DigiTruck Will Bring Schools to Africa

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Children in remote areas of Africa more often than not do not have access to schools, let alone ones that allow for learning digital literacy. The solution to this perhaps lies in the so-called DigiTruck, which is a solar-powered digital classroom, which is also mobile.

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The DigiTruck was built by placing a standard, 40-foot shipping container atop a trailer, and can operate completely off-the-grid. It is well insulated to keep out the heat, and has steel doors and bolted window shutters, which provide security. It is illuminated by LED lighting. The truck is also fitted with solar panels, which take care of all its power needs. Should the need arise, the truck can also be reconfigured and used as a mobile health center, a community training center, or even a cyber cafe.

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The DigiTruck is administered by the digital literacy non-profit organization Close the Gap, who partnered up with Arrow Electronics and Hoops of Hope, to make it a reality. A DigiTruck can fit up to 18 students at a time and is fully equipped with refurbished IT equipment, namely 20 laptops, an LED screen, a printer and two Internet routers.

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Local workers in Arusha, Tanzania, were contracted to build the DigiTruck, and it is currently located at the Tuleeni orphanage in the remote village of Rau in the Kilimanjaro Region of the country. The mobile classroom is currently a school for 80 orphans. For now it will stay at the orphanage, but it will be taken to a new location in the second part of 2016. The equipment it currently contains will be donated to the Tuleeni Orphanage, while the truck will be fitted with new IT equipment.

Plans to build more of these DigiTrucks for deployment all across rural Africa are already underway, and I hope they soon turn into reality.

Shipping Container Apartments Coming to Downtown Phoenix

By Christine Walsh

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The architecture firm StarkJames LLC has designed an apartment complex made from recycled shipping containers, which is currently being built in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. The primary reason behind this project was providing affordable and sustainable housing near the city’s busy downtown area.

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The complex is called Containers on Grand and is located at 12th Avenue and Grand Avenue, in Phoenix. A total of 16 decommissioned shipping containers will be used to build eight apartment units. Each of the apartments will be made of 2 recycled shipping containers, yielding 740 square feet per apartment.

The architects will keep the floor plan open and modern, while at the same time celebrating the fact that shipping containers were used to build these homes. The apartments will all be one-bedroom units. A kitchen island will be located in the middle of each apartment, with a large living area on one side of it and the bedroom and bathroom on the other. To achieve adequate space, one of the longer sides of each container will be cut away and two containers will then be welded together to form a single apartment.

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The living area will open out into the central courtyard in the center of the complex via double French windows. These large windows will also allow plenty of natural daylight to enter the home, making it appear more spacious and open. The apartments will also offer plenty of storage along one side of the central corridor.

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According to the architects the Containers on Grand complex will be finished and open by the end of spring. They also say, that they already have a lot of interest from he young professionals and students at Arizona State University’s downtown campus. They are expecting to rent the apartments for $950-$1000 a month.

Taco Bell Builds a Restaurant out of Shipping Containers

By Christine Walsh

The fast food company Taco Bell has unveiled a new restaurant at this year’s SXSW in Austin, TX. What sets this one apart is the fact that it was constructed entirely out of shipping containers. It seems more and more business are starting to adopt this new architecture trend, which given the surplus of shipping containers piling up in US ports each month truly is great news!

In the case of Taco Bell, we can perhaps expect more of these types of cargotecture restaurants, since they’re planning to open 2,000 new locations in the US by 2022, which means they are looking to cut costs wherever they can.

The new shipping container Taco Bell only has about half the footprint of a traditional Taco Bell, and the one in Austin was built in just three days, with most of the pre-prep done off site, of course. They have also opted to leave the containers in the original industrial condition, and even though they have been repainted, the company chose a color very similar to the original finish.

They also did not alter the original shapes of the containers very much, apart from cutting out the openings for doors, windows and ventilation. The main shipping container is the one where food is ordered and picked up, and this container also houses one entire food prep line. If an additional food prep line is needed, such as in areas of higher traffic, a second shipping container could easily be attached to the structure to provide it. To fight the feeling of claustrophobia felt by the workers in the back of the container, they added a window to the food prep area, so the backs of the employees as they prepare food is visible to the customers ordering the food.

They placed the storage and operations area into a second container, which also houses the manager’s office. The third container rests atop the bottom two and houses all the necessary cooling equipment. It would appear they also cut one container in half, and then welded the two parts to the main structure. One of these contains the bathrooms and the other the freezer.

However, this restaurant has no indoor space for the customers to sit. There is an outdoor eating area equipped with tables built from refinished wood pallets and giant wire spools laid on their sides, which is also a nice way to repurpose these materials.

Israel Gets a Shipping Container Student Village

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A brand new student village recently opened its doors in the town of Sderot in Israel. What sets it apart from other such villages is the fact that it was built entirely out of used shipping containers. All the work was also done by the students themselves, many with no prior construction experience, under the watchful eye of Ayalim, Israel’s largest youth organization.

Construction started in June 2014 and by early December 2014, the units were ready for habitation. The village was built using 36 recycled shipping containers, which yielded 150 apartment units. The construction was done by 1000 students and pre-army volunteers, who picked up valuable construction skills as they worked. About 300 of these will stay in the village and attend the nearby Sapir Academic College. The units are made available to them for a subsidized rent, so long as they perform 500 hours of community service in Sderot annually.

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The shipping container village is comprised of three separate structures, each rising three stories. The shipping containers used to build them were pretty much left in their original state, at least from the outside, and stacked one atop another much like they would be on a ship while still transporting goods.

On the inside, little suggests the units are made out of shipping containers. The walls were covered in drywall and painted white to give the sense of spaciousness. The units were also fitted with large windows that let in plenty of natural daylight and offer good ventilation. The apartments are comfortably furnished, and contain a fully functional kitchen, living area, bedroom and bathroom.

The main aim of this project was to get young people to stay in the village even after they finish their studies. Apparently the biggest obstacle for people settling and studying in this region of the country is lack of affordable housing, which is what the Ayalim is trying to remedy through this project. It is certainly nice to see large scale cargotecture projects like this start to crop up all over the world and hopefully there will be many more.

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Apartment Building Made of Shipping Containers Goes Up in Washington DC

By Christine Walsh on Nov. 25, 2014

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Washington D.C. recently got it’s first piece of residential shipping container architecture in the form of a Brookland apartment building. The project was the brainchild of DC-based architect Travis Price and his partner Kelly Davies, who did the work for owners Matthew Grave and Sean Joiner. The residential building, located at 3305 7th Street NE, was built to replace a run down family home that once occupied the spot.

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The architects used 18 recycled shipping containers to construct the 24 one-bedroom units, which are intended to be rented out as student housing. The containers they used are 10-feet high, which make them perfect for small apartments. By using repurposed shipping containers they were also able to keep the cost of construction down, and below that of traditional construction prices.

But being built out of shipping containers isn’t the only sustainable part of these homes. The architects also used recycled materials for the interiors, such as the flooring, which is made from welded metal and wide-plank. They used corrugated plastic on the exterior of the building.

Large French windows were installed on the shorter side of each container, allowing plenty of daylight to enter the home. The longer sides were also fitted with large windows, to lessen the feeling of living in a box that can sometimes come from living in a shipping container. The units themselves are very sparsely furnished, and each features a bedroom and a bathroom, with a communal living area and kitchen on each of the floors. Though the units are meant for a single person, they could easily house two as well.

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The entire project took seven months to complete, from design idea to finished building. Despite protests from the neighborhood they were able to stay on track with the construction.