Are Container Homes a Good Idea

Container houses are a good choice, especially in areas with limiting planning requirements. In Europe and the UK, this type of house needs building permits. However, since container homes are usually designed as tiny, transportable constructions, they can both be considered permanent houses or an additional dwelling to an existing house. Adapting the construction approach to match the planning requirements is definitely an advantage, but there are additional benefits to choosing a container house.

Advantages of container houses:

  • Delivered fast
  • The cost is low
  • Lower carbon footprint
  • Long-lasting
  • Good investment

A shipping container is a standardised rectangular metal box designed to maximise the transportation of goods using different means of transport. Therefore, containers are strong, spacious volumes that make an ideal prefab house structure.

What is a container home?

Container homes are a type of prefab house that upcycles large shipping containers and uses them as the house’s structure. The concept of a container house is similar to that of a modular home, where every container is conceived as a three-dimensional section of the house. The walls of the container can be easily cut to define different openings, and additional layers are always added to create a comfortable living space.

are container homes a good idea
The Living Container house from Inboxlifestyle has a container-looking finishing exterior

Container homes are popularly small dwellings built out of one or two containers, but they can be as large as desired. The volume of container homes is defined by the rectangular box shape of the shipping container, though the final appearance is that of a home. The exterior appearance varies enormously from one house to another; some manufacturers choose to maintain the container structure visible, but, in most cases, the external walls of these homes are covered with the same variety of siding materials used in other types of constructions.

container homes a good investment
The Blokki mini house is finished with wooden siding

Shipping Container House Benefits

While shipping containers were conceived to fulfil a completely different purpose, container house companies have perfected the creative process of converting these metallic boxes into comfortable living homes. The process of converting a shipping container into a home is definitely unique, yet it offers numerous benefits.

Container homes are built and delivered fast

A container home can be finished in just 2 to 3 months [1],[2]. The construction process of container homes is much faster than traditional houses since the environment where construction takes place is protected from any weather events and highly industrialised. Also, since containers are designed to be easily transportable, these homes can be shipped quickly, even over long distances.

The cost to build a container house is low

Compared to traditional construction, container houses are quite affordable. A small 1-bedroom studio-like container house, like the beautiful Bliss Hut, only costs 28,800€. Being modular constructions, manufacturers often offer different sizes and design possibilities to match the needs of each client. The same container house, for example, could be upgraded to a bigger two-container house Family Bliss Hut for 49,9000€.

Container homes have a lower carbon footprint

Being built out of recycled shipping containers, container homes contribute to reducing construction waste, which is one of the biggest pollutants nowadays. As much as 40% of the waste produced by every country comes from the construction industry [3]. By cutting down material wastage, container homes are a smart alternative living option.

Container homes are durable

The structure of a container home is highly durable, and is expected to last 35 to 50 years [2]. Since steel containers are conceived to transport all sorts of goods overseas, these rectangular steel boxes are built as a very resistant case made of corrugated steel sheets, designed to withstand the most severe conditions.

A container home is a good investment

Container homes are not just a good short-term housing solution; they can be good investments as well, especially when built as permanent dwellings. Given their increasing popularity and durability, the possibility of renting or selling a well-maintained container house in the future is guaranteed.

What are the Problems with Container Houses?

The conversion of a rough steel shipping container into a comfortable living home is quite well-developed by most manufacturers. However, given the complexity of this process, some problems are more likely to arise.

Container homes should be properly insulated

Since metal is a great conductor of heat and cold, containers should be properly insulated to ensure a comfortable environment. Also, in hot climates, these homes perform better when covered with external cladding since this avoids direct sun on the metallic surface.

The structure of a container home might need support

While the structure of a shipping container itself is sturdy, cutting window and door openings on the container walls can weaken it, compromising its structural integrity. Container home manufacturers will ensure that the house is strong enough and add extra structural support if needed. However, in some cases, container homes might not be as strong as an untouched shipping container.

Is it worth building a container home?

A container home can make a great housing solution, and, in most situations, the benefits granted by this type of house make their construction clearly worth it. Still, since every homeowner has different needs, the house type selection should take these into consideration. Below are some of the most common needs a shipping container house can easily satisfy.

  • You need a house built as soon as possible.
  • You are looking for a small house that includes all the necessary amenities.
  • Your budget is limited.
  • You want to install an additional dwelling in your property.
  • You embrace the idea of building with recycled materials.
  • You are looking for a modern box-looking home.
  • You are looking for a strong structure capable of withstanding harsh weather.

FAQ

Is it hot to live in a container house?

When properly insulated, container homes make a comfortable living space. If you live in a hot area with plenty of sun, opt to coat the container home with an additional siding to avoid direct sun.

What foundation does a container house need?

Container houses can be built on various foundations depending on each project’s specific needs. In Europe and the U.K, container homes can be conceived as permanent or non-permanent structures. While permanent structures will have to face strict requirements to obtain the necessary building permits, non-permanent container homes could even be built on wheels if desired.

References

[1] Inboxlifestyle
[2] Blokki
[3] Silva Urbano, D. S., (2015) Environmental footprint of modular building solution using LCA approach Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa (Portugal).

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