Question: What is Both Green and Economical? Answer: Shipping Containers

Shipping containers are refurbished for use in construction, saving both resources and costs.

By Keat Foong, Executive Editor

Galvin_PaulShipping containers may appear to be a technological solution that is “a no-brainers”—once someone else has thought of the idea.

Paul Galvin, CEO of SG Blocks Inc., may be just such a pioneer. His company, SG Blocks, designs and supplies shipping container-based construction systems through a partnership with the largest shipping container depot operator in the U.S. Under the SG Blocks construction method, used containers that may have previously hauled goods on ships are “re-used” as the core building block in real estate development.

Being shipping containers, the materials are durable and safe as they are made to withstand maritime travel, and they typically exceed environmentally-related requirements, says the company. “We are asking the blocks to do less than at sea,” points out Galvin.

As employed in building construction, it is apparent that shipping containers are a “green” product–they are readily available, and are being refurbished for use. In fact, this repurposing uses 5 percent of the energy to reprocess a comparable weight of steel, SG Blocks claims. “I can’t think of another building module that begins with a ready-made module,” says Galvin.

Galvin says that SG Blocks provide many advantages over conventional apartment construction systems from a cost and efficiency point of view. From his experience as a real estate developer, “I have learned firsthand of the limitations and shortcomings of site-based construction,” he says.

According to Galvin, construction utilizing shipping containers produces 30 percent less waste. In New York City, cost savings of 10 percent can be expected, and the time it takes to complete a building can be reduced by as much as half, he says. Because of the quicker delivery of the building, revenues can be generated sooner, and a myriad of expenses, for example, financing, builder insurance and site security costs, can all be reduced.

SG Blocks are engineered to stack and lock. On taking on a project, the company provides rigorous in-house  engineering on the design. The company notes its clients include Starbucks, Puma, Lacoste, Mini Cooper, South Street Seaport and the U.S. Military. Galvin says he is currently working with multifamily developers in a number of major cities to identify projects. The container-based construction system, he believes, benefits “both the developer and the environment.”


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