Shipping Container Homes are Providing New Solutions from Grand Designs to Social Housing
Living in a Box – Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to shipping containers homes. The meteoric rise in the use of converted shipping containers for living space has seen projects range from grand designs to new solutions for social housing.
Advocates for these new housing solutions state speed of installation, cost savings on materials and the capacity to re-use units in new locations make it a serious option for urban and rural housing.
Shipping container homes, viewed as a fad in the early days, a trend for those keen to do something different and upcycle for living accommodation.
Now, however, with some innovative and self-sufficient, not to mention chic examples of projects around the globe, many architects, property developers and individuals are turning on to the practical possibilities the humble shipping container offers.
You may be familiar with some of these projects but let’s take a minute to remind you of some of our personal favourites.
Patrick Bradley – Channel 4 Grand Designs Most Recognised Architect.
Patrick Bradley became one of Northern Ireland's best-known architects, (You can visit his architectural practice here) when he embarked on a personal project to create his new home. Although Bradley had designed many homes before, the idea of using shipping containers, with a modest budget of £100K was undoubtedly a new challenge.
The project also catapulted this charismatic lad to become one of Ireland’s recognised bachelors. During filming, he informed us all that part of the reason for this build project was to create a home, and ‘find a wife!’
Patrick’s passion for sustainable architecture was evident from very early on in the Channel 4 Grand Designs programme, but his desire to also create a living space that was contemporary and high quality, as well as sustainable, may have looked like a challenge too far at certain points. The site for the build was on pristine land in the Irish countryside with beautiful streams running through it, which came from Patrick’s father.
An early step was to source the containers required for the project, 4 used shipping containers in premium condition, costing £10,000 was part of Patrick's initial actions. Many locals aired their concerns about how this non-traditional construction, in an area renowned for farms and cottages, would integrate. Patrick desired to ensure this integration still worked, even with such an out of the ordinary construction and materials.
Modifications to the shipping containers were the next stage and were cut out so that they could be joined together. This provided the shapes Patrick craved to create the larger area of space that would become part of the unique success of this project. The beauty with shipping containers is the simplicity in their original raw format. Believe it or not, this incredibly robust material and product also offer great flexibility when working with it.
The designs Patrick had created also required the containers to be placed at offset stages. Shipping containers are designed to be stacked in a safe and straightforward corner to corner manner, for storage and transportation. Still, this overhang design meant the top container would add weight stress, in the middle section of the box, it’s weakest point. Working with the build engineers and steel fabricators, around 10 tons of extra steel was added to the shipping containers at key points, supporting stress areas and providing Patrick with the shapes that would go on to deliver the aesthetically stunning structure.
Additions of glass and specialist shipping container paint for cladding turned this raw material into something that caught the imagination of a nation. The show won Channel 4 and Grand Designs a BAFTA award, pulled in the show’s biggest ever audience and seen Patrick receive over 70,000 emails (and still counting) from all over the world.
Patrick and business partner and friend, Bernard McAleenan run Bradley and McAleenan Architects a RIBA, multi-award-winning design-led practice creating architecture throughout the UK and Ireland.
The practice is now one of the most sought after architectural practices in the UK.
Patrick once said in an interview, “I was a child completely obsessed with Lego and Meccano, building everything from fire stations to houses. With new pieces available every year, birthday presents were never a problem for my parents!” It’s incredible to see how those early days eye for design, using blocks, set Patrick on the road to creating structures we are all talking about.
But, wait, the big question needs answered! Forget the farmer, did Patrick ever get a Wife?
Not yet, but we believe he’s working on it and pretty sure if he keeps creating these stunning properties, there may well be a queue!
US State Dallas gives us a 3,700-square-foot, three-bedroom home
made out of shipping containers.
Those old enough to remember will associate Dallas with that 80’s TV show that had oil barons fighting each week.
We’re still trying to remember who shot JR? Answers on a postcard!
Dallas, Texas architect Matt Mooney first dreamed of creating a home from shipping containers 25 years ago. Today he is resident in a home which is 3,700-square-foot, has three bedrooms, a 1,400-square-foot roof deck and a 40-foot-long swimming pool.
Yes, we like the sound of it also, so lets’ explore a little further.
The home was created with 14 converted shipping containers at the core, a build foundation that provided the shapes and spaces to deliver one of the most stunning shipping container home constructions in the world. Located at White Rock Lake and the sparkling lights of the city's downtown, it’s safe to say the property is certainly desirable.
Christened PV14, the property has never shied away from its’ shipping container roots, using the urban look to add to the home’s character. A critical element for the designers was to ensure when visitors stood within the property; they were never in doubt as to its origins.
An essential aspect for anyone looking to use converted containers for their build is to address insulation. Like PV14, Spray foam provides an excellent solution to use between the building layers, providing required insulation that delivers the comfort any home needs.
One of the most striking uses of the containers at PV14 is the two-story, glass-panelled tower that overlooks and mirrors the shape of the house's long, slim pool, which carries the tower's reflection. The shipping containers have also provided open plan spaces that the product adapts to quickly with its structure.
We love that this project has completely embraced the contours and material the containers offer and never tried in any aspect of the design to use them simply as a structure, but as a focal feature at every turn and view.
The property sits comfortably with some of the world’s most prestigious homes, proving that sometimes the rawest, most cost-effective build options and a little bit of imagination can deliver very impressive results.
Exploring how converted containers are providing new solutions
for social housing and property shortage
The chic cities of the United Kingdom have embraced the urban, contemporary lifestyle offered by container conversions. Pop-up-bars, cafes, art exhibition events and product launches are all seeing the benefits of the portable, modular and cost-effective Cor-ten steel product, so why not social housing.
Many councils, architects and developers are agreeing that the time is right for shipping containers to play their part in addressing the housing shortage and homelessness within the UK. Affordability is key when it comes to developing homes that are accessible for people, but as we have seen previously, this certainly does not mean it has to be at the cost of style and comfort.
Container homes do require careful planning and health and safety is paramount. As an ISO accredited supplier of shipping containers, Eldapoint is a trusted partner to developers looking to take advantage and drive new solutions for the UK's population.
An early project using converted shipping containers for social housing was The Wenckehof multi-story container estates in Amsterdam. Originally created for Amsterdam’s Salvation Army and for temporary workers, the estate is now mainly a student complex. Boasting thousands of standard shipping container units, divided into six blocks of five floors. Each shipping container is roughly 28 metres squared.
Two projects that have been met with mixed views are Brighton Housing Trust, working with QED, when they developed 36 studio flats within two blocks, using adapted shipping containers at a town centre site and a similar project delivered with Ealing Council. It has become the first London borough to house homeless people in recycled shipping containers.
Some people have reacted positively to both projects, stating that anything that assists with homelessness in the UK should be welcomed and that these converted shipping containers for homes is really meant as a temporary measure.
Others have said that the quality and look of the project is not fitting with the area, or of a standard suitable for living. Whatever the reactions, the truth is that overall the projects have been successful, affordable and for some, the difference between living on the street or accommodation.
When land area is sparse, the units offer a solution due to the traditional way they are stacked within the shipping industry. Quick construction and cost-effective, the use of the product has come a long way from the early developments.
Shipping container homes make efficient use of brownfield sites, providing good living standards. Their small footprint and modular capabilities maximise available land.
Eldapoint continues to support these developments and welcome any objectives which deliver solutions to those in need.
Planning and Building Your Container Home
There are many reasons people look toward converted shipping containers as accommodation. A first home and step onto the property ladder, an opportunity to grow your space and use the units to extend a property, or as independent space for teenagers, or elderly relatives. There is also many advantages to taking this approach, including the range of standard container size options, their versatility, portability and cost.
Add the fact that you can custom convert units internally and externally to meet needs and tastes, really does make them a very attractive solution. So, what do you need to consider prior to developing?
Planning Permission for Shipping Container Building
The good news is many container housing developments often don’t require planning permission because it is not considered to be a permanent structure. However, the rules vary in different parts of the country and each council planning department, so contacting your local planning authority (LPA) for a definitive answer regarding your site, at early stages is recommended. For more information on planning for container houses, view our advice article here.
Shipping Container Size and Shape
Container homes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, ranging from 10ft - 40ft and can be grouped, stacked or linked together to create excellent and versatile accommodation.
Below provides a guide for container sizes:
- Standard widths - 8', 9', 10' and 12'
- Standard lengths - 20', 24', 30', 40' and 44'
Shipping Container Container Floor Plans
Like any build project, ensure you have taken time to address your internal requirements and make these work with your chosen container size. Have detailed drawings and working with interior planning 3d software will ensure you have considered all aspects.
There is a number of options available to ‘dress’ your unit. Container specific Paint options and specialist cladding products that work with containers are readily available and Eldapoint can guide you with decisions, supply or link you to some of our partners.
Windows and Doors
Choosing the most appropriate windows and doors for your container is an area that can add to the aesthetics of your unit, whilst providing natural light. With the natural shape of the units, bi-fold doors provide an excellent way to bring the outside in and extend your space.
An exciting part of any build project, but like all homes, being clever with your space and considering the structure is critical to ensuring your container provides all the home comforts and utilities you need.
Getting the Right Advice for Your Shipping Container Conversion
Our container conversion division and advisers have the experience and knowledge to ensure you make informed decisions. We are accredited members of the Modular and Portable Buildings Association, with a series of industry awards for our business structure, service and innovation.
You can contact our advisers by completing the form here, or alternatively call +44 (0)151 548 9838