Shipping Container Housing

Saad Iqbal | 🗓️Modified: May 22, 2021 | ⏳Time to read:7 min

Shipping Containers are trending “home sweet home” all across the globe. With each day passing, more and more people are putting them in housing, offices, shops, and studios. It has emerged as a sustainable, energy-efficient, strong, and beautiful solution in many applications. 

So in this read, I’d like to shed some light on this incredible and trending transformation of metal boxes – shipping container homes. We’d try to figure out ways of using shipping containers as a sustainable building option, what people are repurposing with it – homes and retail applications, and at the end, its future prospects are covered.    

Designers and constructors are repurposing these near-indestructible massive corrugated metal shells into virtually everything from offices, pop-up stores, coffee shops, art studios, and many more possibilities. With a minimalist architecture combining with industrial aesthetics, these container homes offer seemingly endless customization options. You can stack them one above the other or set them next to each other for a unique giant room.  

Gone are the days when these shipping containers were used exclusively for shipping everything from clothing to electronics to cars across continents. With time, people seem more receptive to this concept, and thus these repurposed shipping container homes have become ubiquitous. Resourceful designers are at ease with the use of these recycled steel bins.     

Global Growth & Details

As the name implies, shipping container dwelling includes homes, offices, and other structures that have been built out of one or more shipping containers. Following are some of the pros that have attracted the large public towards using these containers. 

Cost Comparison

The main reasons for adapting steel shipping containers are their affordability, convenience, and eco-friendliness as a raw building materials. But above all is its affordability; it is not too expensive for people of limited means. Although the cost of the shipping container unit depends on the size, condition, age of the container, etc., but in most cases, it is about a fraction of the price for a conventional brick and mortar dwelling.  

Obviously, for various add-on’s and customized features, you have to pay more, but because they are built in a factory-controlled setting, the cost of labor and material is significantly reduced. A storage container price varies between $1,500 to $4,000, depending on its condition. The cost of fixtures like plumbing, windows, and electricity, etc., can take up anywhere between $60 to $150 per hour in contractor’s fees. The simplest of all container homes can be as low as $5000, but obviously, you’d not be going to get any extraordinary features in it – just a simple container home. 

Shipping Container Houses as Sustainable Building Option

Hundreds and thousands of shipping containers are left dormant each year as a discarded pile of steel taking up space on the port. This is quite common amongst countries that import goods in much higher volume and frequency than they can export, resulting in millions upon millions of shipping containers left dormant. Instead of labeling them as waste, you can use these giant bins to build homes and live. 

In this way, you’re not only relieving the trade industry of container waste, but you’re saving considerable energy resources that would otherwise be utilized to melt down these containers into a part. By recycling and reusing these shipping containers, you’re not only helping to ease off global warming and greenhouse gas emissions but are also contributing to financial and material savings. By turning to these container homes, there would be obviously less demand for brick, wood, and other building materials.  

By all means, these old Shipping containers are a sure way to get a funky, sustainable, unique, and eco-friendly home.      

What are people repurposing Shipping Containers?

There are virtually endless applications of shipping container architectures, with more and more creative uses showing up almost daily. Whatever you can build with bricks and mortar – can also be built using shipping containers. 

These big steel boxes are being used for so many interesting and significant things, even more than you could have imagined. From a small one-room studio apartment to a double-story dwelling, from dormitories to bridge, from a student housing project to a sports hall – these cargo containers offer a robust design and modular nature which has revolutionized pre-fabricated buildings. Following are some of the innovative ways people are repurposing shipping containers – but it is just a beginning:          

  • Container Studio Apartment 
  • Eco-Lodging – Mobile Shipping Container Hotel 
  • Children Play Centers 
  • Student Housing
  • Shipping Container Guest House
  • Container City
  • Eco-Friendly Bridge
  • Container Garden
  • Backyard Patio
  • Swimming Pool
  • Pop-up Container Coffee Shop & Retail
  • Cafes and Restaurants 
  • Retail Applications of Shipping Containers 
  • Container Home 
  • Container Office
  • Art Galleries 
  • Portable Toilets
  • Shipping Container Bank
  • Shipping Container Libraries
  • Warehouses & Garages 

The Construction Process

Besides cost friendliness, another reason for the quick adaption of a shipping container home is its quick construction. You can build container homes incredibly fast – like in 30% less time as compared with a conventional home. You don’t have to wait for the roof slab to cure; they already have the walls, floor, and ceiling. 

  1. While you’re planning to get a container house or a building, you’ve to estimate the extent of preparation required at the site condition. A rocky or uneven surface will surely be going to increase the cost and time of the construction process. 
  2. But before you jump into a new container house project, you have to make sure you have all the permits needed. As in some areas, the shipping container homes are not that common; thus, you might be the first, or one of the first, in your area. So be prepared to have some paperwork and approvals and to convince officials. 
  3. The severity of permits and their cost depends on the area and type you require. The next step is to get an estimate and a plan. You can get a professional estimate and floor plan from specialized building contractors for all the processes and conceptions, which will help you to assess the required budget.
  4.  After finalizing the paperwork and selecting the right contractor, you can order your prefabricated shipping container. In the meanwhile, the contractor can set up the foundation, frames for doors, windows, insulation, other utilities. The final step is the retrofitting of every fixture, including plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and any additional feature you may require.  

Future Prospects

Apart from a few cons, the shipping container has plenty of pros like lightweight, price-efficient, movable, fire and flood-proof, and adaptable. So, without a doubt, shipping container houses are the best green alternative which is fashionable too.    

Understanding the nuances of shipping container procurement is also vital for any aspiring container home owner. Factors such as the condition, size, and history of the container can significantly impact your project. While some may prefer new containers for their pristine condition, others might opt for used containers for their character and cost-effectiveness. Regardless of your choice, it’s important to source your containers from a reputable supplier. For those looking to delve deeper into the specifics of container selection, check this for a comprehensive guide and options available.

Saad Iqbal is a professional civil engineering and freelance write. He's passionate about structures, construction management, and home improvement topics. He's been working as a Senior Engineer in a consultant firm for over 8 years. Besides he loves writing informative and in-depth content focused on construction and home-related topics. You can catch him at his linkedin page or reach out via our contact us page.

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