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Shipping containers turned into architecture

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Two million empty shipping containers are sitting idle at any given time, it is estimated. What can these giant steel shells be used for?

The trendy Mill Junction student apartment block in Newtown was developed by Citiq.

Around 2004, HyBrid Architecture of Seattle, Washington, in the US, coined the term cargotecture, to describe any system built entirely or partially from shipping containers.

This kind of building is sustainable, creates original architecture and is time-saving.

Using containers to build hotels, hostels, clinics and community centres is a growing trend in countries like China, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

A 12-storey container hotel has been built near London's Heathrow Airport. Locally, a student hostel in Simon's Town, near Cape Town, was constructed from 40 containers.

The 27 Boxes shopping centre in Melville.

Containers are versatile and can be incorporated into the exterior of a construction or be hidden when used as a structurally strong prefabricated element. If they're used for a temporary project, containers can easily be rerecycled into a new structure.

One of the first cargotecture structures in Gauteng was the New Jerusalem orphanage in Midrand. Completed in December 2011, it was built by 4D and A Architects using 28 containers.

Citiq, a Gauteng property investment and management company, built the city's first shipping container multistorey building in Windsor, in 2012.

"People don't mind what their home is built of, as long as it is finished to the right standards, in the right location, and looks good," said Paul Lapham, chief executive of Citiq.

"We started with a small apartment block built out of shipping containers in 2012. These 15 apartments were rented out in two days," he said.

Citiq has since branched out into other uses for containers, including student residence Mill Junction, built last year in Newtown using grain silos with shipping containers on the roof.

More recently, Citiq opened the Umhlanga Junction Extension, a 75-bed student apartment block in Brixton. The structure is built entirely from shipping containers. The striking building was erected in a record two months.

"Shipping containers make for an amazingly simple module, with Umhlanga Junction being erected around the basic living modules. Really creative design was required to make this a truly attractive apartment block and the shipping containers are combined with different materials, cladding and colours, to achieve a modern and appealing appearance," Lapham said.

"Careful planning has gone into creating a home-from-home environment with top-quality, affordable rental accommodation that is secure and convenient and meets the needs of the modern student."

Each of Umhlanga Junction's six floors has single and double accommodation, with a communal kitchen and dining area, recreation room, lounge and laundry.

Energy efficiency is ensured through double-glazed windows, hot water is provided by heatpumps and there is motion-sensor lighting throughout the building.

Clever design plays a major role in creating a stylish, aesthetically pleasing living spaces, with splashes of colour that dominate the interiors and exteriors of these cargotecture buildings.

These recycled structures are not only eco-friendly but also cost-effective to build with. And fast-track projects can be delivered in record time.

In trying to solve the housing shortage in South Africa, it makes sense to go vertical, as is the trend globally, and cargotecture could be the answer.

Lapham said using containers brought a unique brand of architecture. And, if well designed, they create buildings of real value to the neighbourhood.

"What is important for people to remember is that using a container doesn't mean cheap construction. People still want all the finishes that you would expect in a conventional building, and the building still needs services and professionals to complete, so the cost-saving is not significant."

He said initially they experienced a lot of resistance to the concept of containers but, as people have seen the kind of buildings Citiq can erect, they have embraced the concept.

"In Joburg, I think people are quite proud we are leading with our repurposing of old buildings into something that is visually appealing and useful again."

Construction is under way on the country's first cargotecture mall, 27Boxes in Melville, by Citiq. It is due to open its doors next month.

Lapham said, as a neighbourhood, Melville needed a fresh injection of energy to complement the upliftment that was already happening.

"I believe our project will attract an entirely new crowd into Melville, more focused around families, and more mature customers.

"We have some really exciting tenants in the new centre, which has attracted many independents, as opposed to the national brands, and this means the centre will have something for everyone."

The centre offers secure underground parking, with 200 bays, a visually appealing and interesting design and is located in the park next to the bohemian Melville shopping district.

"My experience is residents are usually cautious about something new but, if they can see you take pride in what you are doing and are adding something positive to the neighbourhood, they can be amazingly supportive."

Author: IOL Property

Submitted 09 Dec 15 / Views 2246
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