Building low cost, section 8 shipping container homes

9 Replies

This is an idea I've been throwing around a lot lately. There is a lot of development going on in my city and it is is all being pushed north. I've been thinking of purchasing a lot to build a 3 unit building made out of shipping containers. Just wanted to get peoples opinions about this idea. 

Does anyone have any experience with these types of constructions? Are there any major pitfalls to look out for? Do people think this is a viable way to build greener and more affordable housing? 

@Mark Albini . I love this idea, but would first talk with your ciry to determine the building regs. Have you done any comparison to see the cost difference than just building a typical multi-unit property with small units?

I would think this would be considered a trailer, which can be used for SEC 8.  I assume you would put it on an axil to get it off the ground.  Definitely check with your zoning office first.  The lot will have to be zoned for multi-family and the structure will have to meet code.  Keep us posted.  This is an interesting concept.

Personally, I think they are very ugly and I really don't see how using them saves much (any) money unless you get them free.

Finishes are the most expensive part of construction.

its very doable, the first to check though is with the city to see any permits or specific requirements. After that, you will need to find a good developer who could help you put down the foundation and install those units. It's good to have developers who have experience with container building but not a hard requirement since the installation isn't too complicated and would get help from the factory who make those container homes as well.

I've been working with container manufacturing company who build 90% of the unit (prefab) from Vietnam and ship to the US. The labor cost there is low so the whole unit cost is relatively low as well. The price will vary of course but roughly for one bedroom unit, with wiring, plumbing, finished bathroom, kitchen, hardwood floors etc. could go around $20k. The shipping to Seattle or CA ports would be around $4k. Of course, you will need to add the transportation cost from port to the construction side as well, the good thing about container is the side is standard so this will not be too difficult to get quotes. 

I would love to get projects like this for myself too around Seattle areas if I have funding for the lands :) The need for cheap and affordable housing is there to fill. 

Shipping containers are not as cheap as people think they are. Really the container itself is only really replacing your exterior siding. You still have to fur out the inside to put insulation and drywall on. So its not saving you much money on framing. As soon as you start cutting into it for openings you are cutting away structural integrity of the box, thus requiring more structure. I could go on and on. 

Basically unique design ideas come with unique prices. You might be able to save some money in the end but how much and is it worth the headache of dealing with something thats new to most contractors?

Not saying it cant be done or you shouldnt, just dont bank on it being a cheaper alternative. 

@Mark Albini Google some of the California projects I'm always seeing on the local news here, you'll see how elaborate they can be, The only ones I'm seeing get done with zoning changes are the ones that have some sort of Non-profit or charitable component. California is making it easy for those building for disabled Veterans, the homeless population, etc. in association with non-profit groups. The key to success is the land cost, they're getting it for almost nothing.   

Not totally related but I remember coming across this video and found it for your enjoyment.

@Jeremy Benezra I agree with @Nik Moushon .  I used to work inside of a shipping container office in Denver, CO.  The company I used to work for was the GC who actually built them and they were so cool but every day people would inquire about these and want to know costs associated and it was always the same question about the affordability.  They are not as affordable as you would think.  

I used run a shop that turned shipping containers into contruction offices. A lot of potential, but zoning would be a big issue, depending on where you are placing them.

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