Shipping Container Homes Causing a Buzz Among Sydney Self-builders
Land prices are hitting $1,000 a square metre in Sydney and house prices are just getting obscene, so Sydneysiders are increasingly turning to container homes as a solution to the problem of getting somewhere decent to live.
Business Insider Australia reported last year, “the median vacant residential lot price surged by 6.5% in the September quarter of last year, hitting $267,368, up 10.9% on a year earlier.”
That’s in the region of $1,000 a square metre of land in Sydney, so with an average salary in the city of around $68,000 you’re already talking close to four times times your income just for the land the home sits on! That means you need to start thinking as to how to build cheaply and effectively.
Many families have gone down this route, with their adult children moving into the old family home and the elders constructing a separate container home as a granny flat on the land behind the house.
The ideal plot to build on is family members’ land – perhaps their backyard. This means that you can get ‘mate’s rates’ on the land and not have to go on the open market.
Containers and their hidden costs
A used 40ft container is going to cost in the region of $5,000 but not everyone wants to live in a chemically infused metal box with no windows or insulation that hits bread oven temperatures in summer!
This is why realistically a decent shipping container home is still going to cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, even while significantly out-competing a standard brick built home of exactly the same size.
24hplans.com reports that in US dollars, “You will also have to pay for labor (about $50-$150 per hour) and for the modifications needed to make the container liveable. Expect to pay at least $10,000 for labor, more likely $15,000 per container.” In AUD that would be $21,000 per container.
What does the work involve?
The first thing that needs to come out is the flooring of the container, an insecticide infused wood that can cause long term health issues for someone living inside as a normal home.
You will need windows and other openings cut into it (two containers side by side make an effective living space) and where these holes are cut you need to reinforce the structure.
Insulation against the elements is another factor – air con can be very expensive and even though insulation adds to the initial costs, the cheaper the home will be to run long term.
Once it has been designed, cut and welded together the home can be dropped onto inexpensive footings – a concrete pad often suffices. The build can be extremely quick and where it comes to self-building, speed saves money.
The 24h plans website again: Referring to one shipping container home it says:
“With a surface of 2,000 sq. ft., this house combines the industrial design on the outside with a walnut finish on the inside. The floors are made of concrete and the dual-pane aluminium windows provide natural light all year round.
The house has 5 separate decks to enjoy the sun while eating outside, tanning or simply standing still to enjoy the view. You would probably have to pay about $150,000-$200,000 (estimated) for a metal container house this big. Compared to the $300K required to build a normal house with the same dimension.”
Yes, that’s right – with a shipping container home you’re talking costs in the region of 50% of a brick built home to the same specifications. That can mean even with crazy Sydney land prices you can save a significant lump out of your wallet in building a home like this!
Building regulations and planners
Even if you manage to convince your folks to move out of their house and into a metal box in the garden (!), and built a well designed home for them to be close by for them to dote on your kids and for you to help them as things get difficult, you will still need to conform to local building regulations and planning.
Building regulations vary from local authority to local authority but cover things like fire safety, energy consumption and appearance of the home itself.
They can be irksome but are at least a science – unlike planning. In a previous Gateway Gazette blog we said:
“In Australia, for example, areas that are subject to bush fires will have much tighter codes regarding flammability and how safe someone will be should they hide inside. Shipping containers might be harder to get approved as building blocks for a home in these areas.”
Planning requires you to have your home approved by the elected council and this is very much an art in some cases. While they are bound by laws (and you can appeal if they infringe on the law in their decisions) they can make perfectly legal decisions that fly in the face of your dreams and needs.
- Who’s home do the windows overlook?
- Does it make a shadow on someone else’s property?
These things can cause a ruckus with your neighbours and a planning committee might react to that.
In the same Gateway Gazette blog on planning and building codes we said:
“Other cities have gone the other way. Recognising that not many people can afford a new home in Sydney, a new state regulation has emerged where subject to certain rules, someone can put two, 40ft shipping containers in their backyard and convert them into a home.”
Yes, in Sydney you can have a small studio with a shower room and kitchenette on family / friends’ land without much trouble from the planners. That is possibly one of the reasons that shipping container homes have started to kick off in the city.
What this all means
The fact is that local authorities recognise that there is a major need for housing and they are thinking laterally where it comes to the problem.
Shipping containers can be built into very beautiful, cost efficient homes that can meet that housing need for as little as 50% of the cost of a brick built home. That in turn adds to the attractiveness of container architecture where land prices are just far too high for people on normal incomes with normal levels of savings.
Given all we have discussed here, we should perhaps ask you what reason there isn’t to build a shipping container home? Contact us today to discuss your shipping container project and we’ll put you in touch with the right people.