Cargotecture – the Rise of Recycling Shipping Containers

Starbucks Container Portland

Starbucks, Portland

One man’s trash is said to be another man’s treasure, and now old cargo shipping containers are rapidly becoming sought-after treasure in the architecture industry.

The term cargotecture, coined in 2005 by HyBrid Architecture, is used to describe any building partially or entirely built from recycled ISO shipping containers. It may seem strange that such a simple, aesthetically-unappealing box could be so loved by modern architects, but the increased use of reclaimed materials in architecture is starting to show no bounds.

Starbucks Container Portland

Starbucks Container, Portland

In a world dominated by mass production, architects are being forced to find alternative ways of designing buildings that will make the smallest impact on the earth. Extending the life of discarded materials and saving salvageable items from landfill is a completely viable approach.

Architects have taken to using discarded shipping containers because they are resistant to fire, termites, hurricanes and earthquakes, proving extremely resilient. Somewhat like stacking blocks of Lego, steel or aluminum shipping containers are a perfectly strong building block.

De Maria Design Redondo Beach House

De Maria Design Redondo Beach House

In post-disaster areas, containers are a viable option for temporary housing and community centres as they require little change to their structures and are transportable.

Even coffee giant Starbucks has recently taken to using shipping containers as pop-up and long-term drive-thru cafes. Starbucks spokesman Alan Hilowitz said shipping containers can make sturdy temporary cafes when a store is closed for remodeling.

Freitag Retail Store Zurich

Freitag Retail Store, Zurich

If Starbucks is not proof of an emerging trend, there are several other shipping container projects popping up around the globe. From commercial buildings and residential homes to the Seventh Kilometer Market in Odessa, Ukraine, shipping containers are making a mark on sustainable architectural design.

From high-rises to beach cabins, the surge in the use of shipping containers is likely to continue well into the future. It seems architects have found their treasure and luckily there’s plenty to go around.

By Kristen Avis
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