This article is #2 in our Creative housing solutions series. The purpose of these articles will be to promote conversation around affordable housing alternatives that are solutions-based, creative, and even fun.
One creative housing solution that is an absolute buzzword these days is shipping container homes. A quick Google search on the topic turns up thousands of articles and videos exploring the vast and surprising number of ways one can transform a plain metal box into an attractive and comfortable-looking home.
Prefabricated and modular, these square boxes can be stacked together in many different ways to create a desired look. Building using these reclaimed metal containers is environmentally sustainable, plus it cuts down on the use of other materials such as brick, cement and wood. They also lend themselves well to the use of solar power, and are therefore very attractive for those looking for the off-grid life, or just live more environmentally sustainably.
What Sort of Shipping Container to Choose
According to My Modern Met, there are two primary ways to build a shipping container home: Prefab and DIY.
Prefab Shipping Container Homes are usually the first choice, and manage to be both affordable and turn-key. Companies that manufacture and assemble them are becoming ubiquitous, joining the many other small-space living focused businesses providing tiny houses and micro-lofts. There is even a new design out there that makes micro-apartments in Hong Kong using old pipe!
Because of the boxy nature of the containers themselves, these homes are more often seen as the equivalent to a tiny house, with measurements either falling into two standard sizes: 20 ft. x 8 ft. (160 square feet), or 40ft x 8 ft (320 square feet). A used 20-foot container costs anywhere between $1,400 and $2,800, whereas a 40-foot container costs $3,500 – $4,500. There is also such a thing as a “high cube container”, which is an additional foot taller than regular containers. These cost a little more, but the extra height might be well worth the added expense. It is also very common to configure multiple containers to create homes even larger than the average size. For example, these luxury shipping container homes from Honomobo are to die for!
Prefabricated shipping container homes can be found locally and online, even at sites such as Etsy and Ebay. Amazon has recently jumped into the game, offering a complete shipping container home for $36,000 (it’s not available on Prime, though! Shipping costs $4,500). The average price for a prefabricated home ranges from $20,000 on up. Depending on how simply one is willing to live, it is possible to obtain such a home very affordably.
DIY is of course a much more labor-intensive process, but allows you to take full control while saving money in the process. If you want to learn more about the process of building a DIY shipping container home, this article from nine.com has some great pointers to get you started.
An important caveat: it is very important to research local planning regulations and obtain the necessary permits before you start building. This means that you must have a solid idea of what you want to build, and where. Failing to plan ahead can be disastrous, especially when it comes to more unusual building projects.
Here are some gorgeous Shipping Container Home images to get you thinking about what is possible with this unique design.