Using containers to build homes has increasingly become a trend in the past several years because it can be cheaper and faster than using traditional construction methods. There are also plenty of containers at most major ports.
About 18 million containers are used worldwide to transport a variety of everyday products, such as cars, toys and food. Because the United States imports more than it exports, many containers end up stacked at ports.
SG Blocks, a company whose name stands for safe and green blocks, has made a business from the container overflow. Co-founder David Cross previously worked as a merchant marine and spent a lot of time at sea, dealing with shipping containers.
“As you’re looking down the deck of the vessel, you see hundreds to thousands of containers perfectly configured,” Cross said. “They were stacked nine high below deck, five or six high on deck, and I just kept seeing hotel after hotel on the deck of our ship.”
Cross also saw value in the strength of the material. “The containers are designed for hostile dynamic life at sea … capable of carrying 60,000 pounds. It just made imminent sense, that with minor modification, it could become a multi-family living system.” In 2003, Cross partnered with engineer Steve Armstrong to help bring the idea to fruition. A year later, Hazelton’s house was built in South Carolina.
According to Cross, modifying containers into homes uses significantly less energy than melting them down. “These containers weigh about 9,000 pounds, and it takes about 9,000 kilowatt hours of energy to melt down 9,000 pounds of steel,” Cross said. “We modify that existing piece of steel with approximately 400 kilowatt hours of energy input. [That’s a] 95 percent energy footprint reduction.”