Save by building a house from Shipping Containers?

7 Replies

Hey all. This is more of a curiosity question than anything else. I recently saw this link for a number of homes that have been created by recycling Shipping Containers. I was wondering how much the BP community thinks this would have saved on end construction for these unique spec builds on a per sqft basis. I'm assuming you would save on framing etc but would it be that significant?

I saw this too and loved this idea...went to a great green building display in DC a few years ago and I really was impressed. I would love to rehab and re-use this way. Shipping containers are plentiful and need to be reused; they can be stacked, insulated and withstand weather etc.

I'd love to find a contractor who specializes in this.

There's a group in Denver doing this right now. So cool! Haven't looked much into yet other than reading a few press clippings and checking out the build sites.

Another here intrigued by the idea.

My question - What kind of permits need to be had to use shipping containers for new construction?

@Andrew N.

This is a really cool concept. I knew of a few people that were doing this for disaster relief situations (single container ready for plumbing connections and generator). I think it's being utilized more and more when areas have short term housing crisis' (North Dakota). I haven't seen any finished products in person but it seems like a good idea.

I hadn't seen it used for finished housing like looks great though. It makes me want to go back to flipping houses! I'll stay to multi-family for now though.

I'm not sure the savings would be that great because of the unfamiliarity to the design. I see high end contractors charging a lot to put these projects together and a lot of contractors not touching the projects (unless they cover themselves). If you were the builder or an experienced contractor you might be able to make it your niche for new builds.

@Tom Gunnison - That's cool that you have a local company doing this. Can you give the name of the company by any chance? We might be able to find out more about this building niche by contacting them or looking over their website.

@Chris Winterhalter - I can definitely see how this type of reuse would be good for disaster areas. As far as disaster areas go the New 3d House Printers coming online are pretty cool for that sort of thing as well.

I am similarly impressed with the finished housing. The designs are pretty cool and are much more interesting and aesthetically pleasing than I would have guessed possible. I agree multifamily investing is a far less intensive strategy and I hope to be in your position sooner rather than later =).

I agree the savings would be dubious though and the issue of marketability for resale makes it a tough decision. I'm sure the unique recycled design will appeal to some but it definitely reduces the buyer pool. I'm not sure the market would even be large enough to support a niche builder of this sort in most parts of the country.

Here's an article about the group doing this in Denver:

I've been a firefighter for well over a decade in DC. We've used shipping containers for instructional purposes, the military has built entire "staged" towns out of them for weapons training and tactical training. Being near Baltimore We can get these for around $1600-$5000 depending on size, condition and if its insulated (for perishables). We've used these to build mazes in the past as well. 

DC just approved a permit to build our first shipping container apt complex in the Brookland neighborhood of DC.  I emailed one of the companies owners to pick his brain about the project. There are interior height restrictions and sprinkler codes they have to overcome (guessing they'll get  a variance?) . I'm very curious how much space will be left after you insulate the box and will you have to furnish it like you would a "tiny house" (which can also be found in DC - Boneyard Studios) 

I've often thought about using one for a weekend retreat or hunting cabin but if you don't have plumbing or electricicty you'll still need the incinerator (or the like) toilet, battery or solar power, rainwater and filtration system etc etc. If you want additional doors and windows you'll eed a good welder/fabricator too.

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