We’ve seen teams around the world doing great things with shipping containers, or intermodal steel building units (ISBU).  That said, even carefully designed projects seem to have challenges.  ArchDaily, in a recent article called The Pros and Cons of Cargo Container Architecture, said: “Shipping container homes makes sense where resources are scarce, containers are in abundance, and where people are in need of immediate shelter such as, developing nations and disaster relief.

The pros — adaptive reuse and strong, steel-frame construction — are obvious and don’t need much discussing. ArchDaily describes some of the following potential cons of cargo container architecture:

Con #1: Toxic Paint Coatings
The coatings used to make the containers durable for ocean transport also happen to contain a number of harmful chemicals, such as chromate, phosphorous, and lead-based paints.

Con #2: Toxic Wood Floors
Wood floors that line the majority of shipping container buildings are infused with hazardous chemical pesticides like arsenic and chromium to keep pests away.

Con #3: Upcycle Energy
The entire structure needs to be sandblasted bare, floors need to be replaced, and openings need to be cut with a torch or fireman’s saw.”

Con #4: Ecological Footprint
The fossil fuels required to move the container into place with heavy machinery contribute significantly to its ecological footprint.

Con #5: Awkward Spaces
Taking into account added insulation, you have a long narrow box with less than eight foot ceiling. To make an adequate sized space, multiple boxes need to be combined.

Con #6: Opportunity Cost
In many areas, it is cheaper and less energy to build a similarly scaled structure using wood framing.

What do you think?  If you’ve worked with shipping containers, do you agree?

Credit: Håkan Dahlström.