Portable Container Homes: Low-Carbon Buildings in the Post-Industrial Era(1)

The container was originally just a simple means of transportation, but people found it suitable for human habitation. The portable container homes seem to have both global and local, temporary and permanent, limited and infinite qualities at the same time.

The recycling and reuse of waste and second-hand containers enable the original high-carbon steel plate materials to be fully used, reducing a large number of repeated pollution caused by returning to the furnace and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. We believe that in terms of cost, portable container homes still have their own advantages even compared with prefab houses.


hydrogen container 1
hydrogen container


The Queen of Changes in Architecture


Containers are widely used in global maritime, land, and air transportation as a modern logistics carrier with the rapid development of world economic integration. The international shipping industry’s annual global container throughput figures are astronomical, so TEU is its international unit of measurement, not the commonly used unit of measurement “tons”.

TEU is the abbreviation of Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit in English. It is an international unit of measurement based on a container with a length of 20 feet, also known as the international standard unit. It is usually used to express the capacity of a ship to load containers, and it is also an important statistical and conversion unit for container and port throughput.

The information of the first person to live in a container is no longer available, but when it comes to container architecture, I am afraid that many people will naturally think of the hippies in the 1960s in the United States, the hippie movement, and the classic work of the beat generation “On the Road” “There is always the shadow of “box trailer”.

Containers, on the other hand, are quite different, and their modular nature offers tremendous freedom and creative imagining when using them as a building. Containers are somewhere between product design, architectural design and artistic creation, and in this sense they mark the crowning achievement of one field and at the same time the most basic element of another. As far as product design is concerned, they have a critical impact on the development of the freight industry and everything related to transport technology. As far as architectural design is concerned, the magical charm of containers is manifested in many aspects, especially their independent integrity as a basic component. They are both the product of highly precise and complex coordination techniques and a source of radical flexibility and free imagination.

In 2001, Urban Space Management, the developer of “Container City”, was commissioned to provide a container-attached teaching building for the expanding Tower Hamlets College in London.

Generally speaking, portable container homes will be concentrated in coastal port cities and form an interactive relationship with container terminals and urban landscapes. In this case, containers are mostly used for construction purposes required by supporting operations related to the container transportation industry.

On a larger scale, containers are used for various construction purposes related to engineering construction and the construction of emergency medical aid stations. The reason is that portable container homes provide the most convenient means to solve temporary construction problems, not only The construction is simple and cheap, and it can be built on the foundation of various conditions.

In addition, portable container homes are also widely used in some other places and purposes, such as temporary residences, temporary restaurants, street shops, Container Booth, etc. Most of them are accidental construction behaviors and are scattered in any corner of the city. There is a lack of scale and momentum, but the site and function types vary greatly, often resulting in unique architectural spaces and forms.


container booth product
container booth


In March 2010, due to the demolition, the former Fuzhou Silk Factory built a 3-story temporary container house with containers for the temporary residence of the employees in need. American architect Adam Kalkin designed a container house called “The Quick House” in California.


Advantages of portable container homes architectures


mud analysis cabin 2
mud analysis cabin


Convenience: easy to transport and easy to assemble, especially suitable for units that frequently change construction sites. Easy disassembly and assembly, superior performance, and lightweight. The house is a monolithic structure and can be moved as a whole, with a service life of more than 20 years.

Rugged and durable: The structure is composed of steel, which is stable and firm and has good shock resistance. It has a strong anti-deformation ability; good sealing performance and strict manufacturing process making this kind of movable room have good water tightness.

Inexpensive: Reusable. Recycling a waste container can save 1.7 tons of steel and 0.4 cubic meters of wood, and reduce carbon dioxide by 3.49 tons. If 100,000 waste containers are used in a year, 349,000 tons of carbon dioxide can be reduced, and 340 million kWh of electricity can be saved. Container module technology can reduce construction time by 50%.

Featured design: Use the characteristics of personalized creation to develop personalized art. Make it personalized, in line with personal characteristics and pursuits. Many combination spaces can be derived, such as meeting rooms, dormitories, kitchens, bathrooms, etc.

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