Container Architecture: Sustainable and

May 20th, 2011 | Posted by tjones in Design | Sustainability

Shipping container architecture has got to be one of the most fascinating uses of upcycling that I know of.  Taking something that might otherwise be discarded to become a space that functions in new and inventive ways just opens up such a realm of possibility for creative and compelling sustainable design.  The Dekalb Market is a really great example of some innovative container architecture – let’s take a look at a few others.

1. Keetwonen is the largest container city in the world, designed for students in the Netherlands.  Constructed from hundreds upon hundreds of containers.  As their website states, there was skepticism that the project would be successful – folks were worried that they might be too small, too noisy, too cold, or too hot.  But the project has become a great success, and become a permanent neighborhood in Amsterdam: the site was first constructed in 2006 and was due to be disassembled by 2011, but this relocation will be postponed until 2016.

2. The Box Office, in Providence, Rhode Island is a fully functional office complex constructed from 32 shipping containers.  Not only is this space built from upcycled shipping containers, they are energy efficient – it’s expected that these offices use 33% less energy than a conventional office.  Moreover, the office was designed with low to no-VOC products and no petroleum-based insulation.  The Box Office was engineered with efficient windows and is climate-controlled with no fossil fuels, using air-to-air heat pumps, and utilizes dual-source lighting, which automatically adjusts interior artificial lighting according to the level of passive natural light entering the space.

3. The Nomadic Museum is perhaps one of the more famous examples of shipping container architecture.  Designed by architect Shigeru Ban, the Nomadic Museum is constructed from 148 shipping containers specifically to house and exhibit artist Gregory Colbert’s photography.  The portable building is constructed from a combination of shipping containers, cables, suspension rods, and cardboard tubes that form columns in the interior of the structure.  Because of the portable design of the museum, it has had a home in multiple global cities – from New York City, to Santa Monica, California; and from Tokyo to Mexico City.

To see more examples of shipping container architecture, try visiting the topic’s wikipedia page, or the unofficial online website for shipping container architecture.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit

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