What is an expert in shipping container home conversions?

Matt Wilkie

Personally I am never keen on the word expert as I prefer that everyone keeps an open mind and constantly learning.

The fact is that container conversions are not a new technology but many of the products on the market to do with the conversions as well as the way people live and think have changed.

The other side of that being the arguments between what products to use and if they work or not. Ceramic paints for example are an on going argument. Personally I think multiple solutions to insulation are worth the effort but isn’t this all to do with container living?

The fact people have choice and more control over the home they are building?

Bit like people who say that its not viable and they get too hot yet I have just recently returned from Oman and guess what container units are used for workers all over the place. The company I was working for has their own pre-fabricated modular unit structures and that camp houses 5,000 people. So is it viable? Of course it is and extremely cost affective.

Even if you looked at container living for a short period of time as often you hear the 10 year life span of container units used. I would estimate this is based on little to no maintenance rather than regular. But even if you worked on that scenario and the cost of constructing the unit how much would you have saved in that period of time on what you would have spent on a mortgage elsewhere?

Basically for me an expert in container living needs to way up all the options and not what often seems to be narrow opinions. Because its not all about sustainability or living green. Sometimes its about cost affective other times bringing food to the arctic circle. There is no outright expert.

I can’t live in a container home.

One of the most common statements when talking about shipping container homes is I can’t live in a container but why?

I started to look into social media and how things have changed over the years. I believe we now occupy three times if not more space than we used to but do we need to is never asked? We are told we need a bigger house, bigger car, an ipad,computer,laptop and yet nobody stops to say won’t one do the job?

Won’t a computer do the job of the iPad and laptop? Or more importantly would the laptop keep you mobile and do away with the other two? tie that in with a dongle and Skype you don’t need a phone anymore either.

We are living in the cluttered age not modern. a 60” plasma is wanted or needed yet I confess I owned 2 plasma TV’s in my last UK home yet you know how many hours I watched TV on them? answer is zero as I use my computer. This is why we can live in a container and yet many people can’t even see the benefits of the wake up call.

One plasma is fine in a container home as it hangs on the wall. There is no way you would need 2! Computer you have to think of its space and very likely to go down the route of a laptop and generally this is how people living in a container think. Do I need it and what is the best option?

But those who say no way I can’t live in a shipping container I bet they find their credit cards often maxed out and they always seem to have more stuff than they have space for it. Not a nag at them as simply this is a consumerist society that is always telling us this is the way life should be.

Funny now though as the combustion engine car is starting to feel the pain of oil prices or more importantly we are. The U.S. still struggles to find cars under 4.0 litre engines yet most of the rest of the world has done just fine for at least 50 years. Fact is times are a changing and the population is growing at a rate that really it shouldn’t be.

We need more space where I say we need to use what we have better. We need to get to A to B and have  a right to a car where I say can you work from home some days and actually have a better quality of life and be more productive?

All in all those who think they can’t live in a container will eventually find that costs are going to see people starting to think smaller in some form. Be it land taxes, heating or cooling. Everything is on the downward spiral of getting expensive.

Recycle Or Build A Container Home?

This may seem to defeat the idea for some being “green” but here in the Philippines its not always about recycling simply because containers aren’t readily available.

shipping container structure

Take a shipping containers basic structure and what I see is a very simple building block that can be replicated side by side. and more importantly easy to build. Now what your doing with the container blocks will make a difference in the support structure and density of the steel for load bearing purposes. Why I am pointing that out is that someone may go “its cheaper to buy a container” well here in the Philippines its not unless you know something I don’t.

Your main dimensions you need to work on are based on transportation needs and not the home itself. For example if you took this open sketched version as a real building block you can actually attach other containers in any direction. Even stacking one on top and removing several of the floor beams for a staircase.

Why this is important is that from an engineers point of view it becomes extremely easy to put a value on materials as well as labour costs. You can decide on sections do you weld or bolt? but all in all you can get a real accurate price structure on your modular container construction.

Building them within standard transportation design metrics also means that you can make these off site or more importantly speed up production and lower costs. These buildings can be built in a factory and shuttered along on a conveyor system or as we used to do in the UK moved by forklifts. E.g. outside we used to weld the frames together before they were transported indoors to have the walls installed.

Pretty much the whole thing can be produced on site in a factory then all the modules can be joined together at their final destination. But that’s not always useful and with many of the areas in the Philippines its full of mountains. How many containers can you fit inside one if just cut and stripped down ready for putting together and welding/bolting? 2 – 3 trucks could be transporting virtually the entire house in parts that could physically be carried and erected on site.

This idea is something I have thought of due to one of my wife’s relatives having half a mountain for sale and this could see homes perched on the top and the most sensible way of transporting materials to the location.

Klaas Cabin–Malaysia

Klaas Cabin by Kinwai marketing in Malaysia offered this modular home design which I think will stir up a lot of interest in the design not just in Malaysia but most of Asia for those interested in modular design.

I have been talking to Brandon from the company and looking at the design of the home can see why this would be something that could be picked up by many markets in Asia. The first thing being that exterior wise the Klaas cabin has a rather unique and modern feel to it. Which if your used to the concrete jungle like the Philippines where hollow block concrete blocks are king then it brings a nice contrast to everything around us. The exterior cladding no doubt sits on an internal frame work which is then sees ply overlaid on the interior. Ok ply may not suit everyone but in reality its a “choice” and that’s part of modular building the ability to change parts to suit peoples choices and needs.

klaas cabin,kinwai,malaysia,modular,prefabricated,prefab,house,home,construction

The exterior layout with its roof light openings allow a lot of natural light to enter the building throughout the day. Obviously another section that can be altered to suit someone’s needs be it glazed, glass blades or even just vented depending on the persons needs. The wood framing around the windows add a finishing touch will adding a bit of security grilling for the home or office. Finished off with exterior lighting along the length of the building.

klaas cabin,kinwai,malaysia,modular,prefabricated,prefab,house,home,construction

The interior ply walls seem at home in the design which is a little bit strange for me as its not normally a “finished” use product for me. I do use ply like this but generally its flooring or sheeted over and then cladded. but with the wood flooring it looks very at home.

klaas cabin,kinwai,malaysia,modular,prefabricated,prefab,house,home,construction

All in all can see a lot of uses for this here in the Philippines as well as other countries and I am interested to find out more about the structural building and how it fits together. Is it built on a wooden frame, aluminium or steel? Because to be honest I can see my next office being built in the same way as this building with a similar design. I would like to thank Brandon for sharing their company design of their modular home product which by the way hasn’t got the limitations of shipping container dimensions due to being custom built! You can alter the dimensions to suit your needs and land space. You can contact Brandon regarding building enquiries at leisurehaus@yahoo.com

Podd – Australian Prefabricated Shipping Container Housing

podds - Shipping container homes Australia

Podd have also caught onto the niche of container/modular housing and are producing these modern designed homes for use in Australia. The construction takes an estimated 5 hours on site which isn’t bad going and internally looks great. The roof is also hydralulic to save time. Initially designed to help boost moral for mining employees but I can see a lot of people finding a use for these little homes.

The houses are made using shipping containers. The additional walls, ceilings, and floor structure are constructed using Austral exflam sandwich panel composite.

Podd Container housing - Kitchen and sitting room Podd Container housing - bedroom Podd Container housing - bathroom Podd Container housing - sitting area

Although the space seems small due to its design and colour and lighting affects the place does seem a lot bigger than it is. I love the design which is more inline with professional business than hobby farming or off-grid living. A rather unique shipping container house which others may find acceptable as a hotel chalet or conferencing rooms. Very professional finish love it!

Basic worker unit (20ft x 1 = sleeps 4)

basic worker container unit 

This unit may seem a bit basic but it all depends on your location. For example living out here in the Philippines I often see people sleeping outdoors as they find it cooler. Which also means they are not as fussy as many westerners are which is why something like this works. Its not only for the purpose of sleeping but the ability to move to where its needed as well as offering a secure environment for possessions make the design basic,cheap and functional.

basic worker shipping container quarters

Designed and built by TS Cabin & Container

Amazon’s modular data centre’s

amazon modular data centre

Amazon web services doesn’t really openly discuss its datacentre’s and infrastructure for their web presence. With cloud computing currently being one of the biggest developments on the web to date its also something that relies heavily on data centre’s to make it viable.

Engineer James Hamilton produced this presentation at an open house conference showing how the company utilizes modular technology for its data centre.

You can see it here

shipping container office (32 inter connected containers) Road Island – Box Office 460

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Boxoffice460

This is a rather interestingly designed building that makes a colourful modern statement. Built from 32 recycled shipping containers it offers 12 office/studio units for business rentals. Constructed on a waste piece of land in road island previously the Harris Lumber yard. you can see how swiftly the construction came about in the video below. Another reason why shipping containers make an ideal modular framework.