Shipping Container Homes

10 Replies

Hello BPers!,

I've been thinking about shipping containers as homes, and wanted to know if anybody here has done that. There has been some good articles online and shows on television about the pros and cons of building from this material. And I have to say, some of the homes I've seen are quite remarkable.

My questions are, if I can purchase land, in Colorado, in an already established neighborhood, then build two homes from containers by a company that specializes in that construction, how difficult is it to work with the city planning and zoning to tap into electric, water and sewer, and to get the permits to have the homes constructed.

I'm thinking one home could be a one bedroom/one bath studio to rent out and the other could be a 2 bed/2bath for myself.

It seems such a good way to go, especially if the cost of the land and two container homes comes out to be the same and sometimes less than one older conventional house.

I know there is more to it than what I've discovered so far, any feedback and ideas would be greatly appreciated.



@Will Foster shipping container homes do not fit in the building permit code box very well. That will be your largest hurdle. Specifically Colorado is a rather large state so it will ultimately come down to the specific jurisdiction that you are building in. Container homes have been discussed for the Denver area and the consensus is that they are not cheaper to construct than conventional homes once you get all the hoops jumped through. If they are well planned they can be faster to construct. The only way for you to know is to contact the building authority in the area you plan to do your project. Make sure you check with zoning about having two dwelling units on one parcel as that is often an issue as well.

If you are looking at containers then you might as well look at modular trailer house.  Now you have a industry approved product.  They also give you a lot more flexibility, more space,  better spatial functionality.   If you are after the metal corrugated looked then this can be achieved as well.  I have done a few trailers for commercial clients with metal siding and bullet resistant.  Depending on size and customizing you are in the $80-100k range.

You will have problems getting containers to fly in neighborhood with HOA. I would call the building permit dept and have a conversation with them before moving to far along. It maybe worth your time to stop in person with a floor plan and picture of what they would look like to talk about with them.

Lots of news and buzz around the idea but not very many local city officials stamping approvals.

@Will Foster I found a place that had been converted from oil rig housing (on skids) to a very cute tiny house. The owner needed to relocate it. My county was receptive - but because it was previously finished and because of the skids (not to mention the crane) it became cost prohibitive. They wouldn't allow the skids as a foundation. The wanted to see some of the structure exposed so that they could verify the integrity... just too much. The seller also owned property in the county next door which has zero building regulations and I advised him to move it there. I have also looked at some old railway cargo units and my county had no problem with that because they were unimproved and could go through the normal permitting and inspection process. @Jim Adrian is correct about potential HOA issues - but I'm working with random lots in older areas without HOAs. So the long answer is: can be done in the right place in the right way - and the "cool factor" probably adds value that a modular trailer house will not have.

@Will foster Hey there Will, i love that you posted this.  I am currently in the process of amending the city code in my locale, i have talked to over 20 city officials and have finally made some progress in the right direction.  I had seemed to keep hitting the same wall on every phone call, and had not gotten much positive response.  My nature is to talk to much, and this time it benefited me, after i received another no from a city official, i deiced that seeing was believing, so i set a meeting with the city planner.  During this meeting i presented examples of similar construction, renderings of the buildings, and the entire business plan.  In the same way that i would sell investors or a bank.  Turns out this was the best thing i could of done.  Now that a city official shared my vision, he actually advocated for me within the circles i wasn't allowed in, and has been the reason for the forward progress.  So to sum up, the city wont be as difficult as perceived, just sell them on it, because at the end of the day, everyone just wants to be sold. Hope this helped

@Cody Malone Hey Cody, great to hear you are taking on such a challenge to open the eyes of the city officials. A lot of work it sounds like, but in the end you were able to get things going. How has the process of taping into the city grids of power, sewage and water been? I got the idea from a British TV show called, Grand Designs, if you have Netflix, you can watch the episode there. It is an amazing look at how containers can be made into amazing homes. Thanks for replying.

Hi @Teri S. thank you for responding to the post. Glad to hear people are thinking outside of the normal building designs. As I mentioned to Cody, I got the idea from a British TV show called, Grand Designs. If you have Netflix, you can watch the episode there. It is an amazing look at how containers can be made into amazing homes. 

Hello again @Bill S. Thanks for the information. Sounds like from most of the responses it comes down to the city zoning, HOAs and the other hoops as you mentioned. Hope you're doing good.

Morning @Cody Malone,

I wanted to check in and see how things were going with your plans on using containers.

Have the doors been opening more for you?

My city just approved Containers to be used as housing--- they still need to meet 2015 IBC but that should be too much of a problem. I am working on putting together a 4 unit design with 4 studio apartments 320 soft each. Anybody want to JV?? Plan is to build 24 units, manufactured in a local plant then taken on site.

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