Building with Shipping Containers

Imagine if you could build a luxury home with just a few thousand dollars!  Now you can!  Welcome to the world of shipping container homes, a new craze that is not only affordable, but is also sustainable. 

Shipping containers make wonderful structural material.  In their initial purpose, they are built to carry heavy cargo and are able to stack on top of each other in high columns.  Because they have to travel long distances on ships, they are designed to be resistant to harsh weather and salt corrosion from the ocean and roadways.

To make shipping easy, containers are constructed with the same width and have two different sized heights and lengths.  This makes stacking more consistent. Along the tops and bottoms of each container are elements which allow each module to interlock providing extra security when moving.  

The world is bursting with shipping containers as we become more dependent on international trade and many of these become scrap after several years of service.  People are noticing this abundance and are taking advantage of the surplus.  A used container can be purchased for as low as $1000 and very little is needed to customize the space to make it livable. 

Container houses need to be insulated and sealed well to prevent rust on the interior since steel conducts heat and in warmer climates air moisture can condense on the walls.  With proper insulation and ventilation, this will not happen and the space be livable. 

The containers can be stacked to give you a multiple-story home and interesting designs can be made by butting different ends together.  Developers and architects have used containers in a variety of offices, homes, apartments, studios, and emergency shelters.  They are also regularly used as temporary spaces on construction sites because of their mobility. 

If you are interested in building your own container home, talk to an architect specializing in this new type of construction and make sure you secure the proper building permits.  Steel is not often used in residential building and obtaining a permit for an unconventional material can be difficult.  Once you have it though, it is your time to be creative with another form of sustainable building! 


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About avocado

I am a globe trotting visual artist who is also vegan. I've been living in Bali for the last few years and am currently in back in Canada learning how to stay warm.


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