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Life in a shipping container

Scorpio

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#1
Life in a shipping container


November 10, 2011: 3:28 PM ET
It may be the ultimate recycling project: taking retired shipping containers and repurposing them as buildings. SG Blocks thinks it can make the proposition into big business.

By Beth Kowitt, writer-reporter

SG BlocksFORTUNE -- It may be the ultimate recycling project: taking retired shipping containers and repurposing them as buildings. It's not uncommon to see these makeshift structures informally in use around ports or construction sites, but now Paul Galvin is trying to bring them into the mainstream with his company SG Blocks.

It's a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it endeavor that's getting a boost from the confluence of two trends: a growing acceptance of prefabricated construction and the greening of the economy. "Everyone is going green in construction, as am I," says Peter Sudler, a real estate developer and investor in the company.

It doesn't hurt that Galvin, the company's founder and CEO, says his projects, depending on the location, are typically 10% to 12% cheaper than traditional construction, cut 40% off construction time and are more resistant to extreme weather like hurricanes. Each container weighs 8,000 pounds, is 40 feet long and can hold some 50,000 pounds. The containers can be stacked depending on a customer's needs, a quality Galvin says likens the finished project to a giant steel honeycomb.

Here's how it works: port operator Conglobal Industries sources the retired containers for SG Blocks (SGBX) and modifies them right at the ports, cutting in windows and doors. Galvin's operation then either coordinates the finish work at the job site or an interim location. Any exterior finish like brick or wood can be added, but Galvin says most clients want to highlight the fact that they're going green. "They'll leave it very rectangular and some of the container exposed," he adds.

SG BlocksThat's not to say that Galvin expects us all to live in corrugated steel boxes. Howard Lorber, president and CEO of SG Blocks investor Vector Group, says that the initial reaction often is, "Wow, who wants to be in a house that looks like a container?" But he adds that people who see the structures often have no idea they were built out of material once used to ship cargo. At a recent trade show, Galvin had his crew cut a hole in the side of their model house to expose the structural system because no one realized it was made from containers.

While Galvin may have been the one to turn the concept into a business, he got the idea from a merchant mariner and Naval engineer who had built and permitted a container-based house in Charleston, SC, in the early 2000s. He immediately saw these containers as what he calls a "green building block" -- hence the name.

In July, SG Blocks announced its intention to merge with CDSI Holdings, a holding company primarily created for investments and acquisitions. The deal was finalized last week, which makes SG Blocks a public company. Its SEC filings show that SG Blocks generated $2.6 million in revenue for the six months ending June 30, but had a net loss of more than half a million dollars. The company said that was in large part due to the costs associated with an emerging operation going public.

Galvin, who had previously been running not-for-profit groups focusing on affordable and special needs housing, was the original seed investor. Rather than chase a lot of projects, he decided early on to focus on military contracts and work for large corporations to help build credibility.

His first client was the U.S. Army, which tapped him to build an administrative headquarters at Fort Bragg. SG Blocks recently finished up two large buildings made up of 32 containers at the Port of Houston, and a large office and training structure on the deck of a U.S. Navy nuclear aircraft carrier made up of 47 40-foot containers.

SG BlocksFor the Jacksonville Port Authority, Director of Seaport Security and Emergency Preparedness Charles White says going with a container-based building for a new operations center was a natural fit. "We know how durable these things are," says White, noting that shipping companies even operate out of them informally at the port. He wanted something that could stand up to hurricanes and be built quickly. (SG Blocks can set a container every 20 minutes with a crane once it's modified.) Traditional construction would have forced him to cut back on the facility's electronic capabilities to come in at budget.

The company is starting to move beyond just military construction into mi-rise buildings, such as the 30,000 square foot rental building in New Jersey currently in contract. Mobile retail is also a growing focus. SG Blocks erected a PUMA store in Charleston, which was taken to the South Street Seaport for the World Cup, back to Charleston, and then to Minnesota for a youth soccer event. Galvin has also dipped into the high-end market. While shipping containers don't usually scream beach house, a few weeks ago SG Blocks delivered a residential house in Amagansett in the Hamptons.

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/11/10/life-in-a-shipping-container/?iid=SF_T_Lead
 

silverblood

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#2
It sounds like these are intermodal containers. 40 feet long by 8 feet wide by 8 feet tall, or 9.5 feet tall. Not enough head space unless you cut the top off and extend the wall height.

40 x 8 = 320 square feet each. You'd need three of them to make a very small home.

I presume the "green" factor is based on reusing a container that would otherwise be scrapped. Steel is not all that "green" to produce. It's energy intensive.

Not sure I see the appeal here. I don't believe they'd work for me.
 

Scorpio

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Mantokir

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It sounds like these are intermodal containers. 40 feet long by 8 feet wide by 8 feet tall, or 9.5 feet tall. Not enough head space unless you cut the top off and extend the wall height.

40 x 8 = 320 square feet each. You'd need three of them to make a very small home.

I presume the "green" factor is based on reusing a container that would otherwise be scrapped. Steel is not all that "green" to produce. It's energy intensive.

Not sure I see the appeal here. I don't believe they'd work for me.

Take 4, stack 2 over there<-- and stack 2 over there-->... Now build a roof spanning the two stacks. You now have a 16 vaulted ceiling and 4 storage units, or work shop, or office, or....
 

REO 54

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#7
I own 1 Refrigerator van@ 40' and 1 trailer van @ 30'.Used the refer van to store my house contents while I built my new house.It paid for itself and then some in storage fees I didn't have to pay.I like the fact that they are on wheels.Containers are bitch to move once they are on the ground.

I also converted the front 10' of the refer van into a construciton/office space.I cut in and installed a sliding glass door and a window;easy.
It has power an phon connections.I can move when needed to new job sites etc.

I think containers should be utilized in 3rd world housing or emergency house more than they are.They are a great resource imo.

ps,yes I own a tractor to move them,a cab over White/Freightliner
 
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#8
It doesn't hurt that Galvin, the company's founder and CEO, says his projects, depending on the location, are typically 10% to 12% cheaper than traditional construction
That's it? Hardly seems worth it, especially on the resale end.
 

smilershouse

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#9
Steel is a baby compared to this stuff. Cor-Ten

http://www.residentialshippingcontainerprimer.com/CorTen

4in solids or 9in hollows might well prove a better option. After all, even those shipping containers require the most sound base.

If ya gonna lay the slab, then,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, as a secondary may as well lay the blocks./

SH
 

Irons

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#10
Meh, reminds me too much of the trailer I bought when I was 19 and lived in for 4 years.

Not a bad memory, but nothing I want to do again.
 

hoarder

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#11
It sounds like these are intermodal containers. 40 feet long by 8 feet wide by 8 feet tall, or 9.5 feet tall. Not enough head space unless you cut the top off and extend the wall height.
How tall are you? Does your home have 12" cielings?

Steel containers are not well suited for making living quarters, by the time you insulate them all you have is a long hallway.

I guess it's time to whip out some pics of the shipping container barns I built:
 

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Kenny

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#12
OH MAN!!!

DO I SO want to dig a hole in the ground and put a shipping container in it just for me, and then another for my extended loved ones, but they would deem me so crazy as to just nod and smile.

I heard of a "GROW OP" in British Columbia, they went into the mountains, dug a huge hole and stuck 20... yes 20 train cars in it, rendered them serviced by electricity through diesel generators fueled buy tractor trilor tankers. it was amazing.

Remind yourself of the ability for the human mind to be ambitious, industrios, and to conquer the barriers put in place by our teachers so that we are able to ovrcome.

These guya obviously made a bucha cash, and had a great Idea and they got caught, and rightfully so they broke the law.

The spirit of this post is that so many people percieve the world that they were taught to percieve.

It is the thinker who cant help but think of other means.

makes for a neat read...
 

hoarder

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#13
OH MAN!!!

DO I SO want to dig a hole in the ground and put a shipping container in it just for me, and then another for my extended loved ones,
Put an egg in the palm of your hand and make a fist. Then squeeze. It doesn't break. Why? Because it's round.
Bury shipping containers and the sides will bulge in. They aren't made for side loads, just stacking.

If you want to bury something, get a large diameter culvert or even a surplus gasoline storage tank.
 

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Kenny

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#14
yes.. your right... this is true. I will make sure to not pile 6 million tonnes of earth on my shipping containers.