Hey, I thought of that!

1 04 2010

This topic falls into that category of “Hey, I thought of that!”  You know what I’m talking about – that light bulb moment of great clarity when a brilliant idea pops fully grown into your head and you say “Wow, what a great idea, I should do that” only to see YOUR idea a short time later having been fully realized by someone else.  Yep, this is one of those for me.

I live near a major port city in the Pacific Northwest and the graveyards of unused steel cargo containers dot our landscape.  We import way more goods than we export so the extra containers, hundreds of  thousands of them, are just stacked and stored on vacant land.  You’d think they would reuse them but it costs too much money to ship them back overseas and melting them down to recycle the steel after their 7-year life span is over takes an enormous amount of energy.

Back to that brilliant idea I had a dozen or so years ago that didn’t go anywhere (like so many of them….come on…you know you have them too).  Why don’t they reuse those containers as pre-fab steel buildings?  They would make great cabins, sheds, temporary emergency housing, so many things could be done with them.   Such a waste to let them sit and rust.

Well it turns out that a lot of people had the same idea I had and they actually put them into action.  I recently visited Mike Corvi in Portland and got a tour of his adorable little garden cottage that he built out of a shipping container.  These images appeared in the local newspaper, The Oregonian, and were taken by photographer Kraig Scattarella.

In 6 short weeks, Mike and the two builders who assisted him turned his container into a cozy little backyard retreat.  It’s outfitted with rigid foam insulation, birch plywood paneled walls, mahogany flooring, electricity, heat and cable.  It has a full size sliding glass door on one end that looks out onto a petite front deck.  Two full height cargo doors, clad in a warm tongue and groove paneling, completely open up the back end to the outdoors and the full height side wall window offers a view of the landscaped backyard. It was snug, well appointed and best of all made use of an abundant resource that would otherwise go to waste.  Well done Mike!

Now Mike did trick out his adult playhouse with some pretty nice stuff so he has more than a few dollars invested.  The 8 ft x 20ft containers can be bought for a few hundred dollars up to a about $3000, depending on condition.  Their super strong steel structures are enclosed with lightweight corrugated steel walls and two big cargo loading doors that open up at one end.  Because they are built to be stuffed and stacked up to 7 high their engineering is super beefy.

There’s quite a bit of buzz around converting containers for use as emergency housing and a research team at Clemson University has received a grant from the EPA to study and produce a prototype to be used for the Haitian earthquake victims.  The project has been awarded an Environmental Protection Agency P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) grant.  Clemson’s team expects to be able to start building prototypes in the Caribbean next year.

I’m so glad this idea is seeing the light day!

Check out more amazing container home images at DesignCrave.com. Ridiculously creative and well, I just wish I’d thought of that!