Puerto Rican architecture company converts shipping containers into hurricane-proof homes

Carla Gautier is an architect from Puerto Rico and founder of Konti Design, who focuses on sustainable and resilient designs by converting shipping containers into functional homes and business spaces. 

“The cool thing about shipping containers is that they serve a dual purpose,” Gautier told In The Know. “They’ve been designed, in the first place, to withstand the worst atmospheric conditions. They’re in the ocean traveling for months and they take in waves, they take in salt and they hold.” 

What also makes them useful during the climate crisis is that they typically aren’t upcycled. 

“Right now in America alone there’s 11 million containers just sitting in what they call shipping container graveyards,” she said. “Instead of throwing them out, we turn them into something useful into a house or business or something like that.” 

Gautier worked as a FEMA construction inspector after Hurricane Maria, the devastating natural disaster that took an estimated 3,000 lives. The experience underscored Puerto Rico’s need for better housing. Hurricanes have always affected the region, but climate change is exacerbating the inclement weather. 

Over her lifetime, Gautier has seen these hurricanes become more hazardous and increasingly wreak havoc.

“I remember one time we got to a house, we actually couldn’t find it for the longest time and when we finally were able to meet with the person, we realized we couldn’t find it because it just wasn’t there. And then we just see this piece of concrete that was originally holding a house, but there was just absolutely nothing left,” she said.

Gautier hopes that upcycling shipping containers will radicalize the way we think about housing. 

“What I really want to do is for Konti to eventually become basically a beacon of change in the way we build in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and just everywhere,” said Gautier.

If you enjoyed this story, check out this solar-powered floating house that can withstand Category 4 hurricanes.

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