New Container Architecture : Design and Sustainability



The new container architecture is one of the most amazing areas of development in architecture today. Shipping Container Architecture has increased its appeal in past few decades and what will be served is going to be something peculiar. Architects have created everything from beautiful homes to futuristic buildings using these steel scraps. The use of design and the power of sustainability is very high in these cargo/shipping containers.

The new container is easily portable, reusable and environment friendly. New container architecture has evolved as one of the simplest way of building house with comfort for each, be it a residence, a work place or any other facility. As the population in metropolitan cities has reached an alarming level these new development of building a residence in the floating steel shipping containers is very practical idea for people needing instant, designer and sustainable house. Simple construction and strength to withstand any weather conditions, this new architecture is very much useful in time when emergency shelters are required and during immediate transfer work.

Container architecture due to its amazing minimalistic design and outstanding sustainability is no more under the name of “Temporary” and is considered as one of the important invention and used frequently for building residence, public buildings and so on. The researchers, builders, developers have remarked these containers as most durable and low cost factors with other advantages of prefabrication and modularity and its characteristics. Architectures have built amazing designer buildings and there some unique constructions with container which have become popular landmarks.

It’s a big sustainable box. The cost of sending empty containers back to their original land is very high. Architects claim that after appropriate coating are installed the suitability, effectiveness, feasibility of the building container in terms of structural strength and their energy efficiency increases and they reflect about 95 percent of outside radiation, resists the loss of interior heat, provides an excellent air infiltration barrier and does not allow water to migrate in.

These shipping containers are self-supported. They have beams, stout, ply wood flooring, marine-grade already placed inside. These inbuilt facilities help in reducing labor works and fasten the home building process with much more attention to design and interior. Ceramic paint used as an adhesive, an insulator increases the capacity of this house as equal to conventional house. It also gives mesmerizing look and no one can identify whether it is a container or convention home. Shipping containers have also been used as:

Press boxes, Emergency hurricane shelters for thoroughbred horses, Concession stands, Fire training facility, Military training facility, School buildings, Apartment and office buildings, Artists’ studios, Stores, Movable exhibition spaces on rails, Tel-co hubs, Radar stations, Sleeping rooms, Recording studios and so on.

We people in India can very well adapt this new venture and replace slum huts with these scraps and give a healthy living to poor kids and their family. These containers can also be helpful in disaster prone areas it will be a really great help and many lives can be saved where there is high risk of floods and storm.

The shipping container can also enjoy a second life. People have found a creative way to turn old containers into homes, studios, and dwellings. This proves that even shipping containers can make beautiful and comfortable households. This invention and innovation truly deserves applause. These containers have life span of more than 20 years and even more if properly maintained and taken care of.

Everything in this world has two sides. Everything has pros and cons and so these containers. Let us take a look at these merits and demerits of shipping containers as it is you, your family or your friends who are going to live in it A at some point.


Strength and durability: Due to their high strength of resisting harsh environment ocean salt or road alt while transported on roads these containers may be adapted for secure storage.

Transport: Pre-fabricated modules can be easily transported as there is no risk of damage.

Availability: Used shipping containers are available across the globe.

Eco-Friendly: Weight of a normal shipping container is 3,500 kg and when recycled thousands of tons of steel is saved and due to this while rebuilding with container bricks and cement used in traditional buildings are reduced which causes no harm to environment.


Temperature: Steel conducts heat very well so it could be very hot for people living in it during summers.

Lack of Flexibility: Although shipping containers can be combined together to create big structures but this is very time consuming.

Solvents: Solvents released from paint and sealants used in manufacture might be harmful for people and can cause damage.

Damage: Steel is very much prone to damage. While in service, containers are damaged by friction, handling collisions, and force of heavy loads overhead during ship transits.

Take a look on these 10 beautiful and mesmerizing houses built with shipping containers:

Decameron Design Shop, by Studio MK27 built with 7 containers.

Containers of Hope, by Benjamin Garcia Saxe

The Container Bar in Austin, Texas

Zigloo Domesticate Complete, by Keith Dewey

Cross box House, by CG Architects

Architecture firm 4D and A built the New Jerusalem Children’s Home in Johannesburg. This building is built with 28 containers.

City’s Mill Junction property, a combination of grain silos and containers, houses nearly 400 students in Johannesburg.

Ecosa Design Studio - Flagstaff, Arizona - Six Shipping Container Home (5)
Ecosa Design Studio – Flagstaff, Arizona – Six Shipping Container Home

Container Guest House, by Jim Poteet

Bharati Antarctic Research Station, India’s third permanent structure in Antarctica

While researching about this new container architecture and about its design and sustainability I came across this statement of Architect Travis Price. He said, “Re purposing sea containers has been proliferating globally for years. However, today with over 700,000 fallow sea containers alone in the US, their reuse is not only an ecological necessity, but one that will help put the US construction industry back to work locally.”

There are advantages but its champion are yet to learn some things. The world over want homes that feel safe as well as are permanent. So containers will have to overcome the stop-gap and make-do dwellings if they are ever want to become the permanent solution to house crisis. Robust, lavish, and inexpensive, cargo containers have taken the architecture world in a blizzard ultimately transfiguring into much more than simple metal boxes. Architects today have made containers cooler and affordable. The task for future architect is who will be able to shape it in most creative and not in a gimmick way. The answers are not known but it is the next topic served on plate. I can’t wait to see what will be the future of this architecture.


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