Converted Shipping Containers: Why Do They Make Unique Homes?
Converted shipping containers are taking the Australian housing market by storm. Using their design ingenuity, architects are turning used shipping containers into efficient, flexible and affordable green buildings. These buildings range from houses and small home offices, to vacation homes and spare rooms.
In the past, used steel shipping containers were normally abandoned at shipyards, sometimes sitting on docks for years. But now container architecture is gaining popularity for residential use, particularly for houses and other structures.
There are a number of reasons that people choose to have shipping container homes:
- They look cool!
- Container homes have pre-made frames
- Environmental sustainability
- Much lower costs to built
- They are practical
- It is possible to build high density housing cheaply
Let’s now look at these reasons in more detail.
Shipping Container Homes Look Cool!
Elon Musk doesn’t market his Teslas as being sustainable (though they are undoubtedly better than a gas guzzler of the same size). His approach is to sell the coolest car on the market with eye popping acceleration and an app that can make farting noises.
The fact is, a large group of architects and home builders go for the shipping container home concept, not for its environmental benefits, but because the concept looks cool. Plus you can do a range of things that would cost an arm and a leg to do using other methods.
Look at this concept house in the Arizona Desert:
This is no shack for a civilisation hating hermit. It’s a super funky design that turns heads!
The concept has caught on so well that one architect has even built a shipping container home that isn’t actually made of containers (see photo below)! Isn’t mimicry the highest form of praise? That this fake container home lacks many of the other benefits of a real container home is beside the point – someone has tried to get the look without having used one in the first place.
As soon as students and trendy types hear of a shipping container party venue they go weak at the knees and flock there in numbers because there is such a buzz around the way they look.
The same applies, it seems, to home builders. If you are into post-industrial chic look then ask your architect about cargotecture and let their mind run rampant – there is still room for a jaw dropping piece of architecture that breaks new ground in this growing part of cutting edge home design!
Converted Shipping Containers Have Pre-Made Frames
When building a new house, it’s highly likely that you’ll have a hard time deciding among designs. As you’re building from the ground up, the typical square or rectangular frame might look appealing to you, but maybe so does the round type.
Modified shipping containers make this easier, given that they have a pre-made frame. The pre-made frame already offers a structure and a blank canvass. You just need to design with it or design using it. The container house you’re planning to build will require fewer raw materials to build, and you won’t have to spend money and resources on the structure’s framing and siding.
Converted Shipping Containers Have Flexible Design Elements
The beauty of modified shipping containers is the freedom they give you with design. The containers can be the design itself, or just contribute to the overall design scheme. Put a few together in a row, take out some of the walls, and you already have a spacious room. Leave the walls and sidings in, and you have an instant room divider.
It’s possible to remove walls, floors and ceilings without compromising the structural integrity of the container too. With expert advice and support, those new gaps in the structure can be reinforced and a range of things can be done – for instance adding doors or windows, or having a double-height or width space.
You can also use them as a component of a greater design. Converted shipping containers can be an extension of your kitchen, an outdoor pantry, or even a greenhouse. You can also have them modified and turned into an instant deck or front porch for your cabin house.
Approximately 85% of the steel in use around the world has been recycled. Does that mean a tin of beans in your store cupboard once was part of your old ute that you had to take to the scrap yard a few years back? Quite possibly!
Shipping containers will already have had a few lives and past existences too, as steel is the most widely recycled resource in the world. By using a shipping container as a building block for a new home, you can go a step further towards sustainability. Why?
In repurposing most steel it is melted down and remixed prior to reuse. That takes an awful lot of carbon to do. Simply reusing the basic box saves on carbon emissions in melting down and reshaping the steel for different used – perhaps as a girder in a steel framed house.
There are other benefits too. The speed of construction of a shipping container home is far quicker than a brick built or steel-framed home. In reducing the amount of time in construction, so you are further tackling energy use in the construction of the home, reserving even more carbon from the atmosphere.
Where it comes to the construction of such buildings there is another benefit – they are easily insulated, and need to be anyway to prevent issues like living in a superheated steel oven in the height of an Aussie summer! By installing a high standard of insulation you’re reducing energy bills and issues like noise pollution from an air-con system in the home.
Converted shipping containers can be built for less
As containers are already a complete structure on their own, you don’t have to spend much of your resources on walls, roofs, ceilings, and floors. You’ll only need to smooth the rough edges and put on the finishing touches, and you’ll have a beautiful home without all the expenses.
The cost savings work in a range of different ways. Shipping container homes don’t need massive investment in foundations. They can sit on simple pile foundations that are quick to install. It’s possible to seat them on a special concrete pad – again at far lower cost than a traditional construction that has to have a complicated foundation system. This adds another sustainability issue as less concrete used reduces the amount of carbon being emitted in the cement.
Secondly, it takes fewer man-hours to put a shipping container home together than a bricks-and-mortar home. Simply, with the building blocks being 6-12 metres in length and 2.4-2.9 metres high – bricks are tiny by comparison and take a lot longer to put down to achieve the same dimensions.
Another element of cost savings is that in many cases, first and even second fixes can be added to a container unit in a factory setting prior to bringing it on site. Being in a factory environment, so people with specific skills can work on limited jobs and do them extremely well before passing the unit to the next team to do their bit. In much the same way as cars are moved through different stations when being made in a factory.
Being protected it’s possible to add a range of utilities prior to dropping on site as prefabricated units. Once on-site they are fixed and welded together and the whole home can be weather-tight in just days after the containers are delivered.
Practicality is a core issue as to why shipping container architecture has caught on. Stick a couple of windows and doorways into the container and you rapidly have a useful living space to work with. This is why many families are building additional living accommodation on their land for older or younger family members to live in without having to extend their homes. This has even been made it possible in certain states’ laws to help tackle housing shortages.
Remove a part or all of two containers’ walls and weld them together – you have a double-width home.
When it comes to building vertically, shipping container design allows for up to eight fully laden shipping containers to be stacked vertically if they are stacked corner to corner. Remove parts of walls, ceilings and floors and you soon have a workable living space.
For a more daring design, it is possible to cantilever containers over one another without going crazy with costs. That means that the practicality of cargotecture design can be funky and not boring!
As we discussed above, you can put together a container home for a fraction of the cost of a a brick-built home. That is an important factor in keeping costs under control and allows the builder to have a higher quality home for a similar cost to that of one made of other materials.
High density housing
A final, but no less important factor in the reasons for shipping container architecture to have become so important in today’s building world, is that high density housing can be put together rapidly without skimping on quality.
Yes, social housing and even refugee camps have been made out of shipping containers. A lot of affordable housing has also been built for those who are financially independent yet need to live and work in a certain area. This is why we are seeing such developments, both for rent and purchase, springing up around the world as developers see the benefits of shipping container-based high density housing.
Put simply, you could construct an eight storey housing block that is 20 containers wide and houses 80 households for far less than it would cost to build an apartment block out of other materials.
This is one of the reasons why cargotecture is increasingly being used to tackle affordability issues in major cities around the world. Residents will also find often very comfortable fixtures and fittings in such homes that don’t skimp on quality, even while keeping the initial bottom line of construction at a very low price point relative to other construction methods.
Give us a call today!
Used shipping containers are being repurposed and making a statement in the property market. With the right design and effort, everything old is becoming new again as we help turn recycled materials into unique homes. Whether a granny flat, a sensible home, a mansion or even a large apartment block, people are increasingly turning to shipping containers for their accommodation needs.
Could you be the next home builder to get into cargotecture? Get in touch with us!