The initial problem with a shipping container home is getting over the hurdle that its not just a shipping container but can be adapted for home use. I have worked in several industries that involve travel. The issue with that is you get used to living with pretty much everything you need in a bag and its when you get to that scale of things you realise how much stuff people have but don’t really need.
When I looked at the $4,000 shipping container home in the U.S. owned by a single mother you quickly can see why she did it. Ok she didn’t want to work full-time at the same time its difficult to do with kids anyway. In reality though she has adapted her budget to fit a home and its only in the last 20 years has this obsession been going on to get bigger without reason. Why? because it drove the fake housing boom market through the roof until it all fell apart like lemmings running off a cliff people became obsessed with making money on homes yet there were less and less people coming in at the bottom end of the market which then collapses the whole chain. This happens due to the “Refurbishment” housing people that quickly rip out old, replace with new and sell on with added profit. Do this with enough people you price out the bottom people on the ladder to the point many gave up even trying to get a first home. I know I wasn’t interested in tieing myself down with a 25 year debt for a house that cost three times as much as it was less than 10 years earlier.
Shipping container homes from a budget point of view are a banks worse nightmare. Only loan you may need initially is for land as its likely you will just develop the home yourself in your spare time. This knocks of literally years of debt you would have had going via a bank loan giving you more freedom and better cash flow. Mix in the general running costs of heating,cooling,lighting on a smaller scale property your also reducing your footprint which also lines the pockets with more money. If anything you are probably going to spend more time outside than you would in a conventional home which is also a lot healthier.
I really do struggle to see a downside on doing a shipping container home especially when I see so many people burned with the housing market crash quickly followed by the recessions that have been on going ever since. Being debt free the ability to survive the current trend is a lot easier than riddled with debt with a bigger mortgage than the building is worth.
When looking to build a shipping container home be aware that some skills are needed and if you haven’t got them its worth getting someone else in to cover the bits you don’t know. For example I can do electrical,heating,cooling,carpentry and joinery but welding isn’t something I have had to utilize in my construction work before because generally we build with brick in the UK. At the same time if needed I would be willing to spend time learning if need be. You have to remember this is your home your building and not just a weekend project. If done wrong it could be a disaster and a project that has to be rebuilt. I would always advise taking advice from professionals at the same time there are things you can do to make life easier such as buying the shipping containers “pre cut” at the dockside to save you time and also to make sure the holes are the right size and in the right place. If they make a mistake its their problem they have to put right not yours.
First looking at this you can easily see why a shipping container could be used for the central hub of the building. As well as looking into it a bit more to see it can’t only be a simple design but with some interesting uses of technology for electric, water and heating/cooling. Initially house boats seem to be designed to keep the poorer less refined members of public out but this design does actually show it can be sustainable, minimalistic and cost effective.
The simple design is based on a core unit with a lower deck area which is mimmiced in size by the roof section to allow shade for the exterior deck. On top of that the green roof area of the Uboat by Wyatt Little also offers solar energy to assist in powering the house boat.
Add to that the geothermic loop to regulate the interior temperature of the property and you have an ambient temperature courtesy of your watered surroundings. Add to that the ability to draw up grey water as well as rainwater collectors on the green roof your water supply starts to become sustainable.
Maybe not 100% practical cost wise but the concept is something that could be utilized in other ways. The deck area with matching roof makes sense for container houses as it would help reduce heat build up as it keeps the heat away from the sides of the core building. Its looking into these ideas, concepts and thoughts that open up new ideas and practical solutions to shipping container homes.
The thing with shipping containers although very sturdy if the ground isn’t level it can often twist and pop the wood flooring up as well as make the doors difficult to open. The worst case scenario is that you build uneven then move the container finding it then levels itself damaging the work you undertook.
Now it doesn’t always have to be some complex ground as they are very robust pieces of kit you just have to make sure its level even if its soil your dropping the container onto. Also you have to look at what your needing the container for and where. For example in the UK the howling cold winds can make sitting in a container a cold place to be so sheltering it away from wind channels such as behind a wall are beneficial. But if in the Philippines for example heat is an issue so building the units on pillars is very beneficial as the air flows under the unit as well as the sun heating the ground throughout the day. This affect allows natural heating at night as heat from the ground rises during the night hours to help keep an ambient temperature. How high to place the container is then the next question and one that you need to base on the exact location you want it and needs. For example if building studio apartments maybe you want to create some reverse U shaped concrete pillars 8 – 10ft high to sit the containers on as this not only allows the heating/cooling but also a parking space to keep your vehicle in the shade when not in use. At the same time you could be just raising the same unit on pillars less than 3ft high to allow access for drainage pipes etc. which still offers some heat reflection and cooling but obviously the angle is restricted.
The beauty of the shipping container is that its physically a robust building block you can adapt to most needs as long as your practical and make sure you try to keep things as level as possible you will have little problems especially if joining multiple units. I have worked on modular housing previously and found floor levels as much as 10” out and uneven (10” over one end and 6” under the other) this has happened due to contractors involved in preparing the ground not being part of the modular construction teams not knowing the critical importance of getting things right. Instead doing a quick job for quick pay which resulted in headaches for me as we had to physically lift the units and level them manually adding an extra few days to the job. Which when your talking modular and time sensitive you have containers arriving to be joined yet nowhere to install them until you’ve fixed the first few and over a few days your starting to get problems catching up as things are all out of sequence. For the modest house builder its not too much of a problem but this was a multi storey doctors surgery built in a similar way to shipping container houses.