Convention showcases ship cargo homes

September 26, 2008 1:22:56 PM PDT
Building a greener living environment is the focus of a major convention opening Thursday in San Jose. One of the key innovations on display could someday have you living in a shipping container.

This three-day trade show kicks off on Thursday and runs through Saturday at the San Jose Convention Center. West Coast Green is dedicated to sustainable home construction and design.

While most people live in homes made out of wood, brick or stone, not many can say they live out of a shipping container that used to travel on the high seas. This though, may be the wave of the future.

Creative minds are making use of 8,000 pound steel shipping containers that are plugging up U.S. ports. In fact, there's a surplus of hundreds of thousands of containers just sitting on empty on the docks because of the imbalance in trade. With high fuel prices, it's too costly to ship them back empty, so it makes sense to re-use them.

For more than a year now, SG Blocks, a St. Louis container retrofitting company, has been converting these 40-foot long steel boxes into buildings. The company has built a two-story, 1,700 square foot home for this year's West Coast Green Home Trade Show. Five containers have been revisioned into a single-family home - a showcase example of sustainable, green construction.

"They have a finite lifespan as shipping containers, and so we've got to do something with them when they're done with their life, their useful life as shipping containers, why not turn them into structural modules and build houses," said Gary Tave, SG Blocks, Project Management Director.

"By contributing to the green building movement, you're creating a place for your family or your company or whatever it is that is going to be within this building in a sustainable healthy way, but your also contributing to allowing people in the rest of the world to live that way as well," said Karen Jackson, West Coast Green, Program Director.

It takes less energy to modify these containers than to melt and recycle the steel. At a cost of $1,000 to $2,500 each, depending on their size and condition, these containers are bargain building blocks, especially with the rising prices of lumber and steel. Another selling point -- these containers are exceptionally sturdy heavy-gauge steel structures, and can withstand hurricane-force winds and earthquakes too.

Al Gore speaks on Saturday at the convention, talking about sustainable living environments and lessening our carbon footprint on the world.


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