Climate Change Idea: Shipping Containers Recycled Into Homes

These easy-to-build and 'climate-change-proof' homes are growing popular in places like Miami that are prone to hurricanes and flooding.

Container homes are catching on in many places
Container homes are catching on in many places
Paula Baldo
BUENOS AIRES - Shipping containers are becoming popular in southern Florida as living spaces, amid a growing interest in small homes that can resist hurricanes and termites, both recurrent problems given the area's climate. Various companies, including MF Global architects, offer container homes for the reasonable price of $1,000 per square meter.
Argentina"s Mariano Bogani, who founded MF Global in 2016, says "it is not profitable to return containers to their source or send them to a local factory for melting, which also pollutes." Bogani is of Italian descent and his family have long worked in metallurgy. He presently works on recycling containers into home building components. He says "Miami-Dade County, in the south-east of Florida, has the strictest construction code in the United States. It took me nine months of adjustments and tests before I obtained the approval of plans for the first house. In 2017, county authorities began elaborating a building code for homes made with containers using the information and experience from our project."
The impact on the soil is minimal.
He remembers when he began work, some firefighters stopped by to visit the building site. "They were positively impressed and commented on the containers' anti-fire characteristics, beside their low environmental impact," he says.
The first project consisted of two houses with a surface area of 100 square meters each, made of six containers in total. Four of them were 12-meters long and two measured 13.7 meters; all were 2.9 meters high. Inside these were divided into three rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a dining/living space. Building was 94% with dry construction techniques (DCT), and concrete was used only in the foundations. In the future, says Bogani, "depending on the soil you are building on, these can be prefabricated and just installed."
Shipping containers are a viable alternative to other building materials — Photo: Clarín
Due to the local soil type and hurricane risks in Miami, the containers had 28 supporting foundations welded onto an iron sheet holding each column. The impact on the soil, says Bogani, "is minimal. This plot has three 90-year-old oaks, Florida's most protected tree." The containers were modified, with columns replacing some walls. Openings were cut and window frames added, and walls consisted of plaster-lined, galvanized profiles. There was "absolutely no use of any wood for the structures," Bogani said, "as there is also a termite problem affecting all homes here. In fact there is annual insurance for this, which was not necessary in this case."
The roof is prepared for solar panels and water recycling equipment to drain rainwater into a storage tank. All plumbing was placed under the structures, easily accessible for any reparation.
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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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