Is There Room In There For Me? Creating New Living Space

posted in: Nature and Budgets

Welcome Back to the Fall and some new stories…

<< Update >>

On The Morning Brew — Judy and Sky Carlisle discuss creating new living space through the repurposing of shipping containers…
Video: 8:24 min. Article continues below…

For months now I’ve been sharing a number of uplifting, repurposing (upcycling) and recycling stories about a variety of materials or businesses from worm poo to biodigesters, right on to packing material made from mushrooms and Bach music coming from instruments made from trash.

Repurposed Shipping Containers
Hive Inn Shipping Container Hotel Hong Kong

Since real estate stories continue to show up in the news, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some innovative and green real estate buildings from a very different perspective.

Would you ever consider living in something that was once used for food, products or water?

Welcome to the world of recycled and repurposed buildings.

Growing up in the Midwest, I’ve seen (and been in) my share of corn silos. Actually, just the thought of them brings back those awful memories of the smell of silage (food for farm animals) stored inside of them.

Well, I had to acquiesce and admire the genius of innovation and ingenuity when I happened to come across the story of the Abby Road Farm B&B, owned by John and Judi Stuart and located in Oregon’s finest wine country.

Repurposed Buildings
Abby Road Farm B&B

The Stuart’s believed in re-utilizing existing resources. My kind of people! Buying that 82-acre farm with all the old structures, including two metal farm silos, pushed them to be very creative. I’d say this is repurposed building at its finest when space for grain is converted into space for luxury rooms with a view.

Of course having an innovative mind doesn’t always mean those visions are sharedInitially when Stuart proposed the idea of converting his old metal silos into guest rooms, the county planning officials claimed it wasn’t possible. Period.

Being turned down seldom stops a passionate and creative visionary. They just find other ways to implement their ideas, as Stuart successfully did.

Repurposed Buildings - Silos
Abby Road Farm B&B

Eventually those silos went through a unique conversion with efficiency in mind during the whole process. The inn’s utility bills are now exceptional low thanks to a number of features, including the expanding foam insulation that was sprayed between the metal silo exterior and interior walls. As Judi Stuart said – they basically had one of the “world’s largest Thermos.”

You can enjoy a lot more of the story regarding the property and the Stuart’s overall passion for nature.

Upscale Missile Silo Living
Click to view the video…

Next time you plan your vacation you might think about spending some time in Oregon… in a silo…  and enjoy some famous pinot noir wine.

Of course if you REALLY want a very unique and very SAFE place to live there are always the nuclear missile silo homes … luxury homes at that!

Silos can be very unique for repurposed buildings, but shipping containers sure take the prize for recycling and building versatility.

Dormant Shipping ContainersGrowing up inland in the Midwest, and then living in the Southwest, were not places where you saw or thought much about shipping containers.

But I definitely do pay attention to what’s going into the landfills. So when I found out there are 34.5 million shipping containers in the world used only for a decade or two, and then these mammoth two and a half tons of steel chunks are carted off to the landfill, I was paying attention.

Perhaps a smaller living space is right for you...Over the years I’ve read of numerous unique practical uses for all those old retired shipping containers, ranging from quick remote ER triage centers to emergency semi-permanent emergency housing in the wake of catastrophes.

Well, now with more focus on green building and the trend toward the minimalist and tiny space lifestyle (as small as 160 SF – not for me thank you), companies are finding a whole new way to repurpose buildings with old shipping containers.

Redondo Beach shipping container houseFor the budget minded, minimalist fans, there are unique portable home designs made out of one shipping container like those designed by the Louisville-based Company Rhino Cubed.

But then, why stop at one shipping container when you can really show off your container architecture and designer skills and design a deluxe eight shipping container home offering spacious living like the award winning Redondo Beach House in CA.

Building shipping container homes is rather intriguing, but when Starbucks jumps into the reclamation game, you know something is shifting.

A Starbucks drive thru in Tukwila, WA.What do you get when you take four shipping containers (used to deliver coffee and tea from around the globe), do some designing to LEED green building standards, and paint your company name on the side of one of the containers…. A Starbucks drive thru in Tukwila, WA.

But again, why stop at four shipping containers when 24 shipping containers can be used for an athletic store in Boston with a full bar and sun deck?

Repurposed Buildings with Shipping Containers
Amsterdam University – shipping container dorms

Or a cultural center for art events and exhibitions in Berlin can be created out of 34 recycled shipping containers. And then there’s the Las Vegas Down Town Container Park Shopping Center. Only in Las Vegas where no piece of land seems too small to squeeze in some kind of global monument, would they come up with a shopping center like that!

However, the supposed real claim to fame for the “largest shipping container village in the world” goes to the dorms at the University of Amsterdam. This resourceful project was started to resolve a temporary housing shortage situation, but then turned into a permanent, comfortable and actually roomy solution.

So how’s that for pushing the envelope of ideas for different places to live?  And then, just when you think that envelope is about to burst, more amazing proposals for different uses show up like the shipping container bridges in Shipping Container Bridge outside Tel AvivTel-Aviv and the radical Jenga-style Hive-Inn high-rise hotel concept by Hong-Kong based architects (pictured at the top of this article).

Apparently, the potential for recycling these sturdy, versatile steel boxes is limitless. Check out cool ways a container can upgrade your backyard.

And now….  What provides breath taking views, qualifies as a historical landmark, has reduced energy costs, and offers unique reconstruction opportunities for incorporating green building principles?

Would you believe…old, abandoned repurposed water towers!

Over the years, these old water towers ceased to have any purpose and slowly turned into neighborhood eyesores, but they couldn’t be torn down because of their historical significance.

Huntington Beach Repurposed Water TowerEnter, creative architects and adventurous designers restoring old landmarks to new grace and city dwellers finding exceptional living experiences.

The results are water towers with new life. Many throughout Europe and some in the US (Southern CA of course) are converted into places like eight story multi-use buildings, single family homes (some with five bedrooms and three baths, others with outdoor Jacuzzi, fire pit lounge and views of the  Pacific Ocean), vacation homes, meeting centers, and student apartments to name a few.

Here are Seven water towers transformed into living space…

Once again, the exciting part is taking what already exists, a silo, shipping container or water tower, and giving each one new life and purpose.

Back to you. Can you think of ways you can give new life or purpose somehow in your finances?

A Piano Converted To BookshelvesMaybe it’s as basic as the Stuart’s persistence with the silos and not accepting “no”. Have you ever tried to get a consumer complaint resolved and been told no and let it go?  Personally, I found that many situations seem to take three phone calls and often three different people and finally I’m able to get the situation resolved and get what I wanted in the first place.

Perhaps you have lots of stuff – and like the shipping containers, with a little creative planning and effort, that stuff could be converted into something completely different. Like a piano or ladder converted into a bookshelf.

And finally, what’s the financial “old water tower” in your life or environment that can’t be destroyed or removed, but could be ripe for a new purpose? Do you have money sitting somewhere like an old, small inheritance or something that has been in the same account for so long you forget it’s there, but for various reasons you can’t liquidate it… yet there is potentially real value to this money that is not being leveraged to the fullest as it languishes in some money market account? Perhaps it could be moved to a college funding account or retirement account or earmarked for the purchase of a vacation home.

Or just maybe, you have a little pot of gold somewhere you would love to use to buy a shipping container and fire up your creative juices. I hear you can find them at pretty reasonable rates these days!