For years, cargo shipping containers dominate the transport of goods over oceans and land. No wonder that most of us are familiar with this industrial-shape, rugged and boringly identical steel boxes. Recently, however, we can observe that these truly uninspiring containers found new life in commercial, housing and in general “construction” industry. Such applications like storage spaces, garages, sheds are probably nothing new.
However, most of us were probably taken by surprise seeing that cargo shipping containers are more and more often used for working or living spaces.
Here we will help you learn as much as possible about this new trend and find out whether this kind of living space is for you or not.
Here we talk about:
There are so many options available for equipping your container home with electrical energy. Whether you choose to connect your portable home with the municipal grid or not, it is up to you. You can save energy in many ways for using it later.
Following are the options available for your container structure:
This is the easiest solution for all your energy requirements. Connecting your shipping container structure with the municipal grid gives you access to unlimited energy. You need not worry about the availability of the resource or about it getting exhausted.
The energy received from the sun can be used to power your container house. Using solar panels can help you do that with ease. This off-grid resource involves only the initial installation cost. That saves you a lot of money spent on the monthly electricity bills.
The power of wind can also be used to generate energy for your container structure. Installing a wind turbine involves a one-time expense. If you live in an area blessed with regular winds, you must consider to utilize its potential.
Using Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) for your energy needs can be a good option for many container houses. It can be easily transported and stored in large tanks. However, it is not an eco-friendly option.
Several hybrid systems can be used to fulfill your energy requirements. PV panels, heat collectors, and hydro-power are a few potential options. Relying on a single source does not guarantee a 100% supply of energy all the time. Combining the power of two sources, like solar panels and wind turbines, can provide you more energy for your household.
Using a generator that runs on diesel or other such sources can help you with your household energy needs. This can be a noisy option and creates pollution as well. You can, however, keep it as your backup source in case of an emergency.
If you choose to go off-grid for your energy requirements, you must plan to store some energy as well. The off-grid options do not guarantee an unlimited and continuous supply of energy. That is why it is important to store it for future use.
There are a variety of batteries used for storing the energy trapped from the natural resources. Apart from their functionality, you also need to consider the costs involved in storing the energy in these batteries.
Access to clean drinking water might be challenging for the portable container homes. Sourcing water and storing it for daily use is essential to carry out the necessary tasks.
Following are some of the water sources for a container establishment:
Freely falling water from the sky is the easiest source of water for humanity. It can be effectively purified for several uses. But its availability is limited to a few places. The households in the drier regions might not be able to fulfill their water requirements from rainfall at all.
A creek or lake located near to your container house could be a potential source of water for your needs. You might need to test the level of lake water purity first. After confirming the water standards you can make use of an appropriate water purification system for your household.
Groundwater can meet a container home’s water requirements extremely well. Digging a shallow well can help you fulfill your water needs for car washing, toilets, and lawns. Driven wells for sourcing deep underground water can get you cleaner water for drinking and other primary uses. It is a source of unlimited water supply for all your needs.
Flowing waters from the mountains can be a blessing for those living near a water spring. These springs are usually free from pollutants and undergo continuous natural filtration. Using a commercial water filtering system to remove the excess minerals from spring water will provide you with pure water.
Sourcing water from a local water hauler for all your needs can be expensive. However, in emergencies, you must consider getting your water delivered by truck. Keeping a backup source is always necessary in case of container homes.
There are several costs involved in the process of creating a structure from a used shipping container. Considering them all in advance will give you a rough estimate of your total expenditure.
Shipping Container Cost
The cost of a new or used shipping container will form a major part of your total construction cost. It is the basic structure of your house and requires a few preliminary checks before acquiring. Getting the cheapest container might add to your repair costs because of its condition. So, making wise decisions is advised here.
Just like a traditional house, a container home also requires footings for additional strength. Consider the costs involved in building the underground footings and the ones made to make the house stand higher.
Cutting and Welding
This involves the cutting and welding of walls, windows, doors, and any other outlets. Various cutting, grinding, and flap discs are used in the process.
Doors and windows
Using a fancy door will cost you more while a simple one will cost you less. The same is the case with windows. Consider these costs well in advance to budget your expenses accordingly.
The cost of installing insulation panels or any other source of insulation shall also be considered while calculating costs.
Fittings on your internal walls add to the total cost as well. Whether you choose metal framing or a wooden frame, calculate your expenses during the planning stage.
Electrical fittings are also an important part of your container structure. Include the cost of all plugs and cords in your house cost for a correct estimate of total construction cost.
The exterior siding of a container home plays the role of walls for the whole structure. Several substructures can be used in preparing the siding including wood, galvanized roofing panels, Trex boards, and cedar lap. Choosing the right substructure and determining its cost shall form a part of your planning process.
The sanitary fittings, faucets, drain baskets, sinks, showers, water lines, and shut-offs form part of your home’s plumbing costs. With the use of durable stainless steel fittings, the costs can go very high.
Installing temperature control systems in your container house is a must. The metal container absorbs much of the heat during summers and becomes extremely cold during winters. HVAC systems help you to control the temperature inside your house as per your comfort.
The cost of painting the entire container structure must be included in the total cost. Primer, rust converter, thinner, enamel, vinyl, and liquid asphalt are used in the process.
The cabinets you install in your kitchen and bathroom will also add to your construction cost. These costs can vary a lot depending on the material used for cabinets.
Building a countertop for your kitchen is essential to carry out the daily tasks comfortably. Creating a countertop out of a natural block of wood can save you huge costs.
You will have to take into account the costs involved in constructing the outside space as well. A wooden deck built at the house’s entry or any other space created shall form part of the total cost.
Costs involved in constructing the roof of your container house shall be taken into account. The repairs carried out and rust prevention performed over the roof forms part of its cost.
Before constructing a house, you need to take some appropriate permissions from the local authorities for the same. Let us have a look at the legalities involved in the process:
Laws in the UK
Use proper shipping containers with acceptable international standards for constructing your home. Take building permissions when you want to modify your container into a permanent establishment. Taking planning permission for your container home will keep you covered from the legal risks.
Laws in Australia
Australian laws also require you to take appropriate permissions before setting up a container structure. Whether you are planning for a small or large establishment, you must get your project approved by the local authorities.
Laws in the US
The regulating entities issue permits for the construction of container structures in the US. The guidelines issued by the International Code Council shall be followed in building both the residential and commercial units. Get your design approved and obtain necessary permissions from the local authorities to get started. Also, pay attention to the building codes used in your area for the construction of shipping container homes.
At the international level, the codes and standards issued by the International Code Council must be followed. These guidelines must be observed after checking for the local regulations at the place of establishment. All these guidelines ensure safety and comfort besides adding durability to your structure.
Be it offices, hunting cabins, retail stores, all sorts of temporary booths, small weekend houses, public spaces, temporary housing in zones of natural disasters, residential houses and even large multi-storey buildings. In a wider sense we will call them – “Container-Based Habitable Spaces”.
It’s a fast-growing trend with seemingly unrestricted opportunities, characteristic for modular Lego-type structures where the only limit is our imagination. At first look, it may be still hard to put together pictures of a rugged metal box next to the warm, stylish residential house, but it’s not the first time when reality largely exceeded our traditional way of thinking.
In fact, shipping containers make amazing “construction blocks” and when arranged and finished with a dose of creativity, they can produce modern, stunningly stylish multi-container structures architecturally matching if not exceeding traditional commercial and residential structures. One can say – Welcome to the large scale Legoland!
Given the fact that each year tens if not hundreds of thousands of shipping containers are retired from transport, it was almost obvious that one day they will find their way to the market avoiding the final destination in voracious steel plants or simply abandonment. Not surprisingly, due to overwhelmingly positive market reaction, new businesses solely dedicated to the design and manufacturing of Shipping Containers Houses took the idea further. The Customized Container Houses were born!
The rest is history dotted with a rapidly growing number of colorful and elegant container-based structures. You will find them as single-unit container cabins, mountain retreats, offices, tiny houses, but also (on the opposite side of construction’s spectrum) as luxurious multi-unit residential mansions or multi-stories public buildings. Removing adjacent walls allows for the “seamless” integration of individual modules into larger interior spaces.
Taking the best from “Legoland”, the architecture based on cargo shipping containers quickly established its own image and place in the construction industry. Despite being still in an infancy period it’s already identified as “ArkiTainer” or “CargoTecture”, creating its own, recognizable brand name.
It’s true that many container-based structures (especially public spaces) may be still arranged in tasteless “industrial-style” piles of boxes attached side-by-side and stacked on top of each other. But it is also true that by rotating and spatially shifting interleaved 20ft and 40ft modules we can turn the boring piles of steel into the Wonderland of Creativity & Imagination.
In order to achieve desired architectural and functional goals, shipping containers are often accompanied by traditional construction materials. This opens even larger “horizons” for human creativity – “Hybrid Container Structures”. Once integrated with roof-gardens, patios, decks, terraces, pergolas, swimming pools… (you name it), suspended over slopes, cliffs or water, the otherwise modest 20 and 40ft-equivalent micro-homes, now in their multi-modular incarnations of metal and glass, can easily compete with traditional residential mansions. With customized insulation, proper ventilation and heating/cooling systems, they can provide a stylish and comfortable living space on any geographical latitude spanning from hot and humid tropics to freezing arctic.
Summarizing this introduction into the world of containers-based houses let’s make it clear:
As robust, lower-cost and short construction (or rather set-up) time structures, they make an attractive alternative to the traditional construction industry. It’s highly probable, that thanks to their potential Eco-Friendliness, container-based houses will find their well-deserved place in our more and more eco-conscious society.