Re-purposing the Law of Economy

Re-purposing of containers, airplanes, train cars, vessels, tools, structures and machinery can save the environment and reduce needless extraction of resources.

Student Container Complex in Utrecht Holland

Student Container Complex in Utrecht Holland

In continuation of my story from yesterday about re-purposing and recycling, today I want to present some remarkable examples of what can be achieved with putting the philosophy of re-purposing into practice.

The Cargo Box or Container

Invented more than five decades ago, the modern shipping container is the linchpin in our global distribution network of products. In the containers go toys from China, textiles from India, grain from America and cars from Germany. In go electronics, chocolate and cheese.

I have been using containers “out-of-active-duty since the mid 1980’s, at first as onsite offices for construction sites and sales offices for resort under construction. In 1995 “my” island of St.Maarten was hit by a devastating hurricane Luis and thousands of homes were destroyed. We came up to Jacksonville several weeks later and bought hundreds of these metal structures to be used as housing. Cutting holes was an easy torch job, followed by placing prefab doors and windows and a house was ready in a day.

While a number of resourceful people have converted shipping containers to makeshift shelters at the margin of society for years, architects and green designers are now increasingly turning to the strong, cheap boxes as source and modular building blocks. Shipping containers can be readily modified with a range of creature comforts, and can be connected and stacked to create modular, efficient spaces for a fraction of the cost, labor and resources of more conventional materials.

Popular Student Housing in Amsterdam

Popular Student Housing in Amsterdam

In Holland they are now retrofitted to house students in Amsterdam and Utrecht. Billed as the largest container city in the world, Amsterdam’s massive Keetwonen complex houses 1,000 students, many of whom are happy to secure housing in the city’s tight real estate market. Designed by Tempo Housing in 2006, Keetwonen is said to be a roaring success, with units that are well insulated, surprisingly quiet and comfortable.

Each resident enjoys a balcony, bathroom, kitchen, separate sleeping and studying rooms and large windows. The complex has central heating and high speed Internet, as well as dedicated bike parking. Keetwonen has proved so popular that its lease has been extended until at least 2016 and more cities are now working out the logistics for similar projects.

Built in 8 days - Riverside London

Built in 8 days - Riverside London

In London they are stacking and modifying containers with fantastic views of the Thames River for an affordable rent. The Riverside Building hosts 22 offices in a modular design. Erected near Container City, the structure took a mere eight days (and 73 containers!).

Discover some of the exciting possibilities of shipping container architecture, from disaster relief shelters to luxury condos, vacation homes and off-the-grid adventurers. See what makes them green as well as cutting edge.

Another great example of repurposing is the Jumbo Hostel in Stockholm Sweden.

From Jet to Hotel - Stockholm International

From Jet to Hotel - Stockholm International

Visitors traveling to Stockholm have the option of sleeping on a plane! That may not sound like the most exciting proposition until you realize that the 747-200 in which they will be sleeping has been retired from flying, salvaged from being dumped somewhere to rot and turned into a low-cost, fully-furnished hostel that is perfect for overnight accommodation. The Jumbo Hostel is housed within a retrofitted 747-200 situated in the Stockholm-Arlanda airport. The jumbo jet has a long history of service – it was originally built for Singapore Airlines and even flew for Pan Am. It was last operated by Transjet, a now bankrupt Swedish airline. The Jumbo Hostel has 25 rooms with three bunk beds each. Each room is around 65 square feet, and naturally, a lucky visitor will get the chance to sleep in the cockpit. Many original parts of the plane still remain – the lounge bar and first class seats are still there, as well as the oxygen masks. New rooms will be in the engine compartments, where the original rotor blades will be used as venetian blinds. That is repurposing at its finest.

With thousands of jetliners standing in the Arizona desert one would think there are some real interesting possibilities to offer homeless relief shelters or disaster relief options. For example, what would it take to turn some of these giants into mobile hospitals or emergency relief housing after hurricanes or tornado strikes?

My mother always ingrained in her sons: Where there is a will, there is a way. All we need is the will to do it and it will get done.

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  1. woodworking project plans

    Visitors traveling to Stockholm have the option of sleeping on a plane!

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