Benefits In Short:
- COST: Affordability
- Construction: Time Saving
- Durability: Lasing Time
- Portability: Can Move
- Flexibility: Can Grow
- Stylishness: Nice Looking
- Eco-Friendliness: Planet Friendly
Shipping Container Houses (SCHs) are considerably less expensive than traditional brick and mortar buildings. It is estimated that the cost of large SC house is about half the price of an equivalent traditional one. The ratio can be even better in the case of smaller houses, especially if you can set them up by yourself in a DIY-approach (what thanks to prefab, modular structure does not require special skills).
The cost savings are also very visible when you plan to settle in difficult to access and/or remote areas where the cost of on-site construction will be much higher (transport of materials and supplies, housing contractors and limited access to electrical power and water).
When it comes to habitable spaces, Customized Container Houses (CCH) have major advantages. Probably the most important are – much less “construction-related” headaches and short time to move-in, because they come especially designed for such purpose. The disadvantage will be an “extra” transport time and associated cost as overwhelming majority of CCHs are designed in China (in general in S-E Asia). The good news – as they are foldable Flat-Pack structures, the cost of transport will be reduced compared to full-size General-Purpose cargo containers, especially for larger number of modules (note that one 40ft cargo sea container can transport up to six TEU modules of Customized Container Houses).
The second-hand industrial-grade cargo SCs are particularly attractive when it comes to initial buying cost. Firstly, as used, you can buy them at the discount, but what also counts is that you will be able to buy them locally on specialized markets. While it may be tempting, please note that their adaptation to habitable space as well as necessary time to achieve this goal may easily outweigh lower initial cost.
On the positive side – cargo shipping containers can be an ideal choice for uninhabitable spaces like storage, garage, shed, etc. because these are the closest functionalities to those they were designed for.
Bottom line – SC houses create an opportunity to get “big bangs for reasonable bucks”, bangs that otherwise you may not be able to afford.
According to manufacturers, the typical lifespan of SC houses is only about 20-25 years, so way-off compared to traditional housing structures. But frankly it’s a very conservative estimation, and it does not mean that they will collapse, but rather that some rust, corrosion or water leaks may appear with time.
So, let’s put in the right perspective: structures of traditional SCs are very strong. They have to withstand huge loads during overseas transport as well as hardships of weather and salty water. Simply speaking – they are built to last. To achieve this goal, cargo containers’ frames and sidings are built from rust-resistant steel known as CorTen. The Customized Container homes have similarly robust frames made from galvanized steel (by far stronger than it may be required by multi-modular and multi-story buildings).
Their walls, although not anymore from 2-3 mm (80-120 mils) thick steel but rather sandwich panels (with tiny metal sheets and thermal insulation in between) are made from pre-painted galvanized steel (PPGI). Thanks to such protection, if properly maintained, they will have a much longer lifespan than conservative numbers provided by their manufacturers.
Summarizing: Shipping Container Houses (including Customized ones) are robust, durable and low maintenance structures. They are not much affected by weather elements, termites, they can withstand even strong earthquakes and tornadoes (they wouldn’t be torn apart but may eventually “fly” if not attached properly to the ground). With proper maintenance they can last forever.
Please note however, that these days, majority of big material goods (houses, cars, etc..) are becoming obsolete not because of their physical deterioration, but because of our almost insatiable needs to follow quickly changing styles, new technologies and let’s face it – constantly growing expectations! And these factors may in the future define the lifespan of our homes (especially if the new ones are affordable).
In most countries, SC habitable spaces are NOT considered as “Permanent” structures. As such, they may not need any permanent foundation so in a way they are “mobile” (easy to move from place to place). It is especially true for small (ideally 1-module) structures like kiosks, offices etc. that can be quickly and at almost no cost relocated to the new place by a standard truck trailer. What makes it even more attractive – container houses can be transported in a whole (without disassembling). After all – they are designed in a similar way to shipping containers!
The portability also holds for multi-modular structures, provided that modules are not welded together but attached by bolts and nuts.
Summarizing: Shipping Container Houses share benefits of two different worlds – they offer living space with all attributes of Permanence, at the same time preserving crucial characteristics of Portability. In our traditional world, when relocating (for whatever reason – be it a new job, school, retirement…), your only option is to sell the house and eventually buy the new one. Well, Shipping Container houses open new and frankly, tempting scenarios – you can simply take your house with you (especially the small one). Each of individual TEU-segments making the structure of your house can be easily transported by the trailer truck the same way as countless cargo containers seen on our roads every single day.
BTW- This is exactly happening with single-module commercial units like kiosks, tourist information booths, offices in construction zones, utility rooms etc… They are quickly deployed for some specific events (fairs, festivities…) and then at the end removed (or moved to another location).
SC houses represent the class of modular, prefabricated structures that are manufactured off-the-site. While it may take some time to build them according to customer’s requirements (especially valid for used cargo containers), from user’s point of view the on-site construction time is mostly determined by preparation of adequate foundation (if needed), assembling process and time necessary to hook it up to the public grid (electricity, water and waste).
Just as an idea – a simple 1 TEU (20ft) Shipping Container Hose module can be set-up and functional in half a day. Please note that manufacturers provide detailed instructions for the installation process and usually also an on-line support for any related problems. The truth is – Customized Container Houses are sort of “Out-of-the-box” solutions. Their closest cousins – Cargo Shipping Container houses are not far behind (if fully modified at an off-site location). BTW- you will find companies repurposing cargo containers into habitable spaces. See Falcon Structures
Modular construction of SC houses makes it easy to expand the space by attaching another module(s). This characteristic is especially evident in SC structures built from Flat Pack containers (in this case also Customized Container Houses). Their internal walls can be easily removed or replaced by new ones from glass or with partial openings allowing for integration of the new space into the whole structure.
You can easily build large multi-modular one level house, but it will be almost equally easy to build 2 or 3 stories structures. The frames of Flat Pack (folding) containers are strong and can support the weight of few-stories house. Simply speaking – construction project using shipping container “blocks as the building material” is like large scale Legoland we are all so familiar with. A lot of fun and countless possibilities!
It may be more difficult to accomplish such a task with popular GP cargo containers because entire walls or opening(s) in walls will have to be cut in the thick corrugated metal sheets. It’s doable, but a bit laborious and quite “messy” process.
Note that Expandability is especially beneficial when you need to add more living space to already existing and inhabited house. Traditionally, such endeavor means months of mess (dirt, noise etc..) at your footsteps. But attaching one or few more “ready-to move-in” Shipping Container modules can be done in a matter of day(s). All the dirty work (needed for cargo containers, but not for Customized units) will be done off-the-site, saving you from the construction nightmare.
At first, it may sound strange, but the combination of metal, glass, variety of colors and in case of multi-modular structures – forms, gives architects an incredible building “material” to work with. The results are already visible across the world – distinctive but clearly modern offices, spectacularly stylish residential homes, appealing to public eyes mountain retreats…. In fact, from the outside, they combine the best of two worlds: Strength and ruggedness of industrial environment with modernity and charm of the residential one. And when it comes to interior, depending on your preferences it can be anything from rustic to most fashionable modern designs. One thing is sure – despite their apparently “cold” steel structure, interiors of Shipping Container(s) homes will be as warm and elegant as you will make them!
In recent years, the word “Eco” became an expression of our convictions and possibly of lifestyle. Well, at this stage of development, it may be premature to claim that new Customized Container houses meet eco-expectations. Such notion however clearly applies to used (second-hand), already retired from transport cargo shipping containers, when they can find “new life” as habitable spaces.
Some may claim that the amount of energy necessary to transform used cargo containers into habitable spaces defies the idea of eco-friendliness, but it seems to be just the gross misconception. The truth is, that this is the only sustainable alternative for used cargo containers. Otherwise, they will “rest in peace” as abandonment as unwanted scrap (most likely on beaches in some poor countries, because unfortunately that’s how we deal with the “waste”), or end-up recycled in steel mills. Certainly, both alternatives are far from being eco-friendly. And if you did not realize it – please note that millions of shipping containers are in circulation across the world, and each year a few hundred thousand of them, for this or other reason reach the “retirement age”.
The bottom line – reusing empty, abandoned or just simply unwanted cargo shipping containers for storages, garages, sheds, workshops and similar low-demanding units is a pure and simple contribution to eco-friendly environment. However, also more demanding habitable spaces (homes, offices, shops, studios etc..) will make a positive impact on our ecosystem.