With the U.S. importing more than it exports, shipping containers are piling up at American ports. Lily Jamali reports on a Washington, D.C. architect who is recycling them into affordable housing.
From the high seas to higher ed. Two dozen college students at Catholic University in Washington DC will soon call these shipping containers home sweet home. Where most of us see steel bound for the scrap yard, architect Travis Price sees opportunity. SOUNDBITE: TRAVIS PRICE, ARCHITECT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Each floor is an apartment with a big central shared kitchen, living, dining, laundry and then each end are individual rooms with their own individual bathrooms." Call it cut and paste "cargotecture". SOUNDBITE: TRAVIS PRICE, ARCHITECT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Water leaks down between them so we're roofing the top with a sealer. You just have to cut them up the way you want them and be careful not to lose the structural integrity." Price hopes to build this complex for 40% less than a conventional building. Old containers go for around $2,000 each - which helped Price convince the property owners that the price was right: SOUNDBITE: TRAVIS PRICE, ARCHITECT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I said 'What about sea containers?' - and they went - 'No way!' and within about 30 minutes, it was 'All the way - we're doing it!'" It helps that there's an excess of shipping containers here in the U.S...as many as two million by some estimates. New York University Urban Policy Professor Mitchell Moss explains why using them for housing makes sense: SOUNDBITE: MITCHELL MOSS, PROFESSOR OF URBAN POLICY, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Shipping containers were invented in the 1950s. At the time, we were exporting a lot of stuff by container. Now it's coming here by container and we don't have much to fill the containers with. Some of them are 20x20, some are 20x40. They work very well, especially for people who don't need more a couple hundred square foot of space." SOUNDBITE: LILY JAMALI, REPORTER, REUTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "D.C. isn't the only place where this idea is taking hold. Combine a glut of shipping containers with an affordable housing crunch in cities like New York, and you get some very creative-looking container-made houses." They're durable - but they do require some retrofitting to be fit for human habitation. SOUNDBITE: MITCHELL MOSS, PROFESSOR OF URBAN POLICY, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think the most important thing is making sure they're safe. That when they're redesigned, they have adequate ventilation, electricity and they're equipped in a way that people can function in them not as boxes but as homes." And within a few weeks - those college students will be putting them to the test.