Most of us are familiar with the humble metal shipping container. They have revolutionized how goods travel around the world. The idea is simple. Take the body of Semi-trailer and put it, fully loaded onto a ship or a train. Your cargo is protected and you don't have to spend time and money unloading it and reloading it to put it onto a ship or a train. In 2005, 200 million containers full of goods were shipped around the world.
In Central Asia, shipping containers have also revolutionized the construction industry. Shipping containers measure 8.5 feet high and 8 feet high, which is a pretty comfortable size for people to work in. They are strong, waterproof, cheap, and easy to move. As a result we've seen numerous container buildings. Sometimes people just open the doors. Other times people cut doors and windows into them, paint them, and make them into very nice living spaces.
Most commonly we see shipping containers in the markets. Most of the markets here in Osh are made up of row upon row of neatly lined up containers. They are wired with electricity and typically have inventory in the back and a sales section in the front. At night they just shut the big metal doors and put a padlock on them. These container markets are quite permanent, with decorative roofs covering the aisles between the containers. We've even seen places where the markets are two stories. You just stack containers two wide on the bottom and one wide on top and you have a half container worth of sidewalk on each side.
As I started researching this I found out that most of these containers are surplus. Apparently the shipping industry has high quality standards for their containers. As a result there are tens of thousands of containers which can't be shipped and which are expensive to recycle. And there are tens of thousands of vendors who would love a cool, secure place from which they can sell their products.
Maybe next time we build a garage we'll look into getting a few storage containers for the back yard instead.