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Repurposing – Turning Today’s Trash into Tomorrow’s Dwellings

Hopefully, we’ve all become very familiar with recycling. Repurposing is a bit less drastic way of recycling, re-using old things in altogether new things and often in creative ways. Actually we’ve been doing that for longer than “recycling” ― an old vase becomes a lamp; an antique iron turns into a book end. But repurposing has come a long way since you made a desk from a couple of saw horses and an old wooden door. Now it’s increasingly being used to construct houses of the future.

Intermodal Steel Building Units (ISBU’s) are a perfect example of repurposing; very strong containers designed to withstand being hauled by crane into ships’ cargo holds and to assure safe transport of goods and materials across choppy seas.

ISBU’s are relatively easy to construct, stackable and can be broken down and modified to fit a multiplicity of needs. This durability and simplicity lends itself particularly well to strong and environmentally-friendly building techniques. Containers are typically out of service after 5 to 7 years but have proven to have decades of useful life left in them.

SG Blocks (Safe Green Building Blocks) is a company that uses these retired containers to create materials and systems that work particularly well in housing construction; with building times cut by as much as 40%. HGTV has featured houses built using similar techniques. Soon these won’t be extreme homes.

With a predictable housing shortage on the horizon and pressing needs for new ways to build affordably, quickly and with environmental savvy, out-of-the-box thinking may actually be in-the-box thinking.

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