Recycled Steel in Homes and Research Stations

Wanna live or work in a shipping container?

Converted steel shipping containers have seen a recent spike in popularity. Small, trendy houses made of shipping crates aided in the popularity of recycled steel. Inspired, one group of architects in the Netherlands used shipping crates to create a bus stop with a built in bicycle shop. An Israeli group planned to make a bridge out of shipping crates for a nature conserve. Yet another company made a series of crates into a library. Starbucks built a coffee shop from shipping containers. Even Coca-Cola got on board with the trend. They chose to partner with another company to transform one of the simple steel boxes into a water purification system within an impoverished community.

An efficient use of a container

One of the most impressive conversions of steel shipping containers happened in Antarctica. When India decided to build Baharati, their third research station on this frozen continent, they wanted a design that would be easy to transport across the ocean and assemble in the snow.

The site they chose to build at was unique—a peninsula by the sea. There was a lot in the area that Indian scientists wanted to study, including the marine ecology beneath the ice and frigid waves. Baharati would have to remain self-sufficient, even if storms kept supply ships stuck off shore. The water treatment and energy systems needed to be completely reliable. This would be a dangerous place to do research if the station couldn’t withstand the unpredictable weather of the area. India had already been forced to abandon their first station after it had been buried in ice. The new station, the third India had built on the continent, would have to do better at withstanding the environment.

With high wind speeds and thick ice to navigate, even getting building materials to the site would be tough. Baharati’s designers turned to the material they knew would keep costs down while steadfastly weathering the storms: steel. Since shipping crates are prefabricated and relatively easy to transport, the designers integrated them into the plans early on. The BOF Architects in Germany designed the structure out of locally produced shipping crates. Comprised of three floors and 134 shipping containers, Baharati looks like a space ship touching down in the snow. An insulated skin around the steel skeleton of the building keeps the exterior sleek and free of ice.

After three years of construction, the research station is finally complete. While houses made of shipping containers may wane in popularity, Baharati will remain a steadfast presence on the Antarctic coast. Researchers will continue to rely on their steel research station to protect them from the storms outside and keep them alive.

The Life Of A Shipping Container