Like with cob houses, shipping container buildings address the high impact associated with traditional building materials. Instead of using new materials that have to be manufactured, shipping container homes reclaim old shipping crates and use them to create prefabricated structures. Shipping crates can be stacked vertically or lined up side-by-side to create residential or commercial buildings. There are a few different ways to build a shipping container home, depending on how ambitious you are.
A number of companies offer prefabricated, or prefab, shipping crate houses, which you can live in almost right out of the box. These prefab homes usually come equipped with power, water, and sometimes even central heating and air [source: Pilloton]. If you're more of a do-it-yourselfer, you can procure your own containers from a company like Sea Box and purchase a set of plans. From there, you can construct a shipping container home from scratch or hire contractors to build it out for you.
Either way, you want to make sure that you check out local and state building codes before starting on a shipping container home. Reed Construction Data has a helpful Building Code Reference Library, which is a good place to start researching on your own. If you're planning to hire a contractor, he should know if shipping crate homes adhere to code in your area.
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HowStuffWorks visits Japan to learn more about uguisubari, or nightingale floors, which were features of Nijo Castles and Toji-in Temple.