Shipping container the blank canvas for constructing a modular home

shipping container blank canvas

When most people think shipping container they are thinking a solid steel box used to transport goods around the world. A unit that is able to rust easily and overheats in the sun at the same time cold when temperatures drop.

In reality you have this on the left, a blank canvas for modular construction the box like shape gives you a starting point that has many alternatives in its construction and not only that its easy to work with. The skill set needed for self building is reduced drastically down to weights and possibilities, design is reduced down to budgets and creativity. So when you think container think of the drawing as its the basis of modular construction that is sustainable and often from re-cycled units allowing a reduction in waste at the same time putting it to good use. Also using the shape from the drawing takes away a lot of the boundaries people set in their mind and allows the thoughts to flow on how to attach multiple units together to form up a home. The important thing to remember though is the strength comes from the outer frame the wider parts shown on this side of the drawing.

What halted the shipping container projects?

As you know I am keen to get shipping container housing off the ground in the Philippines and there is only one word I can describe as causing a problem “greed”. Many of the containers here have actually got dates on them from the 1970s yet locally they are still asking the price nearer that of one just manufactured. If you take into account I had already agreed prices locally to then find that they realised what we were doing here they suddenly jumped in price by 60% without any reason except to extort extra money. Its hindered the development at the same time it has also thrown up opportunity as constructing modular sections instead of a full container will work out cheaper but also means the side walls can be adapted to exactly what is needed rather than having to work round the container walls.


What am I talking about? well if you take a traditional container the wall steel isn’t the most pleasing to the eye as well as heavy. The main doors aren’t needed in many containers yet they are the most expensive section. So if you imagine drawing a rectangle with a pencil and the lines are the exterior frame that is the module I am looking to start with. Instead of cutting and patching it will be brand new units specifically built for the task of modular homes. The way I see it is that people are wanting P140,000 for a 40ft container that was originally used in the mid 80s needing some repairs as well as cutting, insulating and developing into a home. A blank canvas module makes it a lot easier as the walling for example can be slotted in pre constructed with steel exterior, foam insulation and an interior wall in each section dropping them in one by one. Its all new and also more mobile due the weight reduction in parts needed. Won’t be stackable to the same heights as original containers due to the design. Only two modules high but for most tasks and the beach huts this is perfect. In fact a two layer beach hut with the bedroom on the top floor would make a nice addition.

are shipping containers good to build a home with?

I am finding more and more people are thinking on the same path as me with shipping containers yet the designs are more varied as time goes on.. why?

In reality we are all experimenting and it means that we spend a lot of time looking at other finished projects which does mean as time has gone on our own projects improve even if a single thing hasn’t been done outside our heads.

So are shipping containers good to build with? in all honesty i can’t think of a better start module especially if you get it cheap. I have worked with modular homes previously and its one thing they don’t come with is a cheap price tag. Shipping containers allow the person with the most basic of skills to evolve and construct their own home. Many of the other projects I have worked on in my lifetime it would be impossible purely because of the amount of information you need to understand from an architects perspective and engineers never mind the hands on side.

Shipping containers are great to build a home with because you can physically do most of it yourself. They are a contained box which means even if it takes you a long time it doesn’t matter you can’t throw anything at it worse than the sea’s and oceans which means you can develop your skill level as you go and on top of that they are easy to join together and construct from in basic form. If your looking for a blank canvas for a home a shipping container suits that need perfectly.