Who’d have ever thought that shipping containers would one day be a hot new residential building tool? The future is now, but it’s not without its curiosities.
Architects and owners who know firsthand about designing and living in container homes have a few things to say about the topic. Some of it supports the benefits, and some of it warns of problems. But all of it suggests that container building is still on its way up.
Containers are Versatile Building Tools
One of the most interesting things about using containers, aside from sustainable design, is their versatility. Containers are essentially prefabricated rooms that you can stack and piece together like a puzzle. You can also join two or more to create larger rooms. They’re especially suited to building residential structures, says Arch Daily.
Buying Sight Unseen Can Bring Unpleasant Surprises
As the market grows, more containers are coming available for sale. But you should always make the trip to see what you’re buying instead of banking on containers in good condition. Larry Wade, who built a shipping container cabin, explained to Arch Daily that buying sight unseen was a big mistake. His containers were delivers in rough condition.
Local Building Rules Vary
Building with shipping containers is a relatively new idea. As such, local rules and regulations vary a lot. Electrical codes, fire regulations, and other issues might arise if you use building plans that were designed for another location.
Some Contractors are Container Experts
Another issue with the relatively new container building market is that it’s challenging to find a contractor who can do it. This is a different type of building. So you’ll need a contractor who has been there, knows the potential problems, and has the experience to take on the whole project.
Container Building Doesn’t Equal Cheap
Using containers instead of another approach isn’t a cost-saving device. It might cost a bit less than a stick built house, but the savings will be marginal, says Robyn Volker, who owns the Tim Steele North Branch container house. If the structure requires a lot of modification, the cost could be nearly the same.
Insulation is a Major Concern
Shipping containers aren’t designed as dwellings, so they’re not exactly cozy and warm in winter, nor are they cool in summer. Good insulation is vital to making a container livable, and Arnold Arson of Studio ArTe tells Arch Daily that it can be a definite hurdle. Insulation can also help reduce noise, which is another problem with container building.
Container Structure is Different
While the theory of container building is pretty straightforward, the reality of working with the materials isn’t. You can stack and join, but cutting into a wall to add a window is different from adding a window to a stick built house.
Shipping containers are like building blocks for grownups. You can stack them, arrange them, weld them, and create something livable, but for a price. No, containers aren’t cheap, and they aren’t as simple to work with as their appearance might suggest. But the fascination continues. And the container homes of the future have a good foundation to build on.
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