Shipping Container House Positives and Negatives
Thinking about building a house out of shipping containers? There is a lot of talk about this trend these days and the fans of this building method are increasing in number. A big part of the reason for the growing interest is that there are a lot of container houses now that look incredible. This building style could still be considered somewhat 'cutting edge' (though it's been around for decades), and there are many factors to consider. I have compiled a list of shipping container pros and cons as food for thought for anybody learning about this building style.
Ready to go? Let's start then. First the positions in favor and the reasons supporting:
The very first point in support of building a shipping container house is:
Recycling Industrial Waste. The reason that the shipping container house idea has gained so much traction is because there are an incredible number of them gathering dust. These things are piling up in our ports thanks to our country's massive trade imbalance. Many people are attracted to this building style because it's an opportunity to reuse a languishing byproduct of international trade.
The second supporting point is:
Strength. Shipping containers are designed to withstand the abuse of sea transport. These things are ideal for building in areas that are prone to things like hurricanes and earthquakes. They can be literally anchored to the foundation. Shipping containers generally far exceed building codes for strength requirements. A container home isn't going anywhere..
A 3rd favorable point is:
Price. The cost per square foot is often bellow that of regular stick house construction. Depending on other factors building a container house can be pretty comparable to building a conventional house, and in some cases significantly less expensive..
A fourth big benefit is:
Speed. Due to the modular nature of the structure, container houses can be built relatively quickly. Some companies specialize in fitting out the containers before sending them to the job site. This means a crane gingerly lowers a container onto your site and boom... instant kitchen. That's an over simplification, but you see what I'm getting at..
Last but not least, the 5th point is
Coolness Factor. Let's face it. You'll be building something pretty unique and head turning. Of course you can clad your house such that it's hard to tell it's a container home, but most of the stunning examples you see have a somewhat sculptural look to them. You'll be the coolest kid on the block in your indestructible house..
And now to balance things out a bit, the Con side:
The first point against will be:
Expertise. Building a shipping container house requires contractors with some specialized knowledge. It addition to framers, you may need professional welders/cutters to modify and connect your containers. Not a huge deal, but definitely something that will have to be addressed. It's important to find experienced contractors who have the expertise to handle the quirks of this building system..
The second point against is:
Heat. Or in some cases cold. Insulation is a major consideration for any house, but it can be doubly so for a shipping container house. You don't want to live in a giant oven! There are a range of insulation options that are very effective at making a container house very efficient - even more efficient than a traditional house. You just have to learn what the options are and decide what fits in with your budget and design..
The 3rd point against will be:
Price. Wait, wasn't price one of the pros? Yes. While it is true that a container house can be a very affordable plan, certain factors can have a big impact on your total cost. It's important to do your research. For instance, if you have to transport the containers a very long way, the that can significantly add to your cost per square foot..
A fourth negative point can be:
Resistance. When you tell people you're going to build a shipping container house, some will inevitably think there is something wrong with you. The first thing that a lot of people think of is living in a metal box. Which technically you will be, but you know your design is not some claustrophobic shanty. You'll have to be prepared to defend your decision on a fairly regular basis..
The 5th and last point in contra is:
Building Codes. In reality this is not normally a problem for most residential construction projects. But, in some cases you will have to get approval to build a steel building from your local regulatory bodies, or your neighborhood board. You definitely need to address this. This is actually one of the very first things you need to deal with once you've decided to take the plunge..
So there we have some of the arguments for each side. Clearly, none of the 'cons' are unsurmountable barriers to building a shipping container house. Is container house a good idea? or a bad idea? Of course the answer to that is what you're trying to decide! Building a shipping container house is an adventure. You, dear reader, must choose whether the pros outweigh the cons, or put a different way, whether the cons are things you feel you up to dealing with.