Shipping container floors NOT sustainable AND toxic!


Here is the article

Basically it says that all the architects using these right now need to step back and really look at what it is they are walking on.

The wood flooring of most shipping containers is made from tropical hardwood, of which 10 million tress are cut down every year. And most container floors are treated with toxic pesticides to keep bugs out.

What is you opinion on using shipping containers in designs?

Apr 26, 07 11:08 am

Also...I had NO idea that these containers are usually used ONE WAY?!?! Once they get here they just sit around. Can that be true? I always assumed that they were repacked and sent out again.
Does anyone have any experience with containers?

Apr 26, 07 11:10 am  · 

it's not just shipping container floors we should be concerned about.

sadly, this is very common in building materials- as the World Health Organization and the EPA points out the 10 most common building material toxins-

pvc (plumbing pipes- which the water you drink flows through), formaldehyde, adhesives (all that glue-lam you've been specifying), radon, solvents, lead, copper, wood preservatives (which i imagine are found in the floors of these containers), "container floors are treated with serious insecticides and fungicides to keep alien bugs out"... the list and applications continue...

these toxins cause impotence (cough, cough *ahem*), lung inflammation, kidney disorders, cancer, and behavioral issues- not to mention the extinction of entire ecosystems.

this whole conversation ties back into other threads on this forum about what "sustainablity" REALLY is

Apr 26, 07 11:28 am  · 

yes..shipping containers in the us especially are typically used only one-way as the trade deficit is so large. we import much, much more than we export. so near any major port you find, there is a large shipping container storage center with rows upon rows of them stacked.

Apr 26, 07 12:14 pm  · 

yummm... just think- our food may have been in them...

Apr 26, 07 12:38 pm  · 

Yeah, I knew they were only used one-way.... my parents used one to move to another country with, and the shipping container has become a storage shed in their backyard!

My thoughts: bad, bad, bad that they're built with tropical hardwood. But WORSE for that to happen for them only to be used for such a temporary thing. I think we mitigate the damage somewhat by getting every last ounce of usefulness out of them possible.

Apr 26, 07 12:42 pm  · 

Ooops. I read it as:

not sustainable (oh no)
not toxic (oh good)

Apr 26, 07 12:50 pm  · 

One way??? So these are just heavy duty boxes?

Apr 26, 07 12:51 pm  · 

maybe this will shut all the people up who evangelize about how they believe shipping containers are the answer to all the world's housing problems.

Apr 26, 07 1:55 pm  · 
1  · 

Shipping containers proberly are good for shipping, that's what they are made for ,and it easily become a dead-end in terms of architecture if you are not very very good at designing and stay away from declaring this to be better than anything else . First closed walls and moisture problems make their own limits, the dimensions to are not ideal esp. for children who will have their sense for architecture imprinted to cover a very limited set of measures and factors. The building material steel, is allright but a house shuld not be a box and steel must be used so, that condensation problems will not occour, - guess all in all I agrea that focus shuld be pointet another direction than shipping containers.
Kill The Brick.

Apr 26, 07 4:18 pm  · 


any self respecting architect using containers as the basis of their architecture rips the f*cking floor out

Most of the time its already started to break down as its rarely treated.

Apr 26, 07 4:22 pm  · 

They are also covered with lead paint. Wah wah. And in CA, the welds aren't good enough for use in a habitable structure. Wah wah.

Apr 26, 07 4:23 pm  · 

yea I'm not is after all a rusty box.

Apr 26, 07 6:13 pm  · 

not to digress, what eventually happenes to those large shipping containers storage center you speak of? they can't just keep adding more and more containers forever.

i see an million dollar industry waiting to happen............ for someone who takes the time to figure out how to make container distribution efficient

Apr 26, 07 8:14 pm  · 

can't they be rcyled as metal?
i think using them as housing is a lot like toying with leg go, i mean let go...
does a rectangular prism needs to be rediscovered as a house?

Apr 26, 07 8:35 pm  · 

abra as usual brings wisdom, because they are in fact easy to dismantle, despite the welds

Apr 26, 07 8:49 pm  · 

like doing monkey cad for 12 hours is healthy

there's alot of pesticides in plywood/etc....... formeldahide is also in alot of products......

the world will self destruct one day anyways


Apr 29, 07 1:07 am  · 

global - yea I remember you guys. You did a building for a school in Jamaica, using reused containers.

Are there more projects on the board?

Apr 29, 07 2:03 am  · 


Apr 29, 07 5:04 am  · 

A calibration?

Apr 29, 07 5:05 am  · 

Let's just say I've been the one cleaning up the mistakes of previous folks trying to build with containers. I have also tried my own hand at it - creating an office extension for a group of engineers with it (sliced on the long face, bolted togther, was a bitch to water-proof, and propped up on two long assed beams)

Apr 30, 07 3:35 am  · 
Bob Ellenberg

I made the following post on Treehugger, "This subject was of great interest to me so I have spent several hours researching it. I may be wrong, but it appears this is misinformation.

First of all the Austrailian document referenced is out of date, those were the standards issued in September 2003 and the current ones are at dated 15 November 2006. However, I searched the ones from 1 September 2003 and I couldn't find any of those chemicals listed anywhere there either.

Is it possible that some of those chemicals have been used in the manufactuer and treatment of containers? I assume it is but I don't believe it is a practice dictated by the Australians--if it is one at all.

There is no question that container floors are treated to prevent infestations of critters that the rest of the world doesn't want and I wouldn't want want to be ingesting those chemicals whether they are considered safe or not. But unless you are sanding the floors and making those potential chemicals airborne, how are you at risk? Container floors are going to be covered or sealed in all housing applications. "

As to lead paint, I researched it but couldn't find any information related to how it is monitored since the 1978 ban but it appears it is still used some in China.

Soren, what are you doing where? I didn't find any information on your website. I obviously am also a proponent of container housing.

May 4, 07 9:08 pm  · 

for $2500 a pop AND utilizing something that would just sit on a stack anyway, might as well make it useful and beautiful.

May 4, 07 9:43 pm  · 

Why not just crush them like old cars and ship them back to china? the wood decking can be turned into toilet paper!

May 4, 07 10:53 pm  · 

tk - i'm hoping that reeks of sarcasm??!?

While the floors might be toxic, and there are ways to mitigate that, and though everyone adores containers right now, the energy that would be put into sending empty crushed boxes back to china rather than trying to find an ultimate use for them would be even more of a waste.

of course, i look forward to the day we make useless trinkets and ship them everywhere else...

May 4, 07 11:14 pm  · 

Hi everyone.

What I have to say might see me stepping on toes but the containers for housing movement needs a reality check.

My Father worked with the NSW State Rail Authority in Australia. Throughout his career as, at first, a labourer all the way though to senior management he used shipping/cargo containers for the storage of equipment, food, clothing, etc. Only natural in the rail network designed for the purpose.

After his eventual collapse at work he was retired ‘medically unfit’ and remained bed ridden until his doctors traced his constant decline to chronic and acute poisoning from many different pesticides, including many that were exotic to Australia, that were never produced or ever used here because of there toxicity.

His levels of contamination were the highest ever known in Australia until his work mates were tested (they all died from rare and aggressive cancers and my Father is the only one that I know of who is still alive). We then learnt that the life threatening illnesses during childhood and minor deformities that my brothers and I suffer from are the direct result of the mutagenic and teratogenic pesticides sprayed into those containers for bio-security reasons at every port of call. Including the third world were they are still using DDT and much, much, worse.

He went to sue them for what had happened but the outcome was being financially and emotionally bleed dry over 16 years in court until the constant violent ‘break and enters’ into our home, the threats and stalking convinced him to settle for a few thousand dollars.

But here is the rub. My brothers and I are not the first, the last or the only children born to people poisoned by containers, I will assist any way I can any such child who wants help to sue the pants of anyone who sold them for housing or food storage and any parent who turned a blind eye to the risk!

The wilful ignorance shown by some towards this issue is amoral and wrong. To poison children, cause them to be either infertile or to have handicapped, chronically ill, children through attachment to a spurious environmentally beneficial claim morally wrong and will be punished through the courts in the years to come. Especially since these concerns have been around and published for a long time there will be little resort to claiming ignorance or that there were no regulations to follow.

During Australia’s involvement in the embargo of Iraq the teams sent to investigate containers had to wear full space suits and drill into containers to check their toxicity before inspecting them, again in space suits, not because of WMD threat but because the pesticides that Australia already knows causes our boys to become potentially impotent, sterile, or have defective kids.

Jul 13, 2005
Protecting ports from toxic chemicals
Syft Technologies, producer of advanced SIFT-MS analytical solutions for large-scale identification and analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), has signed a significant export order with Australian Customs Services (Customs) to supply five Voice100 instruments to ports in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth. The order is worth in excess of NZ$2m and is to be delivered by June 2005.
Customs will use the technology to analyse and measure fumigant levels within sea containers arriving into Australia - a process necessary to protect port workers from unsafe levels of toxic chemicals and eliminate threat to Australia's agricultural-based economies.
Without protection, exposure to chemicals in the fumigants can be lethal. Chemicals such as ethylene dibromide, phosphine, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, methyl bromide, ethylene oxide, sulfuryl fluoride and chloropicrin (trichloronitromethane).
The instrument uses a technique involving SIFT-MS (selected ion flow mass spectrometry) that can instantly and safely detect and analyse the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from these chemicals and more.
Geoff Peck, chief operating officer of Syft Technologies, explained, "Once the air sample is captured in a tedlar bag it is attached to an inlet on the Voice100. At the push of a button, operators can analyse and determine which fumigant or combination of fumigants were used in the container.
"Each chemical has its own target safety level and the user-friendly screen interface of the Voice100 can immediately show the operator the concentration of fumigant and whether the container is safe to enter or not. All this happens in seconds with measurements down to low parts per billion (ppb)."
Mr Kim Woo, manager Technologies, Australian Customs Service, said, "Customs identified a need to improve facilities to enable staff to test cargo containers for fumigants and other harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in a safe, fast and cost-effective manner.
"A number of alternate VOC detection tech-nologies have been evaluated, and the Voice100 selected ion flow tube mass spectrometer from Syft Technologies has met Customs requirements for fumigant and associated VOC detection. We are working closely with Syft Technologies to develop the application further to meet other operational needs."
The product also offers Customs the potential to extend the service to other border security areas in the future.

May 17, 08 2:08 am  · 

Apparently people are warming up the the idea
From today's story on CNN

Jun 12, 09 2:50 pm  · 

There is a solution to every problem.

Lead based paint is not a new problem  Bridges for example traditionally required a near white sandblast when doing rehab work  this is also very labour intensive.  Now an accepted method is to use a product called RUST GRIP to simply coat over top of both the rust and the lead based paint.  The product is a certified biohazard encapsulator which permanently encases and strengthens the substrate.  It integrates itself within the substrate and will not flake or peel.  

Jul 11, 17 4:18 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

2009 is over. Stop living in the past.

Jul 11, 17 4:30 pm  · 

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