Cargotecture – A Beacon of Light for the Construction Industry?

Various new and exciting trends sweep the construction industry. One such is the use of shipping containers for housing purposes, also known as Cargotecture. We have been evolving and adapting to innovations like green buildings and the use of sustainable materials. Cargotecture is one such trend that is pushing the limits of design. These steel shipping containers that are 8 feet wide by 8 and a half feet high and either 20 or 40 feet long are becoming a new recycled building material. One that can be easily used to build our own homes.

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The shipping containers are actually disposable materials or waste. Various countries import goods at a higher rate than they are able to export. This leads to millions of shipping containers lying at ports as waste. It is far cheaper to import new containers than returning the old containers to their original location. Hence these containers keeping stacking up, contributing to the global waste crisis.


In today’s times, these shipping containers are being used to build everything from low-cost housing solutions to luxurious vacation homes to swimming pools, playgrounds and hospitals. However, could Cargotecture be too good to be true? Let’s weigh the pros and cons of reusing these steel shipping containers.



The shape of the containers makes it easier to be repurposed into buildings. Its is easier and cheaper than having to build the same using cement, bricks and mortar. They are available in various sizes and combining them together could make a great living space.



These containers are built to carry tonnes of merchandise across rough ocean tides. They are virtually indestructible and are built to sustain high winds, hurricanes and earthquake; this makes an excellent choice of housing material for areas prone to natural disasters.


A traditional housing structure will take months to be built, whereas you will need merely two weeks to build a house using containers. They are prefabricated, and the modifications can be easily and quickly made on-site. You can customize the layout by either stacking or splicing the containers together to give you the desired effect.

However, there are a lot of modifications required too. According to the design, steel reinforcements and heating and cooling techniques will have to be implemented, as and where required.


As recycled shipping containers are used in cargotecture, it is highly eco-friendly. Reusing and repurposing the containers instead of scrapping or melting them helps in reducing the carbon emission and saves a lot of energy, all the while preventing overuse of traditional materials.


Try as you might, it is very tough breaking into a cargotecture structure. Unless the thieves use dynamite or a blow torch, it is basically invincible. It makes this the perfect choice for rural and remote areas.


Someone who is inquisitive enough to DIY their house, shipping containers are more malleable than lumber. Traditional houses and spaces can be modified and moderated to a limited extent. But with the containers, you can pull down the mediating walls and can implement any design solution, provided you don’t bring down the load bearing walls.




We promote the reuse of shipping containers. The purpose is lost if people use brand new containers as housing solutions. Also, to make the container habitable, a lot of energy is required for modifications like sandblasting and cutting openings. The moving of these containers needs a huge amount of fossil fuels, making the ecological footprint of cargotecture larger than we fathom.


When these shipping containers are made, human habitation is not taken into consideration in their designing or construction aspect. Some of these containers are clad with lead-based paints and arsenic on the floor, harmful to humans.


This is a major concern to be looked into, as we mentioned earlier too. The insulation and heat control are a major concern as they are huge steel boxes good at absorbing and transmitting heat. This ultimately leads us to control the temperature within the container. It wouldn’t be as much of a dream to live in an oven or freezer, would it?

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Cargotecture has its own set of highs and lows, pros and cons. However, it is an emerging solution to the housing crisis and a cheap and creative one at that. If managed and reused in a proper manner it could be the beacon of light, saving not only the construction industry but also the environment and the world.

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Srishti is an aspiring Architecture student, interested in Architectural journalism. She has a keen interest in writing and poetry, and has been maintaining a blog for the past 5 years. She hopes to make the layman inquisitive about architecture and beyond, by merging her profession of architecture and her passion for writing.

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