Shipping containers: the new home on the block

Shipping containers: the new home on the block


For a backyard office, guesthouse, warehouse apartment, pool house or home for the whole family, shipping containers are versatile, affordable, fast and easy to build, not to mention ultra-chic and personable

The humble shipping container, traditionally used to transport household goods, is now being used as a place of residence. Shipping containers are reinventing the way we live, shining a spotlight on greener options and recycling, as well as cutting-edge home design.

The shipping container

Known also as cargo containers, conex boxes and freight containers, shipping containers come in standard shapes and sizes and are made from 6mm steel boxes with endless options for internal or external cladding. Shipping container sizes are on average 6m x 2.4m, or 12m x 2.4m for high cube containers. This means it is easy to create the rough outlines of your home long before construction and to decide where you want to weld, bolt or pin the containers together to create your home’s floorplan, says Jamie Van Tongeren of Container Build Group. The shipping containers are structurally sound and can be connected together to form larger structures very easily. Being stackable, with the majority of their strength built into the corners, these container homes can safely stand a few stories high.

Traditional extensions can easily be added to a shipping container home and are popular ways of making the structure more liveable. Usually, bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas are built into the shipping container and conventionally built decks, hallways and outdoor rooms are added. The soft steel sides of shipping containers are easily cut to accommodate doors and windows, many having whole wall sections replaced with sliding-glass doors and walls of clear glass. Another advantage is that shipping container homes can be delivered exactly where you need them to go. (Ensure there is a minimum 30m of space either side on the truck so the shipping container can be removed and manoeuvred into place.)

Shipping container homes are structurally strong and ideal for harsh conditions and difficult sites. Due to their strong non-corrosive steel, they are considered one of the strongest building construction materials and make for the perfect home in areas prone to hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Shipping containers are also reasonably resistant to fire. “Modular homes are the way of the future and people are starting to click on,” says Jamie.

Financial benefits

The converted shipping container used for living, storage and business has proven to be a significantly cheaper option than most other home construction methods. “Container homes tend to be 30 per cent cheaper than the standard-built home, making them ideal for first-home owners,” points out Jamie. “Containers are also the most cost-effective buildings to transport. They are easy to lift into place via crane due to their design. To make the transportation of the container even more cost-effective, choose a company that holds a full rail licence to transport their modules.” Container Build Group offers huge cost savings for its clients by holding this licence, recently transporting a 20ft container from Brisbane to Sydney for a mere $260.

Going green

Converting a shipping container into a home saves considerable energy, as the alternative would involve the container being turned into scrap metal. The use of these transport receptacles also reduces the use of conventional construction materials such as brick, cement and timber.

“A low-carbon footprint, along with quick build times and controlled building methods within a confined factory, means recycling waste is far more advanced instead of just dumping everything at the end of the build,” explains Jamie.

Shipping container homes provide a contemporary, green solution to the rising cost of housing in Australia. They can be tailored to your exact requirements and take less than half the construction time of a conventional build. They are strong, durable and easy to maintain, they save trees and energy and promote a cleaner way of living. Choosing to live in a shipping container home is smarter and greener, and doesn’t compromise style or your hip pocket.

For more information

Container Build Group

Words: Stephanie Dunbar and Georgia Westgarth
Images: Supplied by Container Build Group P/L

Written by Stephanie Dunbar and Georgia Westgarth

Photography supplied by Container Build Group

Originally in Kit Home Yearbook Issue 21