Office Made of Shipping Containers a Cheap Green Building Solution

Office Made of Shipping Containers a Cheap Green Building Solution

NPR this morning has an interesting report on the confluence of a down economy and the green building movement: An office building made entirely of reused shipping containers.

The building, pictured at left, is in Providence, R.I., and NPR calls it possibly "the first permanent, multistory office building in the United States made entirely from shipping containers."

The article continues:

The three-story complex is divided into two sets of offices with a canopy made from the sides of containers covering an exposed central hallway.


"Our mantra was let the container be a container whenever possible. So we don't hide the dings," [owner Peter] Case says.

Dings and all, the building cost $1.8 million -- half the cost of his original plans for a conventional building, which Case scrapped when the economy tanked. There was no precedent in the U.S., so he had to convince Providence officials, who were a little hesitant at first.

Then he bought shipping containers for $2,000 each and welded two or three of them together, cutting out the sides to create an open floor plan.

Inside, it feels like any other office space. It took Case and his team six months to design and figure out the basics like installing windows, electric and plumbing. It took just four days to truck in the containers and plunk them down on-site.

This is of course not the first building made with shipping containers -- I wrote about New Zealand's container-based Rimutaka Prison earlier this year (on block of cells from the prison is pictured at right), and as far back as 2008 Travelodge opened a hotel in London made of shipping containers. (See also the picture below of "Container City," live/work units in London made of shipping containers.)

Photo CC-licensed by Fin Fahey


Around the same time, my colleague Leslie Guevarra wrote an in-depth look at the benefits of building with containers, as well.

But NPR's story caught my eye in part because it ties in the economic situation, and shows how re-use can be both the greenest and the cheapest option around.

Have you seen other interesting uses of containers in architecture? Let us know in the comments below.

Top photo courtesy Distill Studio via NPR.