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Shipping containers quickly becoming Colorado’s favorite building blocks

If you live in the Denver, take a drive one morning to 25th and Larimer and buy yourself a cup of coffee at Huckleberry Roasters. While enjoying your cup of joe and reading the latest Out Front, take a moment to soak in your surroundings and you just might realize you’re sitting inside a shipping container.

Gravitas-8467-510x340Yep. Those same storage containers you see neatly stacked high on massive cargo ships, packed with everything from laptops to tennis shoes to blow-up dolls. The 8,200 sq. ft. business park, constructed of 29 shipping containers, was designed by the Denver-based Gravitas Development Group and is home not only to a coffee shop, but several restaurants and retails stores as well.

And these innovative spaces are not limited to the Mile High City: The Container Restaurant in Durango, Colorado was built using two shipping containers added to the side of Ska Brewery Headquarters on Girard St.

In Washington D.C., 18 shipping containers were used to construct an apartment building;  London, England boasts a 300-room hotel built with cargo containers; and in Amsterdam, college students live in large dorms made of repurposed steel boxes.

But you don’t have to move to Amsterdam for the cargo container living experience. Boulder-based architecture firm, Studio H:T, builds houses made of shipping containers, featuring (among other eco-friendly amenities) passive cooling systems and solar panels.

Another local business, Rhino Cubed (based in Louisville), has three different storage container designs for purchase. Ideal for an outdoor retreat or shelter, they provide about 160 sq. ft. of living space, and can be purchased “naked” or designed to work as a small living area complete with a sink, a bathroom, and a shower — all of which work off the grid.

Their “Zulu Queen” model features a number of eco-friendly designs such as a rainwater collection roof, solar panels with a 1,250-watt solar generator, and a cookstove that runs on denatured alcohol.

So, one may ask, why in the world would you use shipping containers as a building material?

Ubiquity:There are more than 34 million cargo containers in circulation around the world. Some of these containers end up on one-way trips, and an estimated 2 million are sitting in shipping yards just taking up space.

Cost: So what better way to utilize all these unused shipping containers than to repurpose them as building materials? Costing about $1,500 to $2,500 apiece, the containers are inexpensive compared to conventional building materials.

Uniformity: These plentiful 8×40 ft. containers are all the same size and can be stacked like massive Lego blocks to satiate almost any design requirement. This also significantly speeds up the construction of the building compared to
conventional methods.

Creativity: And who wouldn’t want to play with giant Lego blocks to build the home of your dreams? Just like when you were a 10-year-old kid playing in a pile of multi-colored Legos in the middle of the living room, you’re only limited by your imagination — and possibly your bedtime.


Check out our other green articles from this year’s environmental issue: