Fixing Prefab Architecture - by learning from Product Design
writeup at Core77, which also hits upon my pet-peeve with the current fad involving shipping containers
While shipping containers have recently enjoyed a high profile as prefab housing components, the fact is they are poorly suited to the job. Shipping containers are windowless boxes—all of their structural integrity is in their vertical corrugated walls. Eliminating these walls to make double-wide spaces means extensive and expensive structural retrofits to allow clear-spans. As for recycled shipping containers, they need to be stripped of about a thousand pounds of toxins before they are ready for habitation. Most important, once shipping containers are modified to be housing modules, they can’t any longer be shipped on the intermodal container network. If you add a 20-foot-wide glass door to a shipping container wall, this door will sit outside of the dimensional envelope of the shipping container—and if you try and cover and protect this glass during shipment, you will further violate the dimensional rules of the network.[...]
Instead of fetishizing recycled containers, we chose to fetishize the network by turning housing modules themselves into the container used for shipping. The steel frames that form the basis for our modules are put together in such a way that we can place glass anywhere we want to in our buildings and still have structural resistance to wind, earthquakes and the rigors of intermodal transport.