If you’re an urban-dweller, you’ve probably felt like design options for a city abode are becoming rather staid. So it was with intrigue that we stumbled upon a phenomenon that has taken Europe by storm – container homes!

    Take a drive out of the city – especially port cities – and you’ll see them. Stacked up high and lined up side by side. Shipping containers are a common sight, as they’re used by the majority of logistic companies to transport goods across the country. While they are an obvious choice when it comes to storage, shipment and handling due to their strength, it seems far-fetched to use a shipping container as… a house.

    Over the past few years as many European countries have started to appreciate the benefits of old shipping containers to be used as an alternative type of housing, ranging from single family homes to dormitory complexes.

    As an urban-dweller, you’ve probably felt like design options for a city abode are becoming rather staid. It was with intrigue that we stumbled upon a phenomenon that has taken Europe by storm – container homes

    How they are built

    A container home is usually constructed from any number of recycled shipping containers, which means the size of the house can range from being a single container to a large dwelling made of several joined together.

    As these are ready-made, they just need to be transported to the building site. Each container is then fitted together according to the blueprints, and this can include cutting out panels to create larger interior spaces and openings for doors and windows. The walls of the units are spray-foam insulated and finished with drywall, countering the over-heating in summer or lowered temperatures in winter that metals are prone to.

    These units are then aligned, attached to the steel reinforcements and welded onto a foundation. Once the frame is in place, depending on the owner’s preference, the exterior can be clad and the interior kitted out with everything from floors to rooftops.


    Benefits of container living

    It goes without saying that container homes are incredibly strong and sustainable as they are built from steels made to weather storms and the harshest of elements. Shipping containers are designed to be “stackable”, making them ideal for building high-rise apartments that are safe and durable.

    A house built from recycled shipping containers is kinder on your bank balance as it costs significantly less than building a conventional house of the same size, but is made of bricks, cement and wooden beams.Building a container home also saves time and cuts down on labour.

    Container homes are kind to the environment as you’re essentially recycling.

    Some of the disadvantages

    Rust can be an issue over time, so it is wise to prevent this before it becomes a costly nuisance by ensuring that your shipping container home is adequately sealed.

    Some containers are treated with paint and solvents to meet stipulations of quarantine laws in certain countries, while other containers may have carried toxic cargo. These are health hazards that must be neutralized before a container is fit for habitation.

    Another complication is that many residential areas do not allow the use of steel, so a potential developer or homeowner might find it challenging to obtain a building permit.

    Only time will tell if the container living fad will take off here in Africa, and in what form it will be adopted. It’s a viable housing option, if not for high-end living then surely for lower-end housing, a solution for which we have struggled to find.