Shipping container home concrete pillar supports using old barrels

Shipping container concrete base supports

Most of you are aware of the business we are looking to develop here in the Philippines as regards shipping containers and converting them into households. This one here is a prime example of “recycling” as its even taken the blue plastic drums which you find all over the place in the Philippines often used for storing water but in this instance they are filled with concrete and metal re-bars to create the base pillars for the shipping container home. Very simple and affective method as it allows you to level up the base without too much hassles.

Container home living is practical even with large quantities of people ( Below is a 600 strong camp in Iraq )

project by Ternirgroup for a 600 person camp in Iraq using modular construction

Formation of concrete base with steel reinforcement

Now the priority with the military is functionality not being pretty. But I can see how a little bit of work on the modular structures as well as adding colour to garden areas would actually make this more appealing if in another scenario “general public”. I look at where we are in the Philippines and wonder how much would something like this cost to construct and soon enough I will have worked through the first phases.

Because in the future I would like to look at this as a real project for helping those who cannot afford housing at the same time I would be looking to make it a sustainable project. I have spent the last few years looking at charities and NGO’s and wondering how many actually help. Food programs end up with people waiting for it every day instead of trying to improve their lives. Modular cost affective housing might be part of the solution but education would be badly needed in encouraging people to do things for themselves. Sexual education is still a problem due to the power of the church which is one of the main causes of the constant population boom which needs to stop as soon as possible to let the country fall in line if the population birth rates became under control naturally most other things would actually improve.

Shipping containers for bedspacers or homes in the Philippines


The designs above are by Tempohousing which are sold for around 20,000 Euros they come complete delivered to site, completely fitted out with bathroom, kitchen, heating, electricity, isolation, windows and doors. Via the local brand ‘Keetwonen’, the company last year finished a student village in Amsterdam. It consists of a thousand shipping containers, distributed among 6 apartment buildings.

But I just wanted to show what can be done with a bit of design with a shipping container and on top of that a lot of the facilities on the buildings can be reduced here in the Philippines as they simply aren’t needed which heavily reduces the costs of the construction. This year we are looking to develop several designs for “factory construction” here in Cebu where things will be either made to order or from stock allowing quick transportation of housing. This part of the market is primarily for students, offices and small homes which we look to build on over the forthcoming years to offer a broad variety of designs as well as options on each model.

Shipping container bedspacer (room rentals) for the Philippines


One of my biggest ideas for shipping container use is worker housing especially with the new Mall opening up on the SRP once its finished. Bedspacer accommodation as they call it here in the Philippines are room rentals but often the room will be shared due to the limited budget workers have. When I came across this today designed by Zerocabin it makes practical sense. Most bedspacers have a budget of around P1,000 per month each so this would give a monthly income of P8,000 or if really ramming people in there P16,000 a month but would need to use bunks and add some extra facilities for people such as outside sitting areas. If done right though this could be a very lucrative business and even within short stay accommodation it could work for people e.g. wanting an overnight stay before going to the airport wanting to be within 5mins taxi ride or for many other uses. The important thing here though is its cost to construct would be relatively cheap depending on the market your aiming at, accommodation even for “cheap” in Cebu often runs at P900 – P1,800 a night depending on time of year so many options can be utilised and maybe even a practical way to provide housing for your own workers.

Elegant 2 container house 2 x 40ft on a warehouse

 This design was done by Maziar Behrooz Architecture and its something more in the line of what I am looking for in a home. The container house forms up the upper level while the traditional methods of concrete keep the lower level or underground level out of sight as well as cool which would work well in the Philippines. But at the same time the high ceilings open up the building to help cool it as well as its natural woodland cover.

Maziar Behrooz Architecture shipping container home 

shipping container home stairwellshipping container home exteriorshipping container home high ceilings

Its partly why I think once we start developing homes ourselves they will sell as simply these sort of designs here in the Philippines are few and far between. Marketing to the modern younger aged buyers these types of places are fantastic in modern design.

Placing a shipping container

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.

Shipping container alterations to an office / building

Con global container alterations

I added this video from Con global to show how seriously many people are starting to take the container conversion business. Currently im in the Philippines and getting good containers can be difficult. But soon enough we will be purchasing some and begin to show you how to convert one from a box to a home. It wont be easy as access to where they will become home is difficult at best. They will be needing cut into sections to get to the land. But either way this also shows if your serious about containers and maybe starting a business. YouTube could also be a good sales tool.

Building With Shipping Containers

Building With Shipping ContainersWe are covering the major aspects of building with shipping containers in this section. The initial factors you should be thinking when looking at this type of project are firstly a place to buy new or used shipping containers. If your near a port worth giving them a call to ask who they recommend in the area, otherwise do a bit of searching online for the nearest places as well as stick a few Free advertisements online. Once you have located a container before agreeing to purchase the unit its worth checking the unit out to see if its received any damage or rust. The next issue will always be transportation and handling. Here in the Philippines that can be 25% of the cost of the shipping container.

The location of where you are putting the shipping container is also important to make sure its level and accessible. This is where a cost many people don’t look at comes in which is the unloading of the shipping container which may not be covered by the seller offering transportation and handling of the shipping containers as the handling may come down to getting it to site and expecting you to crane lift them, pull them with a backhoe or some other way of getting them off the truck beds. DOUBLE CHECK WITH YOUR TRANSPORT COMPANY IN ADVANCE.

Once they arrive on site you can start looking at dropping them into position and always worth noting and making sure the ground is prepared to receive them and in the order you want. E.g. no point getting the 20ft shipping container you want to stick on top of your 40ft first if you have limited space to move. Make sure you build a foundation ready in advance and that the concrete mix is consistent to the requirements of the structure. On top of that a good time to lay any pipework or electrics to allow quick feeds into the shipping containers. The foundation can be different in design generally I would go for a suspended unit as it allows air movement to help prevent corrosive effects of moisture. But also you can carry out routine maintenance when needed.

Once in place you can start to cut the steel sections for your doors and windows but also remember the scrap steel is worth something or can even be utilized as security shutters etc. Adding the windows and doors are an important factor in getting the new building functional asap and also starts to give a look of a home rather than shipping containers left on a lot. Make sure you get the dimensions right on the doors and windows though to match in with your stud partitions as well as getting the correct depth of insulation if your going to insulate the interior of the shipping container.

I know some people are using a spray foam insulation for the exterior which is why I mentioned “IF” your going to insulate the interior. There is also the need to add extra supports as well as a roof frame and maybe even decking areas. I advise doing a bit of research to get the correct basic steps as this needs to be done a specific way to reduce risk of damage to the shipping containers and avoid accidents.

Shipping container basic apartment rental, would you rent?

shipping container hotel - sudan


Although these containers were used by journalists in the Sudanese elections it does make me wonder if Expat’s or other travellers would be interested in living in containers as a budget residence for short stay or long term. The fact that these were comfortable in Sudan prove the point that shipping containers can function as a residence without over heating if the right measures are put into place during construction. Also the number of people I have come across in the Philippines trying to avoid paying for anything more than they want to these would fit into their budget as I could easily see these being rented at P4,000 a month long-term in a good location as a basic living accommodation or for budget hotels around P1,000 a night.

Container housing in Texas – Cinco Camp

Cinco Camp - Shipping container home Texas

The thing about this concept is its something we are looking to do in the near future depending how the rest of our projects go. The roofing for example could have another use due to its span and that’s to add rainwater harvesting either for irrigation or things like toilets. The complete project came in at $200,000 and could have been halved if it wasn’t for the issues of location which left no man power in the area and access difficulties for transportation/machinery.

The concept has been simple which has raised the containers from the ground to reduce risks of bugs, snakes and rainwater but also to keep them individual units as this allows for moving to another site without too much damage to the environment. The inside of the units have been fitted out but at the same time the exteriors have been left pretty much intact.

All units are joined together by a simple decking area which I could see the opportunity of something like this in the Philippines as a simple retreat or cheap accommodation rentals with a bit of privacy.

why live in the middle of nowhere the photo from Texas says it all











Shipping container doors kept intact offer extra privacy as well as security and shade.

shipping container kitchen offers all mod cons although bulkier than I would like

Shipping container sitting room is made more homely by large wall graphic

All in all the whole idea makes a lot of sense to me with the maximising of space which also throws up the question how much stuff do we really need when most Western homes are at least 4 x the size of a container. Not only would downsizing save on the obvious of electricity, gas etc it also helps to reduce consumerism.