Can shipping container homes really be eco-friendly living spaces?


Home sweet shipping container homes

Shipping container homes may seem an odd concept. But, it’s one that’s catching on because retired shipping containers still have years of active use left in them. After years on high seas and highways, containers offer a fast, green and sustainable building option. Their popularity is growing as consumers look for more affordable and eco-friendly ways to live.

Also known as “intermodal steel building units” (ISBU’s) can be used to build a home or business. Houston-area developers are exploring retail and multi-family construction using these former globe-trotting containers. It makes perfect sense. Using these pre-manufactured structures, which come designed to be interlocking, streamlines the building process. It’s a smart way to save time, money and wood.

Shipping container homes are affordable—sorta

The container’s price is unbeatable. A standard size container measures 40-by-8-by-8 feet and can cost anywhere from $1,400 to $4,000 from a reputable container dealer. For that, you get an empty container. This is where the fun starts.

You can’t just buy a shipping container, cut a window or two, and call it home. It’s a process. In fact, in almost all ways imaginable, it’s a job better left to the pros.

Building out a shipping container with electricity, plumbing, windows and other options runs up to $150 per hour. How many hours? How fancy do you want it? Unlike traditional stick construction, building shipping container homes also requires a unique collection of equipment (like a heavy duty crane) and trades (welders will need to cut openings and connect containers). You will also need, foundation anchors (usually piers), utility hookups—and open-minded neighbors. Typical shipping container homes can look foreign against the landscape.

Bankers fear building on the leading edge

One more word of caution: the idea of a shipping container home is so new that banks don’t know what to do with it. While their value should appreciate over time, especially given the homes sturdiness and permanent nature, the market hasn’t had time to prove it yet.

No, the shipping container as a home idea isn’t for everyone or every neighborhood. But, for the right space, they offer an eco-friendly alternative to standard construction—especially when configured like the ones in this story.

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