The interest in container housing is growing and I wanted to provide some insight on this trend. Some of the reasons for this trend could include: an interest in reusing a product that seems to be in abundant supply; a house that might be a bit quirky and different; inspired by what others have done or what has been featured on a lifestyle show; and the apparent affordable nature of containers.

Let’s start with the abundant supply of shipping containers Australia. We see them being transported on our road and rail network and stacked up high around ports and shipping yards and being used to transport goods around Australia, but the journey might have started overseas. The reality is we import more goods than we export and often it is cheaper to send a new container across the seas filled with cargo, rather than returning an empty container for reuse.

A great thing about shipping containers is that they can be stacked easily on top of each other, because of their structural strength and as a result they can be used for not only single storey but also suitable for multi level buildings, in all different forms and unique configurations

But are all Shipping containers the same? Well, no and here is a bit of an explanation on this. There are:

  • New shipping containers that have largely been manufactured and shipped for a specific end use.
  • Class A or one trip containers – refers to their use for one trip from departure point to destination point, but this does not mean they are new and they may have a few dints during the transport from loading.
  • Class B – where the container is still wind and water tight, and they have a few more dents and may have surface rust, but still looks in good condition.
  • Class C – contains medium to heavy rust, lots of dents and scratches and look pretty shabby.

As I am passionate about resource efficiency I like to advocate recycling and reusing, hence why I am interested in the repurposing of good quality shipping containers, so for me I would be focussing on Class B containers, to give them a second life.

Let’s look at cost considerations of converting a shipping container to a container house. House construction needs to conform to housing standards in Australia, which have been developed to ensure safety, structural integrity, weatherproofing, comfort for the occupants and conform to the climatic conditions of area. These standards mean homes need structural integrity in the footings, flooring, walls, and roof. They also need insulation, windows, shading devices, electrical and plumbing fitouts, weather and waterproofing, walls, doors and other carpentry and cabinetry fitouts etc. So the few thousand dollars you could pay for a Class B shipping container starts to add up when you want to modify for living in.