As much as I am a traditionalist with regards to building construction you have to look around at what is up and coming and innovative. I love our old traditional buildings that we have dotted about all over over country. Some built hundreds of years ago and still standing strong today. They are part and parcel of our national character and are a wonderful link with our history.
Today we have an essential emphasis on sustainability and environmentally friendly construction yet as much as we seem to hear about these factors all you see being built around us are commercial buildings that mainly use concrete and glass and steel and domestic buildings that use all manner of concrete variants such as concrete blocks, concrete tiles with cement based products smeared all over them. Concrete, cement, steel and glass are not exactly environmentally friendly in their manufacture.
With this current style of construction we have moved away from the use of traditional lime mortar that allows a certain amount of flexibility and moved towards a more rigid construction that has to have deeper more stable foundations, this requires even more concrete and steel.
Above is a "container house" something that I personally really like. There are many different styles of container houses popping up here and there around the world combining a modern product that has already been used once for its purpose into a secondary lease of life. There are also container business parks starting to be developed for short term "pop up" shops and small businesses to get their ventures off the ground and to assist in providing a solution to an ever increasing problem of lack of space for developments.
Concrete doesn't have a particularly long life span expectancy in the grand scheme of things. So whilst we have a housing crisis at the moment and are desperately building where ever we can these modern buildings are not permanent and will not last the same length of time as many of our old historic buildings that we currently are lucky to have. I can not see buildings such as the Shard being a visitor attraction in hundreds of years time such as the Tower of London is.
With this in mind should we not be looking to life expectancy of buildings when they are developed? Do we need these places to be here a hundred years from now? Business units, commercial properties, industrial estates and housing developments are all built with massive impact to the land and have huge effects to the environment. The environmental emphasis has encouraged a real problem with issues such as heat retention and we are packing all buildings with Polystyrene based products that I can not see any secondary use for, they are major pollutants when disposed of. What are we going to use second hand polystyrene insulation that has been buried in concrete for in decades to come? We are not, we are creating rubbish that can not be easily disposed of.
So if we are happy to think short term with regards to products used in construction then why do we not think short term in their usage but with an emphasis on being able to use the products again?
I believe that the new vision that many are having with container buildings is a step in the right direction. The buildings do not need massive concrete foundations, are already a second use of a product that can also simply be picked up and used again elsewhere. All the insulation applied to each unit can stay in place and be used in the second, third, or fourth place these units get moved to rather than with brick/block construction have to be demolished and disposed of once the building is finished with and having little further use.
There are estimated to be 30 million containers around the world with countless just sitting empty.