03/03/2010

Modular architecture - shipping containers

 EN FRANCAIS

When reading this article in Freshome about an house made of shipping containers I immediately though of the BBC Box on which I posted an article soon after its departure.
It was surprising to discovered that the BBC will be turned the Box into a soup kitchen in South Africa, this links even more the two projects as both are about recycling and globalization.
French architect Claire Hélène Drouin  based in Marseille decided to build her house facing the harbor using second-hand shipping containers given the economical and environmental situation.
You can follow the building process on the owners' blog in French.

 Photo from http://estaqueconteneur.over-blog.fr

To me this kind of building was unusual, but by googling it, I found out that was a new trend amongs architects specialized in modular bulding and recycling.

These steel intermodal containers seems to have many advantages:

  • Containers are very sturdy as they are designed to endure extreme conditions (wind-proof, resist to salt water, heat shock, dust ...), to carry and support heavy loads (when stacked up in high columns)
  • they are cheap and can be found in abundance (a lot are stocked empty in Europe and US harbours). A second-hand container cost around 1500$ (returning an empty container to its origin cost 900$). Cost is low compared to a standard brick and mortar structure requiring more human labour and larger foundations. Their installation is really fast.
  • they have standardized dimensions and are modular, so they can be combined into larger structures. This simplifies design, planning and transport.
  • they are ecological as by using it the iron is recycled and there is no need for big foundation structure etc.
  • in some countries, situation, the container are considered as temporary building (as they can be easily dismantlement) so less paperwork is required to get a building permit.
 However, as always, there are disadvantages

  • As steel conducts heat very well; containers will  have to be better insulated than other traditional structures to avoid overheating
  • a crane is needed to lift containers
  • the use of steel, is not always esthetically accepted by the local authorities, so it might be difficult to obtain a building permit
  • pollution due to the treatment of the timber floors with insecticides, cargo spillages or contamination inside the walls, solvents released from paint and sealants
 More info
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shipping_container_architecture http://www.architecteo.com/architecture-container.html

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