Should the UK look seriously at container housing for homelessness?

Brighton,homeless

Big problem in the UK these days is the fact housing prices are over valued. You will still get people argue the fact that there is a huge demand but at the end of the day the market cannot support the pricing structure that is currently in place.

In fact so much so things like the government buy back schemes that were introduced when the last Labour government were on their last legs politically are a prime example of propping up the market.

In reality though many people struggle to make it on the housing ladder or in a lot of cases are literally living destitute in the streets all over the United Kingdom. For years now though I have been watching to see if anyone will grapple with the strict housing laws to introduce a bit of common sense on. Because lets face it a container house is better than no house at all.

Also after working as a Building Surveyor for many local authorities and housing associations I can see a market for these types of home and I will explain why.

Its not from the clean bit of promotion of container living but dealing with parts of society that are often difficult. For example drug addicts that have rights of housing often destroy the place they call “home”. Containers are easy to strip out and refit due to their design. The minimalist structure also reduces costs on refits.

But what about the people don’t they deserve better than this? Have you seen the container homes that exist in Amsterdam? They are more than sufficient for housing needs and its supposed to be a home not a palace.

 container housing,shipping container home,container,shipping container

You have a nice size kitchen, functional bathroom and sleeping area how big do you need to have a property when living alone? Even as a couple these homes are extremely functional.

Now I take you back to what I was saying earlier about damage done to properties because often these figures get hidden from the public eye. Imagine this home with the plasterboard punched through, a lighter used to burn names in the ceiling, kitchen smashed out, door on the toilet punched, windows smashed.

Now your talking about many properties I have dealt with over the years. But the advantage of a container home is you can rip it out same day and start a complete refit the following. Because lets face it one of the key factors here is that everything is to shipping specifications which means all the dimensions are fixed. No measuring of the kitchen counter as you know how big it is. No funny shaped walls or doors being a different size. You can refit as modular units.

These types of homes could save councils and local authorities a fortune for the rough tenants they often get stuck with. But moving forward from that you also have care in the community projects. These are also ideal for that part of the community as they can be easily adapted for people with special needs who still want independence.

Students, first time buyers you name it there is someone who would say I would live there! So what is stopping it happening?

Planning regulations and artificial inflation of property prices. That’s pretty much it because the need for it is there and personally if I was single I wouldn’t have an issue with living in one as my first home. In fact I know many working men (I say men because its primarily them!) that are stuck in crappy old bedsits due to the costs of maintaining an ex-partner and at least one child. These could be a cost affective,clean modern solution to housing problems all over the place for multiple needs.

Yet I think we would have to argue with the government and protest to actually get them to accept that these types of homes are a real solution to part of the UK housing issues.

Container Homes Hit Vancouver!

container house,vancouver,shipping container housing,shipping container,home

We have had a few container homes in Canada but this is definitely the most recent. 12 Containers are being utilised to form social housing for women in the downtown Eastside of the city.

The project is looking to complete by April 2013 and is the brainchild of the Atira Women’s Resource society, which bought a lot in 2009 to build traditional housing.

The idea was put forward by the society to BC Hydro who were giving away two containers to a non-profit organisation. Which eventually seen a further two containers donated by Atira with the remainder being purchased from the Port of Vancouver.

The design has been modelled on existing shipping container homes in the Netherlands and Europe. Which to me makes sense as you learn from other peoples mistakes and experiences.

The residents will be women over the age of 55 who currently reside in a shelter.

“What we hope is to set up an intergenerational program,” Abbott said. “We have housing for young women next door and we’d like to set up mentoring relationships between them.”

The accommodation will see the older women paying $375 a month rent while younger tenants will be charged 30% of the market value to help pay the $500,000 mortgage on the project.

The containers which give a floor area of 320sqft are going to be stacked 3 high and offer private bathroom, kitchen and in-suite laundry to the tenants. Window coverings from floor to ceiling offer up a lot of light on the ends of the unit with an external staircase linking each unit.

There will be an open house on completion before the properties become occupied with an estimated $100,000 per unit in construction and material costs.

“While getting them here and getting them stacked is extremely satisfying and exciting, what I’m really looking forward to is handing over the keys to the women who will live there,” Abbott said from the site where the containers were being unloaded Friday.

On a green note if the containers hadn’t become housing they would have very likely been shipped back to Asia and eventually melted down as scrap. That’s if they didn’t sit at some port rusting away.

Shipping container houses are still a bit of a Taboo subject when people talk and think about housing but good to see the market is changing. Not only for recycling but also container housing often means downsizing the excess that people often live with. So whatever way you look at it container housing offers some valuable and environmental lessons for sustainable living.

Shipping Container Homes Not Just A Fad But The Home Of The Future.

When I originally started looking at shipping container homes I was specifically looking at modular construction. As time has gone on more people seem to be developing much smaller homes using the same concept. I don’t think its down to just a tiny home movement but a sign of the times. In the last few months I have noticeably seen the price of gas increase for cooking, food prices increasing and petrol at the pumps. All in all things are going up in price and we can either prepare for the worst and hope for the best or look at downsizing to help accommodate the changing world.

My previous home was a Victorian terraced town house, tall ceilings, open fire places and brickwork that let the wind just breeze through. In the winter times even with heating on it was not only expensive but still struggled to warm. Insulation injected into the walls, changing sash wood windows to double glazed, installing gas fires over the old coal fires all these bits of modernisation helped solve bits of problems but created more. First one being the expense of the upgrades next as the upgrades went in things like the gas fires over the coal cost more to run. A case of developing an old house with new problems and its one of the reasons I started looking at container housing. Building something that could be developed efficiently from the start, but also using recycled materials would allow the home to be built at a reduced rate.

Now the picture has changed a bit more as I see the sizes I originally looked at may be still viable but are they needed? I rent my apartment out here which is a studio type where the sitting,dining and sleeping are are in what would be dimensions of around 20ft x 12ft. Bigger than a shipping container in width but also looking at the room you can also see a lot of wasted space in the middle of the room. The bed is there day or not as well as a dining table, 3 chairs, 2 computer desks, 2 sofas and a wardrobe. This space isn’t maximised but shows it is extremely livable.

Its why I can see the world changing as the balance of wealth between East and West alters which will see people trying to maintain a standard of living in the West and downsizing the home is one way to do it. Also adding to the fact the population explosion globally is going to see some severe affects on resources such as oil and food, we are already seeing the start of the decline of peak oil.

The Future Of Shipping Container Architecture

shipping container

One of the main issues that are cropping up with shipping container architecture is things are often pushed onto recycling being the green solution, then you get greens telling us how toxic the paints are and how transportation is a waste of energy.

The important thing is though if its available and usable its green. If it isn’t and in many cases they aren’t then we are looking at modular construction for buildings which is a more viable method for many uses. I originally worked on this type of system in the late 90s for use in classrooms and clinic construction in the UK as a temporary solution.

Temporary often means a decade as they are generally put into place as an immediate solution while discussions, planning and funding are found for building the main buildings that will replace them. During this time though many of these units would return after years of being in the field and be revamped before sending back out. Which does show the fact they were extremely reliable and resilient to weather. Add to that having slot walling meant that upon return walls would be rejigged to suit the new layout for the building they were becoming. Very little wastage as all windows and doors ended up back in other buildings if not used.

The fact is the shipping container idea developed this new concept which is now fairly old in use but still has a growing market which does appear China is gearing towards the housing industry with.

I can see this being the future of shipping container homes as the dimensions are still in place although the walling systems have been completely redesigned.

Container prefab home – ConHouse from Slovenia

Not my first choice of colours and design for the exterior paintwork but the Conhouse was introduced to deal with high housing prices and a declining affordable living space in Trebnje, Slovenia. The worst affected and no doubt why the designs and colour schemes were directed in the way they are is towards the younger more upwardly mobile generations who are likely to be struggling to get onto the housing market.

The design is based on two containers placed on top of each other with the upper unit overhanging the entrance giving shade and a pathway area while the other side creates a patio or rear terrace. With the way the containers are positioned it also allows a small roof deck type balcony to be available on the upper floor via sliding glass doors.

The staircase has been designed in a minimalistic way which suits the design and age group of the buyers the home is aimed at. With the added floor to ceiling windows although small and compact I can see the appeal of this style of home.

 

 

Compact Container Prefab Home - ConHouse from Slovenia

Compact Container Prefab Home - ConHouse from Slovenia

Compact Container Prefab Home - ConHouse from Slovenia

Compact Container Prefab Home - ConHouse from Slovenia Compact Container Prefab Home - ConHouse from Slovenia

Shipping Container Homes In China

Shipping container home china - The sign reads "Cargo Shipping Container House for Rent/Purchase" (The Epoch Times Archives)

When I started looking at shipping container homes I had already spent a few years working with modular construction of hotels as well as timber frame housing. It was easy to see how a concept of one could fit the other at a lower cost.

On the other hand though many people are very against the idea without even listening to the argument. Bit like a friend of mine who had no money week to week, flash car and upmarket home but an empty pocket. In reality the shipping container home can do a role reversal because you start with money not debt due to cheaper costs of living as the one thing we can’t do without is a roof over our heads.

In China its having the same problem as Shenzhen where a lot of the manufacturing is done in the country has seen house prices climb to unrealistic levels for most people to purchase. In steps the shipping container home which may even before be seen as a “joke property” its now seeing a development as a low cost housing solution across east and west of Shenzhen City. The main reason for choosing one is obviously cost where they can be rented for 6 yuan (US$0.88) per day, which adds up to only 180 yuan (US$26) a month, and 2,160 yuan (US$316) a year.

The owners of the shipping container homes often don’t have rights of land ownership that leave them a fear of being towed away in the middle of the night. the houses are often seen in woods,under bridges, near construction sites or highways in Shenzhen. A price to pay if you want to be in the City but with the average price of housing being 20,000 yuan per square meter (approximately US$272 per square foot) there is more likely to be an increase in container living rather than reduction in the area.

A report by the Economics Daily said that a Mr Wang purchased a container for 10,000 yuan (US$1,465) and rents the land it sits upon. He had originally dreamed of owning a home when he first moved to the city but quickly found the cost of living increasing a lot faster than his salary increases. Because property rentals were also too expensive to rent he took residence up inside an abandoned container that he found in a construction site.

The one good thing out of this is that Container home manufacturers are finding a growing market which will no doubt also improve the quality of the homes. They are now able to successfully compete in the housing market due to the huge demand for low-cost housing. A real estate specialist remarked the interest in “cargo shipping-container houses is the best indication of China’s high price of housing.”

To get an idea of the severity of the housing problem the land has seen prices rise around 40% between December and January. The area has not been affected by China’s stiff measures to control pricing.

Benefits Of Shipping Containers Housing

shipping container refuge Its still something that is being debated on the practicalities of using shipping containers as homes. At the same time showing some of the benefits of shipping container housing can hopefully answer some of those questions.

  • First thing is excess to requirements, they are easy to come by and not hard to find ports full of them and at a cheaper price than traditional construction methods would cost for a similar structure building block.
  • In international shipping the shipping containers are cheap to come by due to having a short life expectancy for shipping often only a few years, unless your living somewhere like the Philippines where I have seen containers still in daily use from the 80s!
  • By design they are made to resist harsh seas and oceans and this gives not only a strong building structure but also an anti corrosive structure avoiding the salt air. The strong reinforced floors with marine glade plywood or timbers, vandal proof robust doors as well as weather resistant paint make it a hardy building block.
  • Modular construction use is also something that is important as you can build a home in phases with a bit of planning adding shipping containers as your budget allows.

These are but a few of the positive reasons shipping containers make great homes but lets not stop there, searching through ContainerLiving.net you will see many other uses from doctors surgeries to schools and even radio stations. Then add to that the emergency housing aspect allowing moving containers around the world to disaster zones or construct on site as well as being able to construct entire villages in a short time period make the shipping container not only a single based solution but a multi functional concept for many of the worlds problems.

Finding Shipping Container Home Plans

Finding Shipping Container House Plans

shipping container home plan

When considering building a shipping container home you should initially start to look for existing shipping container home plans online as many of the issues of construction would have already been covered but also due to the unique modular construction method you can find many designs to suit your needs and space.

Reasons why you should consider building your home from shipping containers are :-

  • As a structural building block they are readily available anywhere in the world and it doesn’t take much searching around on the internet for “shipping container for sale” to start seeing results on the costs involved with buying shipping containers to make it more viable.
  • Inexpensive and readily available its not hard to come across second hand units commonly called within the trade ISBU (intermodal steel building unit) and prices vary from $1000 upwards although in some locations I have seen them much cheaper (including the UK) but costs will vary due to the size,age and condition of th eshipping container as well as the additional cost of delivery. The added value also of using shipping containers is that your gaining a large working spce of 320sqft per 40ft container which in reality means you have a lockable workspace while construction is ongoing.
  • Shipping containers also reduce construction costs on average somewhere around 20% and 50% depending on location.
  • Construction time is also heavily reduced as the initial blocks can be placed in a day and from start to finish within a couple of months as much of the pre-cutting can be done before they reach site. E.g the doors,windows,first fix electrics, painting and insulation can be added to the unit before it even arrives speeding up the whole construction process.
  • Its environmental to reuse a shipping container as a home as it leaves a smaller carbon footprint than melting down and reforming into another steel object.
  • Keeping the sizes and supply within standard ISO shipping containers also means you can design and construct a house easily by connecting and interconnecting the shipping containers.

There are a few disadvantages to using shipping containers for building a home :-

  • Always buy with Corten steel or even aluminium as older containers may be suffering from rust issues that may take more work to repair than its worth. But most suppliers will tell you if its grade A – D which gives you an idea of condition before you even visit to view.
  • Space issues can be a problem when putting containers into position or pre-working/delivery as well as needing machinery for unloading and positioning.
  • The shipping container home design plans should also be in suiting with the existing neighbourhood which is why its worth canvassing your neighbours in advance to get some feedback about the project in case of any objections.

There are many sites on the web now offer shipping container house plans, I would go for something utilizing standard dimensions using the ISO standards and then modify and adjust to your housing needs. E.g adding a porch and landscaping. Also make sure the designs are practical and workable, many I have come across on the internet go to the extreme on design yet your looking for something useable not to win awards for the architect.

shipping Container Home Plans And Construction Companies can be easily found here at this link where shipping container home companies are being added into a directory.

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.

Shipping container house Columbia

These are important videos worth showing to someone who can’t grasp the concept.

Container house in columbia

As you can see the video above is how most people will see shipping containers. Basically a rusting old box. But working with modular construction in the UK the before when the idea came to me to do the same here in the Philippines it didn’t take long to realise it makes perfect sense especially after the world recession hit and the container prices collapsed. But back on topic I have added the video as the same project and building nears completion below. As you can see it definitely has the wow factor and the sort of thing I would happily call home.

Shipping container house in Columbia nears completion