Four years ago I wrote a blog post about turning large shipping containers into homes. I found the concept, process, and results fascinating. That post is no longer available, and the links it contained are no longer active — the Web moves on — but the topic of the post, cargotecture, is very much alive.
Cargotecture is the design of large cargo shipping containers for housing. Part of the recycling movement, it falls under the upcycling umbrella. Upcycling is a component of sustainability in which waste materials or useless products are converted into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value. Turning the countless shipping containers littering lots throughout the country into housing certainly fits this description.
Another term to describe reusing old materials or products in different ways is repurposing. This week saw reports of a creative repurposing and possible example of upcycling. For the first time ever, New York City invited residents to swim in pools made from repurposed garbage dumpsters.
As part of the city’s third annual Summer Streets program, Park Avenue is being closed to cars on three consecutive Saturdays in August so people can bike, walk, play, watch live theater, and swim. That's right, Park Avenue, home of some of the most expensive real estate in the world.
Because only 10 people can swim comfortably in a dumpster pool at a time, the city is distributing bracelets to allow swimmers to enter in shifts. Reportedly 420 swimmers took a dip in one of the three pools Aug. 7.
How does a dumpster become a pool? According to a Green Picks blog entry about the pools and the NYC event, each dumpster was equipped with a layer of felt (so it's soft to stand on) and a pool liner before being filled with around 4,600 gal. of chlorinated water. Each 8 ft. by 22 ft. dumpster pool is surrounded by a wraparound deck, has its own built-in water filtration system, and weighs 50,000 lbs.
Dumpster diving is not allowed because the pools are only 3 to 4 ½ ft. deep.
Quoted in the blog post, the pools' designer, David Belt, who thinks the code-compliant portable pools can be used in any city, said, "I think it would be so great if different municipalities that couldn't afford to build a whole park could set up these pop-up pools." They're relatively inexpensive and easy to transport so a city could move pools around to different neighborhoods. (Belt says it costs $200 to move a dumpster on the back of a truck in New York City, but he isn't sure yet how much a dumpster pool would sell for. Parts for the NYC pools were donated.)
Another Green Picks blog post described Belt’s company Macro-Sea’s initial foray into dumpster pool construction, an H-shaped pool made out of three repurposed dumpsters that sits in the middle of an old lot in an industrial neighborhood of Brooklyn. (Here’s a fun video of the project.)
This venture is part of a larger plan designed to breathe new life into what has become an even bigger, more widespread eyesore on the landscape than shipping container lots — underused and vacant strip malls. Macro-Sea wants to buy them up and "turn them into vibrant neighborhood communities where anyone can shop, eat, swim, watch outdoor movies, hear live music, and just get together in cool outdoor and indoor spaces."
Swimming in a dumpster might not appeal to everyone, but the concept of turning unused products and wasted space into something that is not only useful but enjoyable is hard to beat.
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