Old shipping containers may not be the first resource that comes to mind when thinking of sustainable living options, but as an up-and-coming green manufacturing company has already proven, they just might be a viable option for those seeking to live in an eco-friendly environment.
Upcycle Living, a Phoenix-based construction firm, provides affordable ecological housing for residential communities around the world. In November 2009, a demonstration project at the Green Street Festival showed off what could be accomplished with four remodeled shipping containers.
The display contained two floors, two bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms, with stylish bamboo cabinets, dual-flush toilets, ENERGY STAR appliances and low-flow showerheads to boot.
“The inspiration for Upcycle Living came from our desire to create a quality housing project that was sustainable yet affordable, durable and mobile in nature,” says Ashton Wolfswinkel, co-founder of Upcycle Living.
As to why shipping containers are his company’s choice of material, he explains, “Shipping containers are very abundant, especially in our country where we import so much more than we export.”
“We thought they would be a great platform for us to start from since they are extremely durable and are designed to be shipped with heavy loads and to withstand the rigors of ocean travel,” he adds. “And because the shipping containers are so plentiful, we are able to get them at a reasonable price, thus allowing us to shift costs, to improve quality and make our homes more sustainable.”
The company’s innovative designs have already attracted a handful of clients throughout Arizona, with one couple now residing in the very first home that Upcycle Living constructed. In addition to these private projects, the firm is currently working on a larger-scale development, which entails providing affordable housing units for a Native American tribe.
Though Upcycle Living is a for-profit organization, Wolfswinkel hopes that once the company becomes a bigger presence in the world of sustainable living, it will be able to pursue nonprofit projects, such as donating housing units to low-income families.
But even in an economy that is less than ideal, Upcycle Living is working hard to expand into a successful business.
“The only way we will be able to do this is to offer a superior product at a competitive price point,” Wolfswinkel explains. “We want to stay flexible enough to fulfill our customers’ wants and needs, yet still fit within their budget.”
“We hope to engage our customers in a way that makes sustainable living accessible to anyone who has the desire to live more consciously and become more aware of how we live and the impacts that we have on our environment,” co-founder Jason Anderson adds.
In light of the disaster in Haiti, Upcycle Living has already reached out to a number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on what the company can do to help.
“Shipping containers are a very versatile platform which we can convert into almost any type of structure that is needed,” Wolfswinkel says. “From medical operating rooms to basic shelter, we would like to offer our services to design and build structures that would help in the rebuilding of Haiti.”