Liveable Structures from Shipping Containers

Architects of today are creating beautiful liveable structures from discarded shipping containers

Everything begins with an idea, said American author Earl Nightingale. Thomas Alva Edison, one of America’s greatest inventors once said, “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”

Someone said “One man’s retired shipping container is another man’s crazy, high-end modular home.” This idea has turned into an accelerating global wave of creativity around retired shipping containers.

Shipping containers are a post-1950 creation. An American transport entrepreneur from North Carolina, Malcolm McLean developed the modern intermodal shipping container, which created a revolution in transporting goods and in international trade during the second half of the twentieth century. McLean invented and patented the first shipping container in 1956. During this time, he owned the largest trucking fleet in the American South and the fifth largest trucking company in the US. During the pre-container era, it cost $5.86 to load a ton of loose cargo. With the ISO shipping container, the cost was reduced to only 0.16 cents per ton. The first container ship the Gateway City began regular shipping between New York, Florida and Texas from April 1957.

In early days, there were various standard sizes of containers. However, the most commonly used sizes today are the 20-foot and 40-foot lengths. Container sizes needed to be standardized so they could be stacked one on top of the other with maximum efficiency and utilization of space, and so that all equipment needed to handle and transport containers could be produced to handle a specific size. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) set standard sizes for containers in 1961. Containers are usually built from aluminium or steel, and are built according to ISO specifications, wherever they are made.

In an ideal world, when containers arrive in any country, they would be unloaded, then refilled with exports and sent to the country of origin. However, international trade does not happen in a balanced or equal manner. For instance, in the US, imports significantly exceed exports. If one hundred containers arrive in the US filled with imports, half of them would leave US shores empty, and probably five would carry exports while the remaining forty-five containers would idle. On the other hand, the scenario in China is the exact opposite. China exports such enormous quantities, the demand for containers far exceeds supply. China regularly charters entire containerships just to get empty containers to pack exports. Added to this, China produces almost all of the 100,000 new containers that are manufactured annually in the world.

An inventory of new containers is a consistent necessity because a container is generally used as a container only for about 10 or 15 years. And, as it happens, there is an estimated 24 million empty shipping containers in the world that will not be used any more for shipping cargo. However, containers are made from the world’s precious resources, and a new container costs about two or three thousand dollars. Discarding them onto the scrap heap once they can no longer serve as containers, would be a criminal waste.

Containers also get lost in the sea. Some industry estimates assume a daily loss of four containers, while other estimates indicate 27 lost every day. However, professionals in the business focus heavily on the prospects of building containers, shipping them and then repurposing them. This trend has led to coining of the term “containertecture.”

A man named Phillip Clark trail blazed the building of shipping container homes and filed a patent on November 23, 1987. He named his patent the “Method for converting one or more steel shipping containers into a habitable building.” He described how containers could be placed on a weight-bearing foundation to create a liveable structure. He stated that containers were ideal building material. He was awarded the patent after two years.

Today, architects have come to identify and appreciate discarded containers as fascinating building material that can be bought cheap and re-created into an aesthetically-appealing structure. Being flood-proof and fireproof enhance their suitability to be used as houses. Fascinating creations are found in different corners of the world. In 2012, a Chilean architect used 12 shipping containers to build a family residence overlooking the Andes Mountain. The containers were used as bedrooms, living quarters and a swimming pool. In Amsterdam, a temporary shipping container “city” was created for a theater festival. Some container interiors were cleverly dressed up as dining rooms. The container “city” took four days to assemble, provided two weeks of theater entertainment and was taken down in two days when the event ended.

Although converting containers into living spaces is not new, in this Green Age where people are habitually recycling to maximize on scarce resources, many containers are being reused as homes, offices, apartments, schools dormitories, studios, and emergency shelters.

Indeed, eco-friendly and relatively inexpensive container houses are fast becoming an acceptable substitute for traditional housing. Paul Galvin, CEO of SG Blocks, a public company focused on repurposing shipping containers, says, “It’s a legitimately green option for the consumer. And it’s not going to cost them more; this isn’t a green solution that requires government subsidy.”

As Confucius said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

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4 cool home tech enhancements

If, in the year 2000, someone was told that their mobile technology could sync with their homes – start playing music the moment they walk in or greet them like a friend, they might tell that person to stop dreaming about science fiction and come back to reality. But that is our new reality… Homes are becoming smarter and coming to life with new technologies.

  1. Talk to Alexa, and have everything sorted for you

An innovative system by Amazon that will tell you jokes, play your favourite tunes and even call a car for you. The virtual assistant that comes with the sound system is called Alexa and the tubular device is also compatible with a few other technologies such as additional speakers to run Alexa through your entire house, allowing you to change the temperature in another room and oh, it can also help you take down your to do list and remind you of it.

  1. Go green with Caia and shine a light wherever

Caia developed by Solenica, helps redirect the sun to wherever you need it to go. Ideal for dark corners that the sunlight from the windows rarely touch. It employs a similar mechanic as a mirror, but it is able to reflect much more sunlight than a reflective piece of glass. Furthermore, it is configured to be set up almost anywhere, from the window still to the balcony. It is an eco-friendly technology that saves energy and also, the robot itself is solar powered.

  1. Burglar-proof your house with these smart inventions

There are automations available for purchase that allows you to control the lights in your home through your mobile phone. This means that you can turn them on even when abroad, to ward off burglars by allowing them to assume someone is home. Rather than leaving the lights on or off the entire time. Another technology that allows for better security is a smart lock, you’ll be able to control who enters your house and in the event you can’t remember whether you locked the doors behind you or not, you can always check through your phone. Handy!

  1. Weather controlled technology

Back in 2015, earthquake beds made their rounds on the internet. The concept is that when the bed senses an oncoming earthquake, it would activate and protect the sleeper by encasing him or her. The bed is fully equipped with supplies that will keep the victim alive long enough for help to arrive. It was not well received due to the potential of losing a limb when the contraption activates. However, it was only a concept and has since been abandoned. What might be useful is a weather station that is capable of sending weather reports directly to your phone and tell you whether you’ll need an umbrella for the rest of the day or if it will be clear skies till nightfall.

Of course, in order to procure all these technologies, one must first own a house and the best way to start looking is through house auctions rather than real estate agents. Or, go around your favourite neighbourhood and check out whether there are any houses up for sale. Once that’s set, you’re one step closer to your dream home!

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Why gamers are cool

If there is a preconception of gamers being losers who have no friends and therefore no life, that would be in 2000. It might be true that in the past, staying at home and playing computer games rather than going out and socializing might seem like some kind of faux pas. The Japanese even have a name for it: otaku. But it is 2017, and professional gamers are nothing short of being celebrities, especially in Asia.

South Korea especially, where professional gaming have become so widely accepted and integrated into its culture, that it has been nicknamed the capital of esports. Starcraft II gamers earn an average of six figures per game and they take what they do very seriously. Just like how a sportsman might study their opponents, coaches make their players breakdown the other team’s tactics and have strict training regiments.

They attract many admirers, which is apparent from their training cubicles which is lined with personal effects and gifts from sponsors and girls. Boys make up more than 80% of all gamers, and are treated with the same attention as k-pop stars.

Esports have even gotten noticed by The International Olympic Committee and was quoted saying, ” The Summit agreed that ‘eSports’ are showing strong growth, especially within the youth demographic across different countries, and can provide a platform for engagement with the Olympic Movement” and will be part of the medals event at the 2022 Asian Games.

However, it is DotA 2 which has the most lucrative industry. An annual tournament, simply known as The International, had a record breaking pool prize money of $24.8million and even had online casino sites offering odds on who will win. Invited gamers from Europe, Southeast Asia, China and all over America, flew to Seattle for the main event.

Instead of stadiums, esports employ the use of gaming hubs that have an auditorium and many do flock to watch these tournaments. One such venue has recently emerged in Malaysia where they are still battling the negative connotations attached to gaming. Their neighbour, Philippines, do not have such a problem and only just launched a League of Legends Varsity League in an effort to up the standard of collegiate esports.

Many of those who make esports their vocation are still in school and are bound by scholarly commitments. However, esports have gained recognition. A school in Connecticut have accepted its authenticity of being an extracurricular activity. It is the very first state in America which has joined the “Electronic Gaming Federation as a High School Esports League”.

With such a growing recognition all over the world, you will be hard pressed to find someone being laughed at for being good at a computer game. Instead of being seen as an antisocial activity, it has become accepted as a sporting event. And sports is the one thing that garners respect everywhere, the only activity capable of driving people together. A powerful force in itself, let’s hope esports have an equally long and lasting run.

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Small Businesses a Sweet Spot for Hackers

Small Businesses are of more interest to hackers than you might imagine. There are 750,000 sites active on the web at any given moment, and a vast number of these belong to small businesses. Many of which don’t have effective web security services in place. This makes them a low-cost, quick option with a high potential for lucrative returns.

Many small-businesses run their website using free hosting through sites like, and don’t employ any additional web security measures other than those provided by the host. In fact, an out of date WordPress site turned out to be the source of the high-profile Panama Papers leak.

It’s a common belief among small business owners that they’re too small to be noticed by hackers. Cybercriminals however, use advanced and automated tools to search and find vulnerable websites. Once they find one, exploiting it gives them access to data and information provided on that websites, or allows them to edit background code and install malware through software updates or download links. The result is a security risk to effectively anyone who might access their site. Owners and staff of the compromised business, their customers and other businesses too.

When it comes to attacks on small businesses, hackers typically steal the credit card information and personal details of customers who make purchases with small enterprises. A customer or employee’s identifiable data usually includes names, addresses and birthdays, all information which can enable identity theft, resulting in unwanted costs and complications for everyone involved. According to data from the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance, about sixty percent of small businesses who suffer a hack are forced to close within six months.  Most attacks are still arriving via email, but there has been a recent increase in attacks on small and medium enterprises using mobile devices and social media channels.

The trend towards cybercriminals targeting small businesses is likely to continue in the eyes of some hackers they have become more attractive targets than larger enterprises, small business can no longer ignore the target painted on its back.

Paying a company for a once-off website virus removal might seem cheaper at first glance, but the truth is there is no substitute for the security which regularly maintained web site security can provide.

Website security for small businesses should ideally take a multi-layered approach, using desktop security products such as antivirus, antispam and firewalls, as well as cloud-based and software for network intrusion detection. Firewall services that are cloud-based protect your companies administrative access and data around the clock, and offer threat detection and management. Proper maintenance also includes regular scans that are scheduled outside of uptime monitoring, and will search for vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed ahead of time, prevent exploitation by hackers. These are all things which might seem too technical or expensive for local cafes and community not-for-profits, but many service providers are now offering tailored subscription services and packages to suit different budgets.

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How to kickstart a Startup

The marketing landscape is becoming more and more diluted with creative ideas and solutions. While previous generations have depended on a stable career, millennials are convinced startups is the road to success. However, with all the products and services out there, how does one stand out and ultimately, succeed?

According to Forbes, every startup should entail five key factors. Impeccable timing, financial credibility, self-discipline, social skills and flexibility. But another article points out that entrepreneurs are problem solvers. Every startup should be based on an idea which is both functional and practical.

However, it cannot be too niche nor should it be unrealistic. To tackle the first problem, the team will have to put out feelers – talk to people from various walks of life and determine whether it is something people would actually want to pay for. As for the latter, always leave an allowance in regards to timing. Being unable to launch or ship by a certain date will lose the trust of prospective customers and clients and in their eyes, they will have written it off as a failure. To overcome that, one would have to undergo strenuous rebranding and even then, the previous parties interested might have moved on.

There are many reasons why a startup may fail. One of them being a lack any real motive. Although money minded businessmen might argue and say fortune is the motive. But it is not a strong enough incentive.

Think about that student in your high school, the one always at the top of the class. Do you think that he or she only wants to be number one for the sake of the title or that they have bigger plans in mind? Furthermore, to understand how motive works, understand that he or she might not be extraordinarily intelligent, but you can be sure that person has their eye on a goal. There are sacrifices involved in having a one track mind and thinking objectively. If they are weak in science, they make up for it with extra hours and put in more effort. Similarly, if there is an idea to be realised but there is no crew and no deposit in the financial department? Find a solution.

Products and startups usually end up on a fundraising website such as gofundme or kickstarter. These platforms allow people to pitch their ideas to the public and if they like it, they could pledge a donation. Most of the times, depending on how much is spent, these investors do get something in return. They might get something small like a pin or have a limited edition of the actual product when it reaches completion. Another funding solution for hardware startups is companies like Tetra Financial, which help companies finance their equipment and hardware requirements.

Remember that it is not enough to get a startup off the ground, one must truly persevere. According to a study in Canada, half of the small businesses which began within five years end up failing. This could be due to an ineffective crew, whereby the business owner hires their friends instead of people who are truly capable of completing the task at hand. There are certain instances whereby the founder is simply not the right person for the job. If that is the case, hire someone efficient instead. At the end of the day, startups are not about the founder, it is about the consumers.

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How Mobile Apps are Changing Business

Mobile apps are everywhere nowadays. More and more businesses are using this digital tool to corner the mobile market. The number of customers who use mobile devices to access the web and shop are on the rise. It’s anticipated that the number will continue to rise in the future. However, mobile apps are unarguably not suited for all businesses. If your business is currently considering developing a mobile app, here are several benefits that your company might be able to enjoy:

Sell Directly to the Rapidly Rising Mobile Market

As mentioned above, the mobile-oriented customer base is on the rise. So, if you want to sell to this audience, a mobile app is the best way. Mobile responsive websites won’t cut it. Apps are faster, and they are specifically designed to be optimally interactive on smartphone screens. Also, you will be able to gain ground on competitors who have yet to launch mobile apps.

Increased Availability

The average Canadian spends more than an hour using his or her smartphone or tablet, according to market research data. People rarely spend time browsing on desktops. On mobile phones, however, people spend time checking out sites and products. This is mainly because people tend to use phones while en route to somewhere, or waiting in line at the dentist. These are prime time to capture a customer’s attention. The customer will be interacting with your company more if you have a mobile app, rather than just a website. So, don’t wait and find an app development company to be available to your customers 24/7, regardless of whether they are in front of a computer or not.

Create a New Marketing Channel

Apps are more than just a tool to get customers to interact with your business. They are also lucrative direct marketing channels. Customers interact in many ways with businesses and online stores via apps. Whether it’s reading news, connecting to a forum, filling out a form or playing a game, there are plenty of opportunities to directly market to a potential customer. Apps can be where customers learn about special promotions or new products. If someone is already using your app, then that means they are already interested in your business. Thus, conversion rates for mobile app ads tend to be far higher than on any other channel.

Execute Loyalty Programs

Mobile apps are the best way for a business to execute a loyalty program. Customers who use apps are already loyal to some extent. You can solidify this loyalty, and drive conversions, with an app-based loyalty program. It can be a fun and interactive way to keep customers coming back to your business.

More Brand Awareness

Social media is at the forefront of creating brand awareness nowadays. But apps can promote brands as well. A great app can make a relatively little known brand famous on the continent. Customers who use your app will have no trouble recognising the brand name after a while. So, if your business is struggling with creating brand awareness and getting social proof, try again by creating a great app.

Mobile apps in general vastly improve customer engagement. The benefits to a business can be many. Some companies are built on great mobile apps. Think Uber. So, your business may be able to generate new revenue with a mobile app as well. But first, you will have to invest in creating a truly great app.

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