I am SO excited about this. In my circle of "always ready with a hairbrained, newfangled, tree hugging idea" kind of friends, the discussion of alternative housing and building comes up often. Being in the Kootenays, the Land of the Intentional Community, there are actual examples of eco housing all over the place if you know where to look for them. What we don't understand, is why the concept is still labeled "alternative" and not looked to as the emerging norm.
Enter Maison Idekit Home out of Quebec. (For those of you not geographically adept, that is the large french part of Canada that sits right in the middle. Home to Montreal, which even Vogue recognizes as not being limited to igloos... unless of course you count the Ice Hotel, which is at least the most fabulous igloo going... for those who are into that sort of thing.) Maison Idekit's founders Bernard Morin and Joyce Labelle have finished construction on their dream home, which is also their business prototype, using seven reclaimed shipping containers. The massive steel boxes are the type used by freighters to carry shipments overseas and are generally reused to some extent. Eventually though, they end up in a sort of giant box graveyard that hopes to at least see the steel recycled, but with wood losing its reputation of being the worlds most renewable resource and the strength of steel being greater, using these containers for much needed affordable housing makes sense.
Brilliant idea, not to mention green, but the emphasis here is on affordable. The cost of the Idekit home using traditional building meathods, would reportedly be $400,000. Apparently, the actual cost using the second of the Three Rs was for $175,000. That is a HUGE difference and other countries (of course) have already put this idea into production. A company who calls itself, appropriately, Container City in London in the UK already is in full swing with a number of buildings that also boast clean wind turbine energy for their live/work studios.
For use as student housing in Holland the containers make quite a statement as the Keetwonen complex.
Hurricane victims in the US, as well as a few here and there one offs, may be the start of a movement on this side of the ocean, and companies such as DeMaria Design Associates are turning prefab into preFAB. (Ugh, I hate it when I do that. Sometimes it cannot be helped.)