Posted on 4/1/2014 9:26 AM by Leslie Horn

Exceptional Green Living on Rosa Parks
Rendering of the Exceptional Green Living on Rosa Parks development in Detroit. Courtesy of Three Squared.

From hotels and private residences to office complexes and multifamily dwellings, cargo container construction has been an innovative building alternative to standard building practices since the mid-2000s. With 600,000 to 700,000 cargo containers sitting idle in and around the U.S. and approximately 20,000 to 23,000 cargo containers arriving daily, there is a surplus of resources for this type of construction. What makes cargo container construction a popular alternative to traditional building?

Exceptional Strength and Durability

High-gauge steel is used to manufacture these containers, providing a higher level of energy efficiency not seen in other building methods. Standard containers used for structures are 20-foot units that hold 38,000 pounds (19 tons) and 40-foot containers that have a maximum weight capacity of 44,000 pounds (22 tons). These are built to be stacked up to seven containers high during transit over rough seas, so they are an extremely strong and durable metal.

A cargo container is designed to withstand extreme temperatures, humidity, saltwater, and anything else that Mother Nature throws its way, including many natural disasters. There is hardly a better unit to use as a building block for durable structures.

This type of construction is a “no-brainer” fit for creating underground shelters, safe rooms, and housing for those rebuilding after natural disasters. Reusing existing materials also means no need to deplete the precious natural resources to create super-strong shelters.

Dramatic Time Savings

Employing this unique method of construction can eliminate 50% of the time required for traditional stick built construction methods. Typically, time savings are seen in the framing stage. Using cargo container construction methods, framing is completed in days versus the weeks or months necessary for stick built construction. Quicker construction means lower carrying costs and reduced liability insurance costs. With a faster turnaround, projects are completed on time or ahead of time.

A Cost-Effective Solution

Construction costs for cargo container-based structures are an average of 30% of other building methods. Cost savings are typically passed on to the building owner who is usually inclined to use those savings to enhance the interior finishes.

Since insulation is the single largest factor affecting a building's energy efficiency, improved insulation can make a big difference in end costs for facility managers. Unique insulation options are available for this type of construction to ensure amazing levels of heating and cooling savings without the bulk.

There are a lot of different and exciting things with these types of building blocks. They can economically meet the needs of multifamily and mixed-use facilities. Only the sky, and your imagination, is the limit to constructing attractive, green-alternative cargo container structures.

Leslie Horn is CEO of Three Squared, Inc.