Much of the imported goods packed inside our homes arrive here packed inside a bulky metal shipping container – that one day could come full circle and transform into someone’s home.
Twelve million shipping containers arrive in the U.S. each year, according to Customs and Border Protection. Seaports like Tampa’s are full of them, stacked two, three, four high dockside.
Most of these gritty metal boxes are emptied, filled with exports, and sent on their way. But some stay.
"They’re dead ended; they're never sent back overseas," said Steve Sawyer, who buys abandoned cargo containers.
Sawyer’s small company, New Generation Builders, rents surplus containers as storage space.
"We like to keep 100 on property," Sawyer said.
But recently, Sawyer had embarked on a much bolder project for the forgotten containers: conversion into cabins.
"It's out there," Sawyer conceded.
New Generation Builders has completely overhauled two steel-walled containers, one that measures 8’ by 40’ and another that covers 8’ by 20’. Each includes a sliding glass door, windows, space for a queen size bed, air conditioning, a kitchen, and a bathroom—including hot water.
"We can't have cold showers," Sawyer said. “It’s all the modern conveniences of home."
The space, while quaint, is surprisingly bright, remarkably comfortable, and totally unrecognizable as a former shipping container.
For now, Sawyer built the $37,000 (160 sq. ft.) to $57,000 (320 sq. ft.) cabins with sportsmen in mind. But he has grander designs for these portable mini houses. Sawyer plans to build a full-size home out of multiple surplus containers.
"Use two or three containers and put them together,” he said.
Sawyer believes it’s possible to link the containers either side by side to stacked to achieve square footage that is on par with brick and mortar homes. And he is convinced this unique form of recycling is a great way to build new homes with existing resources.
"I'm sold on the idea," he said.
Sawyer believes cargo containers would be particularly attractive to coastal home buyers.
"It's hurricane proof,” he added. "Corrugated steel, top, bottom, and sides."
New Generation Builders will display its prototypes at various home shows this summer.