Traveling so much that you yourself feel like a piece of cargo? To confuse matters more, you might find yourself staying in a shipping container next time you check in to a hotel. The international hotel chain Travelodge has announced that its new flock of buildings will be crafted from recycled shipping containers, beginning with a 120-room Travelodge in the English city of Uxbridge. Eighty-six shipping containers from China will be stacked—they come pre-outfitted with electrical and plumbing infrastructure and are bolted together on site, which saves a tremendous amount of construction time and cost.

Shipping container chic is nothing new, of course. Prefab pieces have slowly entered the design lexicon of environmentalists and architects alike—see the Quik House, the Seatrain house or LOT-EK’s Compact Home Kit. Their chic-ness has also increased their dearness, with prefab wrested from the trailer park and turned high end, as in the $4 million Wired Living Home (albeit not crafted from shipping containers.)

Up until now, though, hotels have been slow to hop on the prefab bandwagon, and luckily Travelodge is no Four Seasons. Some rooms in the dowdier locations can be had for as little as forty pounds a night. But while England continues to trump us on any number of environmental issues, turns out it’s not the first to offer prefab accommodations. Amsterdam’s Qbic hotel offers “cheap chic and no frills” portable rooms—yes, they’re 74-square feet and come with beds and showers and TVs, and are actually “plugged in” to vacant office space there.

Travelodge, though, is banking on its lack of gimmick to propel it forward—it should look and feel like a normal hotel when all is said and done (though, one hopes, perhaps a tad more exciting than some of their offerings). They plan to open another version at Heathrow in the near future.

Should anything unfortunate happen to the hotel—as in, people not wanting to spend the night in a cargo container—the place is easily dismantled and recycled or salvaged again. 

Story by Lisa Selin Davis. This article originally appeared in Plenty in January 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008