 x 6 m, were incorrect.

Source: 4D and A, via Inhabitat