I’ve often wondered what the shipping container house craze is all about. So I decided to do a little research into the trend of constructing a home from a re-purposed shipping container and why people like the square-box style of houses.
This article provides an insight into the advantages of shipping container houses, along with disadvantages and other points to consider such as planning permission and costs.
In the simplest sense, a shipping container house is an old, decommissioned shipping container which is either used on its own to make what is known as a tiny house, or stacked with multiple other containers and converted into a decent sized house.
Whilst some of the re-purposed shipping containers look fairly rugged and exposed as a house, there are people who have worked alongside architects and designed properties you wouldn’t even know were old shipping containers.
A shipping container house can be as complex and luxurious as you can imagine or they can be used as an ultra-cheap off-grid cabin.
There are many advantages to constructing a home from shipping containers, which we’ll look into shortly.
However, one of the main advantages seem to be the ease of construction – with a solid plan in place, a set of re-purposed shipping containers can be built into a fully functional house in a fraction of the time that a brick and mortar house would be completed.
So, what are some other advantages that draw people into building shipping container homes?
Considering the number of advantages which there are to constructing a shipping container house, these do not come without disadvantages.
There are a number of downsides, which should not go unnoticed;
There seems to be some confusion surrounding the planning permission of shipping container homes in the UK. Under section 55 of the Town and Country planning act of 1990, a development is defined as, “The carrying out of building, engineering, mining or operations in, on, over or under land”.
There are many people who believe that shipping container homes do not constitute a development, but merely as a temporary residence, such as a caravan.
For example, a landowner was sent an enforcement notice due to having a shipping container sitting in one of his fields, without planning consent, and was ordered to remove it. However, it was not fixed to the ground or connected to any utilities, although it had not been moved for over 18 months.
If you’re thinking of constructing a building from multiple containers, it won’t be considered a temporary building, and thus you’ll be required to apply for planning permission.
If however you are simply using a shipping container as a storage unit, such as a garden shed, it is unlikely you’ll require planning permission.
While the cost of constructing a house from used shipping containers is fairly low compared to traditional brick and mortar, things can start getting costly if you begin removing sections of the containers, such as the corrugated walls;
The walls actually play an important part in the overall structure of the container, and without them the strength would be severely compromised.
Due to this, those who endeavor to cut through the steel walls will end up spending large amounts on reinforcement structures within the container.
Another consideration you should note is that joining the steel containers requires a high level of metalworking skill – a good metalworker may come at a premium cost compared to brick builders, unless you yourself are skilled in metalwork, which will greatly reduce your build cost.
Many people have unique design ideas for constructing shipping container buildings, such as the one below;
However, I find the idea of completely off-grid cabins a perfect use for shipping container houses. For one, they can be pre-fabricated off-site, meaning that all you’ll need to build is the foundations and transport the house to the site.
Another reason they seem appealing is that they are ultimately a large piece of up-cycled steel and hence could be better for the environment than being melted down under extremely high temperatures.
Due to the outer steel shell, using the containers to construct a building is like using real life Lego – whatever design you can conceive can be put into work.
Further to the above, as you’ll be saving money on the cost of construction compared to building a brick and mortar house, this leaves you with surplus funds which could then be spent on incorporating all of the latest green energy systems into the design – such as solar panels, heat recovery systems, air-source heat pumps and water recovery systems.
You could in theory have a house that has everything a “normal house” has, except you won’t be connected to mains electricity.
If you’re skeptical about whether you’ll like living in a converted shipping container house, there are various listings on Airbnb in which you could take a weekend break to test the waters.
Here is a few which we found in the UK;
If you are looking at living in a shipping container home, rather than constructing your own from scratch, there is another option – purchasing a pre-fabricated shipping container home from a construction company that specializes in the area.
There is no tie-in for keeping your prefabricated container house in one location – the majority of developers that specialize in container housing design the layout so that they are able to be transported to various locations.
Mac Container Housing, based in the UK, have an established track record of building shipping container homes. Prices start from just £12,995 for a studio flat! Mac delivers your tailor-made home within 12 weeks and they include a 10 year structural warranty.
Shipping containers are not only limited to use as residential buildings. There are many applications which shipping containers are suitable for. Below is a list of projects that up-cycled containers have been used in;
Wenckehof Student accommodation – Amsterdam.
The accommodation compromises around 1000 recycled shipping containers. Initially it was an experimental project, however due to the success of the project, the local authorities granted permission for the structure to remain permanent. Search for more property for sale in Amsterdam.
Cargo 1 and Cargo 2 – Bristol.
Located in Wapping Wharf, Cargo 1 and 2 compromise of a selection of restaurants, cafes and shops – all of which are built from reused shipping containers.
Spark:York – York.
Similar to Cargo 1 and 2, Spark:York is a urban development which has been constructed from shipping containers. Here, you’ll find various independent businesses, as well as places to eat and drink. There are also live events which take place at Spark:York.
There are various sites online which offer new or used shipping containers for sale. You’ll also find various companies which will prefabricate a container house to your own unique specifications.
If you have a shipping container house for sale, or are in the process of constructing one which you’ll be selling, sign up with us for free and use our 100% free property advertising service.
Due to their low cost and shorter construction timescales compared with conventional building techniques, shipping container housing could solve the ever increasing housing demand within the UK.
Various companies and organizations have successfully installed shipping container buildings and are in still in use today. Do you think that there is a future market for these life sized Lego brick houses? If so, should there be more of a push to construct many more low cost housing developments from the containers?