Container Conversions Vs Traditional Housing: A Review

There are many pro’s and con’s when it comes to container homes and traditional homes. Traditional housing is all around us and has been the popular building method of choice for many years. Container homes are a newer architectural concept but are quickly growing in popularity.

A container home or office space is when a converted steel shipping container that is used for transporting goods on trains, trucks, and ships is turned into a liveable and usable space. Buildings of all shapes and sizes can be created from these shipping containers.

All the many perks and downfalls of both container conversions and traditional housing are leaving architects, builders, and homeowners divided. This article will review the various benefits and limitations of both forms of construction.

Construction Costs

Container conversions are typically more cost-effective than conventional housing because they require fewer building materials and labour to be constructed. Container conversions also have more predictable costs, as most of the work is completed on a factory floor for a fixed price.

There are very few fixed prices when it comes to traditional housing which makes budgeting much more uncertain. The only variable costs involved in a container conversion are the delivery to the site costs, site preparation, foundations, assembly, and utility connections. This is far less when compared to traditional housing.

Time Frame

Many shipping container homes are available as prefabricated modular homes, making construction time shorter. Also, most of the building code inspections can be done at the factory which further makes the time frame quicker.

Container conversions are therefore quick to construct and have a more reliable timeline in comparison to conventional housing. Some contractors are even able to build a shipping container home in under a month, whereas traditional brick and mortar structures on average take around 4 – 6 months to make.

Architectural Differences

There are certain architectural limitations when it comes to container conversion designs. Shipping container structures are made from heavy steel to transport goods, so they don’t feature the necessary accommodations for a traditional living area that a conventional home does. Door and window holes and moisture can compromise the structural integrity of a shipping container, whereas traditional housing is open to a variety of design possibilities with far fewer structural limitations and considerations.

Environmental Impact

Using disused shipping containers as building blocks is an effective way of recycling them, but the environmental impact of these homes is still larger than it appears at first glance. Most factory-built container conversions are built from ‘one-use’ – which means they are containers that have only been used for a single trip.

These containers tend to be in good condition so they are ideal for building with, in comparison to containers that have gone ‘out-of-service’ and may be damaged from years of use. But taking a container with lots of available shipping life out of service after one use is not effective recycling. A shipping container also comprises of way more steel than what you would need to build a house – if a container was recycled as steel it would be enough steel studs for 14 framed houses of the same size.

Before container homes can be habitable, the entire container must be sandblasted, the flooring replaced or sealed, and all the openings need to be cut with a torch. There are also carbon emissions associated with transport and assembling so a container home is not necessarily a more ecologically friendly option than a conventional building. But we cannot forget that the construction and renovation of traditional buildings use precious natural resources and poorly designed and constructed buildings use more energy, increasing the demand for energy production and contributing to global warming.

Resale Value

A well-maintained shipping container conversion can retain its resale value much like a traditional home. Shipping container conversions are fairly easy to resell too since they are not locked to a location, but rather they can be loaded onto a truck and shipped almost anywhere. Like a conventional home, a shipping container home is a good long-term investment as they can last up to 50 years. And like a conventional home, they are also a safe investment as they are very acceptable to insurers due to the structural integrity of a container, sufficient security systems, and their anti-leak roof structure.

We hope this article has provided a comprehensive review of container conversions in comparison to traditional housing. There are major differences between the two housing options, with both having their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

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