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Alternatives to Shipping Container Architecture

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I have been thinking a lot lately about how to make small-scale studio and office space available for an inexpensive price. While some cities have lots of empty old factories, newer cities often lack those and only have office buildings available. Even retail big box buildings don't necessarily work - they are often located not in the city itself but in the suburbs. Shipping container Architecture seemed to fit the bill - not only was it reuse, it was creative, interesting, and flexible.

As I looked into it more, I discovered a few major flaws. First, to make it truly habitable required a lot of work - you couldn't just plop it down, you had to insulate it, replace the floors, probably refinish the whole thing...the cost of converting one was more than the cost of the container itself. Then there is the whole safety and structural side to it - you essentially have a metal over if a fire were to break out, and cutting into the side walls created structural issues you had to work out. And then, containers aren't exactly spread out evenly - they usually build up in ports, not necessarily where you want them. so you have to deal with transportation costs as well.

But the big thing I discovered is that shipping containers aren't actually a surplus item. There has been a shortage of them for a few years now. At one point Steel was pretty cheap in China, so for companies that were shipping from Asia to the Us it was not cost effective to ship them back. But that has changed - steel got expensive, the recession caused many shipping container factories to close, and now there is a big shortage of them. It takes so long to refurbish existing ones they cant keep up, and that is driving up shipping costs and this the price of products.

So now I am looking for an alternative to the shipping container. I like the flexible modularity of it - kind of like assembling Lego bricks. I also like the structural strength as well, and the lower labor cost of erecting them. But I also want something that is green and cheap, and is easy to use anywhere. What else could we use as a quickly built, low cost, green studio space??

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