Image: Shipping container home
Gorilla Designs
 A home in Santa Clara, Utah, built by the company Gorilla Designs. The base material is from shipping containers.
By
updated 4/7/2009 11:23:23 AM ET 2009-04-07T15:23:23

With the housing market down and foreclosures way up, building a new home might not be the first thing on people's mind, but a Salt Lake City-based company has a new kind of home in mind.

Gorilla designs is working to turn idle shipping containers into affordable, high quality homes to last a lifetime.

The company was founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, said Roi Maufus of Gorilla Designs.

"After Katrina, we realized that normal houses and traditional materials can't stand up to global warming and the new storms that will come with it," said Maufus. "We wanted to make something that could stand the test of time."

Gorilla also wanted to be environmentally-friendly.

"This is definitely a case of one man's trash being another man's treasure," said Maifus.

There are thousands of shipping containers no longer being used but still in excellent shape lying around ports and railroads yards all over the country that could be turned into quality housing.

Shipping containers can withstand a lot of force. The average shipping container is rated to carry 67,000 pounds, and can withstand eight other fully-loaded shipping containers resting on top of it. That's about 376 tons per square inch.

"We certainly don't have to worry about snow load issues," said Maufus.

The floor of many shipping container is made out of exotic hardwoods that when sanded and polishe produced a rich, beautiful color that could typically cost thousands of dollars and weigh on your conscious, since the wood is often from tropical rain forests.

The thought of living in a big rectangular box may not seem all that appealing, but a shipping container home typically isn't just one long room. Designs call for the walls to be cut out and then several containers are welded together for larger rooms.

As long as the welds are good, the containers remain tightly sealed, nearly doubling the energy efficiency when compared with a traditional wood frame house.

Since the containers come largely pre-assembled, construction time is reduced as well. According to Maifus, a typical wood frame home takes more than six months to build. A welded shipping container home takes about two months to complete.

All those savings, plus the fact that a shipping container can be delivered pre-assembled anywhere in the United States for less than $3,000, adds help keep costs low. But there are other, more practical concerns, such as meeting state and local building codes.

To help pass the various building codes Gorilla enlisted the aid of Salt Lake City's Office of Sustainability, Vicki Bennett.

"It looks quite modern and has nice, sleek lines," said Bennett. "It doesn't look like a shipping container at all."

© 2012 Discovery Channel

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