Shipping containers (referred to as ISBU's when used in buildings) can be wonderful building blocks, and horrible building blocks. It all depends on the design and designer.
To premise, I'll say that I am an aspiring expert in the subject of container buildings. My company Kat5
specializes in building with containers. Some of the projects we have going on now include a school (which you can see the time-lapse
of it being built on the Kat5 page), houses, shrimp farms, stadiums and more. I'll being giving a lecture in Vegas on the 12th about container buildings at the NPSA conference if anyone is interested in learning more.
There are certainly a lot of interesting examples of container buildings out there right now. Some good, and some bad. With containers, you get a system that is built to be used in a certain manner. If you go outside of that manner or system, then you're really wasting time and money, while negating any benefits that the containers offer. The key with containers is to think inside the box, not outside of it. It's important to remember that "Shipping containers are made for shipping and they do that job well." When you start to change use, you start to change usefullness.
Here are a few pros and cons to mull over:
-Extreme strength. These things are made to carry 57,000 pounds each, stacked 9 high, while being shipping across the ocean. The whole thing is essentially a giant box truss. All the of weight and strength exists on the 4 corners. For the money, you get a much higher strength building for less money (if done right.)
-Movable. One of the best reasons for using containers, is if you need the building moved or rearranged later. The Waldorf School is on leased land, and they will have to move in a few years. They paid about 80% of what they would have for normal construction, and they will be able to pick up the building and move it with them in a few years. We have another house under construction that we can pick up pieces of and rearrange them as we add on.
-Stackable. It's very cost effective to go multistory with these things. You can go 8 or 9 high without a second thought.
-Sustainable. Upcycling these containers saves time, money and energy. As stated before, it's more energy effective to reuse than to recycle.
-The Cool Factor. If done right, then can just look plain ol awesome.
-A booming market with lots of potential clients.
-In some areas (not to many) permits can be difficult as it is outside the norm.
-Major price fluctuation in the market for containers
-Limited to High Cube containers, which are 9'6 tall rather than the normal 8'0
-Cutting and welding can be expensive.
-Can be expensive to insulate poorly designed buildings
-Can be overly expensive is poorly designed, and when ignoring the "system" they are made to work with.
-Limited amount of engineers and contractors who can do the work, though in this economy more and more are excited about it.
-M.E.P can be difficult, and usually needs special consideration.
The bottom line is: when used for the right reasons, containers are extremely effective and affordable. When used for the wrong reasons, containers are extremely ineffective and expensive.
As another note (which is important to guys like me who are still working on their license (which is near impossible in this economy.))...You need to have a licensed architect or engineer to work on these projects. They fall out of the traditional building categories which can be done by unlicensed designers.
Jeff Hammond Assoc. AIA
Owner Hammond Design
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