Have you considered building a house from shipping containers?

Have you considered building a house from shipping containers?
Could this be the start of your new home? Photo: Druckfuchs, Pixabay

The Australian dream might have been eroded over the years that came after the second world war but its core still remains intact: a belief in home-ownership as an expression of security and success and its ability to lead to a better life.

While the standard of living envisioned by this dream is currently enjoyed by many in the nation, rising house prices coupled with almost-static wage increases have made it increasingly difficult for a big chunk of the population to even think of the notion of owning a home.

The ever-increasing cost of owning a home

Housing prices in Australia are estimated to have surged by a whopping 6,556% since the early ‘60s. This translates into an annual average price increase of about 8.1%. Compared to an average annual wage increase that barely beats inflation, it’s easy to see how the goal of acquiring a home has gotten further from the reach of the average Aussie.

Currently, the average cost of a house is about $650,000 – almost ten times the average annual income of a middle-income family. Even a mortgage would be very difficult to get for the average Joe at this price point.

Although the continuing increase of house prices is great news for those that already own a home, it is a real concern for people trying to take their first step on the housing ladder. Shipping container houses are providing a viable solution.

An inexpensive housing solution

With the obvious price hurdle, many people wishing to own a home are looking to more creative methods of house construction to keep the costs low. One of the alternative construction methods that have proved particularly popular is the use of shipping containers.

Using cargo containers to construct houses is nothing new, it has been done since these metal boxes were invented. Over the years, however, housing structures made using shipping containers have evolved from basic shoddy shelters that barely perform their function as human dwellings to elaborate living spaces that could measure up to any modern house. Containers can now be used to make houses that range from the very low end to the very best in luxury.

Even in the low end where a dollar is stretched much thinner, sea container houses are constructed to exacting standards and with proper insulation to ensure comfortable living while keeping energy costs at a minimum.

As a result, shipping container houses have become commonplace in Australia with people using them for constructing homes for their families, small off-the-grid living quarters and extensions for their existing homes.

Why are shipping container houses popular?

As a material for house construction, shipping containers have gained popularity for the following reasons:

  1. Although shipping container houses can range in price, constructing with shipping containers is still cheaper than using traditional materials. The cost savings can be much more if the builder is more price sensitive, and thus modest with the fittings and modifications.
  2. Modular construction has proved to be one of the fastest ways of putting up a building. With shipping container houses, modular construction is possible with each container acting as a single module. As such, all modifications to the shipping containers can be done in a factory environment under controlled conditions for fast and high-quality results. Later the finished pieces can be assembled on site within a few days – a fraction of the time it would take to build a normal house.
  3. When second-hand shipping containers are used, constructing using containers can help protect the environment as it puts to use containers that would have otherwise been disposed of or underutilised.
  4. Cargo containers are naturally tough and robust structures. As a result, houses constructed using these steel boxes are just as tough and durable and will last just as long as any regular house would when properly maintained. This is crucial as homes are hefty investments expected to last a long while.
  5. In a world where everyone is trying to blend in, using shipping containers to construct your house is a sure way to stand out. And with the number of specialist shipping container architects on the increase, you can easily create a unique masterpiece for yourself.

With these many advantages over regular houses, the allure of shipping container houses has become undeniable.

Tips for a successful shipping container house project

Because they do veer from the norm quite a bit, shipping container houses will require you to consider some things you normally wouldn’t when building a regular house. Here are some tips that you should keep in mind:

  • Container quality is important. For larger projects that require several containers to be joined and stacked together, consider using “one-trip containers” (or new ones) to ensure the structure is robust and safe. Older containers can be used for smaller housing units that will only need one or two containers.
  • Inspection is a must. Make sure to inspect all containers before you purchase them, especially if they are used, to ensure they have no damages that could cost you to repair before you can use them for construction.
  • Consult your local council. Different localities will have different laws governing the materials you can use to put up a structure. To avoid any unpleasantness later on, make sure to consult with your local council and submit a development application before you embark on your plans to put up a shipping container house.
  • Find a good supplier. Containers often carry dangerous goods that could leave harmful residues inside. Use a reputable shipping container supplier who can provide records of what the shipping container was previously used for to ensure your health and safety.
  • Get specialised construction services. If your budget allows you to hire an architect, make sure to find one that has specialised in shipping container houses. The same goes for contractors. This will ensure that you get the best results while avoiding disappointments.

With the ability to make housing more affordable at any price point, shipping container houses have become quite popular in Australia not only for the price conscious would-be homeowner but to those with deeper pockets as well.