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Affordable living alternative: Container homes

Alissa Ugolini—homify UK Alissa Ugolini—homify UK
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The majority of the general population dreams of one day escaping the rent cycle and purchasing their own home. However, the financial burden that it causes initially on some families, means that this desire inevitably turns into an unachievable pipe dream. On homify, we are not only bedazzled by expensive villas, but we seek to shed light on affordable housing solutions too. At the end of the day, whether it is 10m² or 10,000m², a house is just four walls that you can call home.

Today, we will be looking into the fascinating world of container homes. This is a style that raises a lot of eyebrows, yet is gaining momentum in the ever-changing world of European architecture and design. An impressive and inexpensive solution to the current housing crisis, you might have begun this article a sceptic, but we hope by the end, you are well and truly converted to the notion of living inside one (or more) of these wonderful steel units. Let's answer a few basic questions first: 

How much does a container cost?

The cost of a used container can vary greatly. For a 40-foot (12 metre) long container, you can expect to pay between £750 and £2,500, depending of course, on the condition. To convert the steel shell into a home, you could comfortably set your limits between £5,000 and £7,500. There are new containers available for purchase, but it is far more cost effective to acquire one second hand.

Do I need to insulate the container?

Sea containers are designed as a cargo vessel in a lightweight steel construction. They consist mainly of stainless steel, which is provided with a protective coating. Therefore, it is essential that insulation is installed, as well as high quality glazing solutions to ensure that a comfortable living temperature in maintained inside for the occupants.

Where can you set up the container?

This is something you'll need to check with local councils as there are only regional, and not national codes. With fully prepared documents in tow, check the building code of the respective region. They will have to distinguish first and foremost, if you intend to stay in the shipping containers on a short or long term basis and whether or not the design facilitates these needs.

A raw shipping container

  by CSH Container Services Hamburg GmbH
CSH Container Services Hamburg GmbH

Gebrauchter 20 Fuß ContainerSeecontainer vor dem Umbau

CSH Container Services Hamburg GmbH

Shipping containers are used on a worldwide scale for the transport of goods at sea. Whether they are purchased in their classic sense, or rebuilt using the same principles by architects and designers, it is possible to use either as the foundation for your housing unit. In Europe, if we look to our energy efficient German neighbours, the majority of the successful homes built from shipping units have been second hand, and we'll have you know, that some even meet the strict energy standards put in place by the passive house movement.

To learn the ins and outs of passive house design, click here.

Looks can be deceiving

When you first think about a residential shipping container, you automatically think of crates. Here is a good example that shows with small modifications, that a container home doesn't at all look like a cube. Using built-in skylights and roof windows, from the view on the outside, we get a totally different sense of space inside. In fact, you wouldn't know until you saw the interior image how spacious and light filled a steel unit such as this could be! Here, the walls of the structure have been cut, instead of the existing framework, and replaced by glass.

The developer of this project used two 40-foot sea containers providing an internal living area of 92m². Located in Costa Rica, the total build cost was approximately £25,000. That's roughly £270 per square metre, versus the London living cost of £10,000 per square metre!

The simple life

For those who want as little carbon footprint as possible, in 2007, this small container home was erected to house, would you believe, a family of four! The owners didn't want to be stuck to the notion of living in one place, and they desired to be mobile and adventurous!

One for the guests

This navy blue container which measures about 12 metres in length and 2.5 metres in width has been created as a guest house. Offered a comfortable 30m² of space, your guests can now feel self sufficient and independent within the confines of their own shipping container. No longer do we need to feel as though we are a burden when visiting friends or family, instead, you can be autonomous and keep out of the hair of your hosts! This container sits on a raised platform to ensure it is protected from the weather, the cold and corrosion. An additional terrace was installed so that guests could be outdoors whilst on their holidays. A wonderfully realised project!

Student life

This project was developed by design students, for students. Purchasing six used shipping containers, they built their own house. The project took two years to complete, with the interior revealing a wonderful light filled and open space to facilitate modern life. The simplicity of these containers means you are able to let your creativity run wild; they are a great blank canvas to start out your lives as homeowners.

For more ground breaking living solutions, check out this mobile home which was constructed for under £32,000.

Would you considering living in a home built from a used or new shipping container? Let us know in the comments section below.
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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