Six steps to build a shipping container home

Prerequisite knowledge and check list

  • Check Land or buildings permit with your local government for your project.

For most country with comprehensive laws and regulations, you will need to obtain building regulation or planning permission before your building work starts. 

Building Regulation will be needed to approve that the constructions of buildings are compliant with health and safety. Building Regulations cover the construction and extensions of buildings or it may also be needed for approval of many alternation projects including: replace fuse boxes and connected electrics, install a bathroom that involve plumbing, replacing windows and doors.

  • Check zoning law if you location applies to it.

Zoning is the way the governments control the physical development of land and the kinds of uses to which each individual property may be put. Zoning laws typically specify the areas in which residential, industrial, recreational or commercial activities may take place.

The zoning restrictions of the city would be the factor that would decide if you are able to build a container house on this. You might find this information from a local contractor or a visit to the building and permit department.

Non-permanent means that there usually aren't zoning laws or laws saying that you cannot have it. If your building is portable, mobile or just for temporary purpose, it means you are free to build it.

Also we suggest a talking with your neighbors, we all lives in a community, doesn’t we?

  • Obtain planning permission

Construct a brand new building or building an extension to your current home may require a planning permission, checking local dwellings design and building standard reference, code of fire, health and building first and then initialize a talk with Local Planning Authority or a Building Control Agency.

Your permit agency may dictate minimum home size, minimum insulation requirements and impose requirements for portions of the home be constructed in accordance with building codes. If your building size is too small, it may not apply to the planning permission process. Any way a talk with local agency will help and provide you some valuable information, so we suggest using your public service. 

Grant Privilege for land usage

To build a home, you will need a land or site for construction, ether owning a land or granting rights for land usage can also do the job. For the time being, most of our clients from Africa and Middle East, landing problem is easy to solve. 

Design your plan

Drawing plan and design come from architect and structure engineer, a plan should follow local construction code, architect and engineer knows these codes well and can make your plan works and avoid invisible problems of power and water supply, ventilation and drain. 

A good plan should includes 

  • Layout plan
  • Site-working plan
  • Structure plan
  • Circuit system diagram
  • Floor covering plan
  • Ceiling layout
  • Light-bit, switch, socket map
  • Water supply and drain
  • Envelope and exterior plan
  • Section view of complex technics and node connection

Pick up containers

Using shipping container as structure components can expedite base and structure construction process as wall and frame are pre-built by container itself. A good condition container also means sealed well and solid frame.

Container with breakage and rust may cost less while supplement in patch and renew will increase. And these flaws impact the performance of structure and waterproofness. Prices vary with location and container conditions, starts from $1500 to $4500. 

If you are located inland, you may consider adding the transport fee to your budget. One 40 feet cube may need one shipping container truck.

Layout the structure and Cut for openings 

Not every dwelling needs a concrete base; a simplified site-working includes temper rolling and consolidation is good enough for container house projects, which also applies well to many circumstances like disaster relief with fast construction and deployment requirement, scenic area living and work space with minimum impact to local ECO system, and military camp or labor staff quarters as well.

Although simplified foundation works well, solid blocks above soil several feet to support the container are prefer for better moisture and drainage performance.

After the container arrives and site is prepared, you need to lay and stack the containers according to the drawing plan described with help of crane and man labor. You may rent a crane to make this work easier. 

  • Anchor the bottom containers unit (multiple-floor) of your house to ground.
  • Stack containers precisely and connect each other with welding or using bolts.
  • Test structure stability and reinforce if needed.
  • Cut for openings for windows, doors and pipeline etc., remove walls for open-space bigger room. 

You may need cutting equipment for this part, please follow the suggestion of structure engineer and cut with caution. The cut part can be used for partition and sun-shading. Proper partition can create private individual space and sun-shading can direct the rain stream as well as keeping your room from the straight sun heat.

Isolation, electrical and plumbing

Now you get a rough look of house, more apparently a combo big steel box, living in this box will be either hot or cold without much comfortableness; things can be different only if container house is proper isolated. 

Isolation material can varies with your requirement and building code reference, for some country, house must reach relevant standard of thermal conductivity and fire code. Common isolation options are retardant XPS(Rigid Extruded Polystyrene Foam) Board, Rockwool Board or PU(Polyurethanes) Board. Different material needs different care and processing mode.

  • XPS (Reinforced EPS ) panels are pre-formed into fixed specifications within factory, you need to cut the panel to suit your wall after you purchase them from the isolations supplier. Weathering silicone are needed to connect panels to wall and between panels themselves.
  • Rockwool or fiber-glass-wool as alternative has similar installation method; it is more likely a on-site compound way to do the isolate job. First, pave the Rookwood to the wall you want to isolate. Second, cover the Rockwool surface with foil. Third, install interior surface of wall like cement block or plasterboard. Note that density of Rockwool defines the isolation performance normally.
  • PU follows a different route. PU isolation work are installed as spray finishing in-site which requires very experienced workers to obtain good isolation property as controlling of  foam rigidness and finishing flatness. A proper PU isolation work can provide you significant well performance in energy saving and extending your home service life as well as reducing possible hassle in following job of decoration.

Among 3 types of isolation material, PU offers a best isolation performance and it’s definitely the most expensive choice and well worth of it.
You will also need electrician and plumber to do the electrical and plumbing rough-in work during the isolation goes forward. Poor quality of rough-in work may impact house safety, comfortableness, maintenance and repair conveniences. 

HVAC and Decoration

For luxury dwellings and apartment, HVAC known as heating, ventilating, and air conditioning, is necessary step to follow to complete a building project.

Heating options are adding heating fireplace and floor-warm. Windows work well for ventilation enough and additional ventilation fan might be required for bathroom. The air conditioner room may need special care for isolation and air-tightness to save energy and keep the indoor environment stable. Plan where you HVAC located before you do the cuttings for openings, and preserve openings for HVAC tunnels. 

Decoration could be an endless process if your desire is not limited with comfort, but goes far more about aesthetics to fulfill your personal tastes, you may need to prepare more budget for this section. Decoration a shipping container home is the same with traditional brick-concrete or timber structure homes.