April 13, 2013

Shipping Containers, They’re Not Just for Shipping Anymore

The Evolution of Shipping Containers Shipping containers, if you look while driving around town, you’ll see them EVERYWHERE.  After long journeys across the ocean, you’ll see containers in the final distribution channels. When you get stopped at a train crossing you’re likely to see train car after train car loaded with containers or you’ll see trucks hauling them around on carriages and flat beds loaded with goods of all types. Once shipping containers are retired from use overseas service you’ll see them behind retail stores and on construction sites offering secure storage for equipment and inventory doing duty as storage containers now.
Due to their simple design and consistent dimensions, many are finding shipping containers to be a very versatile commodity. Shipping containers are held to strict dimensional tolerances established by the International Standards Organization (ISO). This agreement between all of the container manufacturers allows shipping containers to be uniformly stacked like milk cartons on the decks and in the cargo holds of overseas freighter ships. The most common shipping container sizes are 40’ x 8’ x 8’6” and 20’ x 8’ x 8’6” (L x W x H), with some miscellaneous other sizes of specialty containers mixed in. Once shipping containers reach their destination, it is often cheaper to find other uses for them versus re-filling them and sending them back overseas. Retired shipping containers have become so popular that they are hard to find. In addition to becoming storage containers, they have been turned into portable offices, self-storage centers, underground storm shelters, and as data centers. More recently, many have used very creative methods to use containers to construct houses, apartments, and light commercial buildings. Containers make excellent modular building blocks for architectural uses; they are strong and durable. They are constructed plumb and square. Modifications are simple and they are designed to be stack-able so multistory applications are a snap. Subway Sandwiches recently used a container during the construction of the Freedom Tower. As the framing heights reached skyward, the trades people found it was taking their entire break period to travel down to the ground, buy a sandwich and return to work. Subway outfitted a 40’ x 8’ container as a complete Subway shop and it was lifted up to the top level of the Freedom Tower. The construction workers were able to order lunch, enjoy it, relax for a while and return to work without leaving the work area. The Subway store created from a shipping container would be moved to next higher level as needed. Data centers in a container or portable modular data centers, fit servers, storage and networking equipment into a standard shipping container outfitted with a cooling system. Modular data centers are designed for rapid deployment, energy efficiency and high-density computing to deliver data center capacity at a lower cost than traditional construction methods. The data centers significantly reduce the construction time from years to a matter of months and in the event of an emergency, can be deployed in a matter of days. In addition to all of these options and flexibility, used shipping containers are affordable.  Used 20’ containers can be found for $2,500 or less and used 40’ containers are generally available for $3,500 or less plus delivery to your site. Shipping containers are proving to be a durable and flexible modular building block to be the starting point for many different applications. If you need cheap space, for any number of reasons, consider containers.