Those of you who’ve read our articles for any length of time know that we’re certainly advocates for shipping container homes.
They are a fantastic building material, and when used appropriately, they offer several advantages over traditional construction materials and methods.
In this article, we’re going to cover the main benefits of building your home with shipping containers.
We’ll also cover how to maximize each of these benefits.
An often overlooked advantage of shipping containers is their durability and toughness.
Think about it, shipping containers are designed to carry valuable cargo through extremely dangerous weather. While at sea, shipping containers can be subjected to 100 mile an hour winds and 50+ foot waves.
In the video, you can see the shipping containers getting rocked side to side by a huge storm, yet they all remain intact.
This durability and toughness is generally considered ‘over-spec’ when they are turned into homes. This means that shipping containers are more than strong enough to be used as homes, especially when compared to other eco-friendly building materials such as recycled plastics or straw bales.
However, to maintain this toughness, we recommend that you don’t cut out too much steel from the containers. Removing sections of the walls for doors, windows and room openings affects the structural integrity of the box itself and requires the addition of additional steel beams to carry the load that was held by the removed metal.
Also you need to make sure to do regular maintenance on your containers to prevent them from rusting. You can read more about this here.
One big advantage of building with shipping containers is that you can convert them off-site, as we discussed in depth in our article here.
If you are planning to live in a remote area, building on-site comes with numerous challenges: contractors are difficult to find or expensive to have travel, shipping your materials and supplies is expensive, and the availability of electrical power and water necessary for construction can be limited.
Instead, you can convert your shipping containers in an urban area and then once the fabrication/modifications are complete, you can transport your finished home to your land. Or you can pay a company to build it for you at their factory, then ship you the finished container home.
This allows you to live in places where traditional brick homes couldn’t be built.
If you’re intending to live in the wilderness, the cost of transporting your building materials and paying for contractors to travel that far may end up being much higher than shipping your finished container home to the site in one trip.
Another fantastic advantage of building with shipping containers is the environmental benefit.
When people were surveyed about why they wanted to live in a shipping container home, the second most common response was because it is eco-friendly.
Over the past few decades, the number of people becoming more aware of their impact on the environment has been accelerating. People are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and become more eco-conscious.
A fantastic way to do this is to build your home from recycled materials.
Each time a standard 40ft container is recycled, around 3,500kg worth of steel is repurposed.
It’s estimated that each year around 500,000 shipping containers are abandoned . In addition there are several million shipping containers which have already been abandoned. That’s a lot of construction material.
So if a shipping container home build uses five standard shipping containers, around 17,500kg worth of steel will be recycled.
Not to mention that by building with containers you aren’t using other building materials which harm the environment.
Without question, one of the biggest reasons why people build with shipping containers is because they are affordable.
Take a used 40ft shipping container as an example. They cost around $1,800 and provide about 320 square feet of floor space. You only need to put 3 containers together and you have almost 1000 square feet for less than $6000.
You only have to look at the following examples:
We’ve seen countless shipping container homes built for less than $50,000. In a time when more and more people are struggling to buy their first home, it makes container homes a very exciting proposition.
One of our favorite affordable builds is called the ‘The Taj Malodge’. It was built back in 2010 and is a 600 square foot home built for well under $35,000.
However, this is where the versatility of shipping containers comes in. Not all shipping container homes need to be affordable.
We’ve seen some shipping container homes sell for over $1,000,000. It really depends on you, your budget, and your imagination.
If you’re looking for a more detailed price breakdown read our article discussing how much do shipping container homes cost.
Let’s start with a caveat here: the truth of this statement depends on the design.
With that said, shipping container homes can be built so they are portable. To make a shipping container home portable you need to do two things:
This portability can be a huge benefit if you want to own your own home but need to move often. All you’d need to do is a find suitable utility hookups for your shipping container each time you move.
One man took this idea to the extreme and built a complete portable shipping container home which he ships around the world when he travels with work.
Evan completely stripped out the container and built the ultimate portable man cave. The side of the container even opens up to provide more space!
His home features a bunk bed, sofa, kitchen and dining area and when not in use can be closed up as the original doors have been left on the container.
Another great advantage of building with shipping containers is that the finished assembly can be done quite quickly.
Our case study on the Graceville Container House clearly demonstrates this fact. Todd and Di Miller built their shipping container home in Brisbane, Australia. When it came to delivery and assembly, 31 containers were brought on site and placed on the foundations in only 2 days.
This equates to around 6,000 square feet of construction laid down in 2 days, a rate that just isn’t possible with traditional building methods.
Also, the entire home only took 16 weeks to build off-site, which is pretty remarkable considering the size and specifications of the home.
One of the reasons why shipping container homes tend to be quicker to build than traditional homes is that the main structure of the home is typically complete when the containers are delivered.
Another great example of this is Container City. This office block consists of 73 shipping containers and it only took eight days to deliver them to site and fit them in place. Each shipping container was prefabricated beforehand and then transported to the site before being hoisted up into place.
It’s fair to say that shipping container homes often have a distinctive look. It’s hard to capture this in one word, though people have tried:
Industrial, rugged, modern.
It really is a love or hate relationship. Some people love the appearance of shipping container homes whereas other people can’t stand them.
The important thing to remember is that if you don’t particularly enjoy their external appearance, you can alter this with external cladding. Take for instance WFH House built by Mads Møller. They clad their shipping containers with wood and you can’t really even tell it’s a shipping container.
While external cladding is mainly for aesthetics, it has other benefits as well. Depending on the type of cladding used, it can actually improve the insulative properties of your home.
We hope this article has helped to explain some of the main benefits of building with shipping containers instead of other more traditional building materials.
For us, the two main benefits are the unique style and affordability.
It isn’t all sunshine and roses though; there are absolutely some situations where you shouldn’t build with shipping containers. Read our article here for more on that.
Why are you interested in building a shipping container home? Let us know in the comments section below.
Whether you build or buy your dream shipping container home, you owe it to yourself to be an educated consumer. Get equipped with the knowledge of how container homes should be built by checking out our floorplans and eBook for sale!