I’m still intrigued by the idea of the shipping container as an element for some kinds of basic construction.

There are cases where it becomes nothing more than an image element, and the containers themselves are so worked over and re-engineered that any benefit that may have come from using them as a simple prefabricated system is lost. I still find those interesting visually, sometimes. But I don’t particularly like the abandonment of the essentials of the material. If you are going to use something, you ought to use it honestly.

I’d like to work on a small house concept that uses a couple of containers as the structural base. I have a couple different elements I have been thinking about, but I’m not sure they are compatible with one another.

One idea is that the container itself is able to support a good deal of load, and that one of the biggest drawbacks in using them is that the containers themselves are narrow. But it should be possible to set two containers down with some separation between them, and then use some other structure to span the gap and create a larger space.

Another idea I’ve had is to create a bracket that could be attached to the container itself which would serve to create an overhang and roof. The projection from the face would help to provide shade for solar control. I’ve also thought that vegetated roofs for shipping container construction just make so much sense. Containers are strong enough to support the load easily, and this bracket idea should be robust enough that it could carry the roof system out to the edge.

Putting the two ideas together means that the spanning structure needs to become heavier if it is going to carry the load of a vegetated roof. So the two ideas aren’t incompatible. But I don’t know how well they go together necessarily.

One further idea is the concept of using shipping containers stacked on top of an existing building as a fast and interesting method for adding inexpensive space to a building. The image at the top is an incomplete model for the Longshore project (what I previously called the Theoretical Project, where 56′ long containers would be used to span the existing one-story building (assuming the masonry walls were, in fact, adequate to support the added load).
This photo from an earlier post about that project shows the existing building from a similar perspective.

The projecting roof on top of the containers that is, in fact, the bracket/overhang green roof. The stack of 3 containers (meant to be a stair tower to the new second floor) is perhaps committing the very sin I was just complaining about in using the container look, but requiring a lot of extra structure to actually make it work. This was never anything but a concept, so I never got further into how it might actually work.

I expect I will keep on exploring these ideas in the coming year. Stay tuned for more.

Other articles on the topic of shipping containers:
The Pros and Cons of Cargo Container Architecture from Arch Daily

Exhibition about shipping container architecture in Dusseldorf earlier this year. (Click the headline image for the slide show)

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