One of the more niche trends in sustainable design of the past few years has been the re-use of shipping containers in order to create the structure of a building. Due to their convenient size, shipping containers are well-suited for use in houses and their appeal lies in their apparent simplicity: you get a room delivered in one piece, and you can stack them together to make multiple rooms or join them up to make larger rooms.
But of course, things are never so simple, and using shipping containers to make a house is still fraught with challenges - particularly as the idea is still relatively new, so there are few people with the expertise required to build one without a hitch. That's why the folks over at Container Home Plans reached out to 23 experts from around the world - designers and owners who have overcome the challenges to build their own container houses - to ask them what they wish they'd known before taking on this challenge. Check out their 11 top tips after the break.
1. Make Sure You See The Containers You're Buying
"The one thing that I wished I had not done was buy my containers without seeing them - I took the company’s word that they would be in good shape. They were beat all to heck."
- Larry Wade, seacontainercabin
2. Or, Spend A Little Extra On A One-Trip Container
"I wish I had known that it doesn’t cost that much more for a One-Trip container and they are like brand new."
- Larry Wade, seacontainercabin
3. Read Up On Your Local Rules
"Every country has its own sets of rules and standards. This means a container house in US does not look like a container house in Denmark. That is something most people do not think about. The container is a generic product, but climate, fire regulations etc are not…"
4. Find A Contractor That Can Do It All
"The one thing we would have done differently would have been to find one contractor to help the whole process versus having one for getting and modifying the containers, and another to finish out the interior."
- Kam Kasravi and Connie Dewitt, owners of the Sea Container Home by Modulus
5. Know Your Shipping Container Market
"I wish I knew that there were containers that are taller than 8 foot."
- Mark Wellen, Rhotenberry Wellen Architects
6. Understand The Shipping Container's Structure
"I think understanding how the structural integrity of them works is very important- i.e. the two long walls are both load bearing and bracing so if you were to cut a hole in one it needs to be compensated."
- Dan Sparks, G-Pod
7. Don't Expect To Make A Huge Saving
"What I wish I had known is that building a house from shipping containers cost me a similar amount as a stick built house."
- Robyn Volker, owner of the North Branch Container House by Tim Steele
8. Minimize The Required Welding
"Welding takes a long time and is expensive, so try to keep it to a minimum."
9. Know How To Insulate
"I wish I knew how to insulate the shipping container, we ended up soldering elements on the walls and then sprayed them with a foam anti-fire insulation."
- Arnold Aarssen, Studio ArTe
"We wish we’d known in cold countries above all, you need to ensure you have proper insulation to protect against condensation."
10. Plan Ahead For Plumbing
"One thing that would have made a big difference would have been to have all of the plumbing chases cut out of the container floors and ceilings to easily run pipe once they were stacked."
- Kelly Davies, Travis Price Architects
11. Have A Strategy To Cope With Wind
"We did not expect so much wind in the site and are now having to screen off the wind with vegetation as the container makes a bit of noise when there are large gusts of wind."
Make sure to check out the full post on Container Home Plans for more advice and ideas from 23 experienced designers and owners of shipping container homes.