Are shipping containers the answer to housing crisis amid expanding population?

Flickr: Jesse C Smith Jr

Apparently shipping containers may hold the answer to the housing crisis and the booming population. Yep, shipping containers. You know, those big rectangular containers stacked neatly on top of each other on countless ships. Well, they could be what gets us out of the housing crisis as the human race continues to enthusiastically populate the world at an alarming rate.

Seven billion in 2011? Pah, we can do better than that! And according to the United Nation’s estimates, we may be well on our way to welcoming the nine billionth person to our planet by 2050. Hmm, I think we may need a few more of those ship containers that have been floating around.

I can’t imagine what nine billion people would look like, but then I can’t really imagine what seven billion people look like either. I mean, it’s not like I’m fighting for my own space at the moment. Nor have I seen a stampede of people rushing into my home desperate to grab a bit of free space. In fact, I feel pretty comfortable, so-much-so, that the prospect of nine billion doesn’t fill me with the dreaded question ‘where are they all going to fit?,’ unlike some people I know.

But, I digress. Shipping containers. What’s so important about them that makes them the answer to our housing problems?

Well, unlike the unsustainable option that we have now with bricks and mortar, shipping containers are cheap, require less raw materials and generate a fraction of emissions as pre-assembled blocks that can just as easily be transformed into homes at a fraction of the price you would expect to pay for a traditional home.

Put like that it sounds like the perfect answer.

The use of shipping containers as a viable housing option is not innovative. In fact Urban Space Management (USM) has over 30 years experience in utilising shipping containers in and around London. With the containers used to produce doctors surgeries, cinemas and sports halls, USM has so far completed an impressive 60 projects since it began in 1971.

But, if you’re still questioning the fact that these shipping containers can actually be turned into homes, USM have already completed a residential project. In 2001, the four day project saw the four story high, 15 live-work containers put into place in the London Docklands complete with colourful paint and porthole windows. Connected and stacked like Lego, the way they have been designed means that future expansions can be added.

It may be a big step away from the norm, but considering these containers are made with more than 80 per cent recycled material as well as being strong and durable it’s easy to see why more people are turning their attention to them whether to start up a new business or as a holiday home.

While we may be a long way to actually seeing billions of people residing in shipping containers, the rate the world is being populated means we could see more of these units used as future residences in years to come.


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