It may be the ultimate recycling project: taking retired shipping containers and repurposing them as buildings. It's not uncommon to see these makeshift structures informally in use around ports or construction sites, but now Paul Galvin is trying to bring them into the mainstream with his company SG Blocks.
It's a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it endeavor that's getting a boost from the confluence of two trends: a growing acceptance of prefabricated construction and the greening of the economy. "Everyone is going green in construction, as am I," says Peter Sudler, a real estate developer and investor in the company.
It doesn't hurt that Galvin, the company's founder and CEO, says his projects, depending on the location, are typically 10% to 12% cheaper than traditional construction, cut 40% off construction time and are more resistant to extreme weather like hurricanes. Each container weighs 8,000 pounds, is 40 feet long and can hold some 50,000 pounds. The containers can be stacked depending on a customer's needs, a quality Galvin says likens the finished project to a giant steel honeycomb.
Here's how it works: port operator Conglobal Industries sources the retired containers for SG Blocks (SGBX) and modifies them right at the ports, cutting in windows and doors. Galvin's operation then either coordinates the finish work at the job site or an interim location. Any exterior finish like brick or wood can be added, but Galvin says most clients want to highlight the fact that they're going green. "They'll leave it very rectangular and some of the container exposed," he adds. (See sample photos at right.)