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You Won’t Believe the Surprising New Uses for Old Shipping Containers

May 1, 2014
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You Won’t Believe the Surprising New Uses for Old Shipping Containers
25th & Larimer building in Denver, Co. was created out of 29 repurposed steel shipping containers. Ryan Diggins/Gravitas Development Group
In Colorado, several companies are thinking inside the box for housing and retail space.

Excess shipping containers are a big problem — literally. According to Jason Blevins of the Denver Post, there are 34.5 million of them in the world. Shipping companies use each one for a decade or two, then the hulking steel boxes are destined to spend eternity in a landfill.

But more people are starting to rethink what these containers could be used for, including Rhino Cubed, founded by businesswoman Jan Burton and Sam Austin, an architect who specializes in using reclaimed materials. Launched on Earth Day in Louisville, Colorado, Rhino Cubed builds small, artful homes out of discarded shipping containers.

The company offers three models of 160-square foot shipping container homes, including a $60,000 deluxe version that contains art and metalwork and two less expensive styles with added flooring, doors, and walls. Environmentally-friendly aspects of the tiny houses include solar panels that generate energy for a refrigerator and a water tank to catch rainwater.

“We really wanted to create something that would work off-the-grid,” Burton told the Denver Post. “I like to think we can preserve Mother Nature while still living in the middle of it.”

Another Colorado project making use of old shipping containers is the 25th & Larimer building, which opened in Denver last November. The development was created out of 29 repurposed steel shipping containers, and its first tenant was Topo Designs, a company known for its rugged rucksacks and backpacks that are manufactured in the Rocky Mountain state to ensure factory worker safety. Jedd Rose of Topo Designs told Ricardo Baca of the Denver Post, “It fits within our ethos, because it’s simple. Shipping containers are already out there. You can reuse them. They’re modular. It’s such a great idea.”

With shipping container projects recently built everywhere from London to Las Vegas, it sounds like the global backlog of these steel boxes is starting to ease.

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