Things to Consider Before Starting a Shipping Container House
Steel shipping containers have been used for many different things once they no longer sail the high seas.
Typically, retired shipping containers become “storage containers” or are transformed into construction site mobile offices. A recent trend gaining momentum in the architectural world is transforming steel containers into the basis for homes and light commercial construction applications. The success of a construction project using an innovative technique is dependent upon the research done at the front end of the project. Here we will examine the advantages and disadvantages of using shipping containers as part of your building.
AdvantagesStrength and Durability
Shipping containers are designed to carry heavy loads and to be stacked one on top of the other on the decks and in the holds of freighters. They are also designed to resist harsh environments like being sprayed with sea and road salt during transport. This makes shipping containers an ideal structural framework.
All shipping containers are made to standard measurements as established by the International Standards Organization (ISO); this gives them the ideal basis for the modular elements that can be combined into the design, construction and assembly of larger structures. Modular construction also simplifies planning and transport because they are already designed to interlock for ease of mobility during transportation. Due to the containers’ modular design, additional construction is as easy as stacking more containers.
The reuse of shipping containers into an architectural element is an environmentally positive. LEED points are gained for the reuse of materials because you are saving the raw materials that you would otherwise need to construct the buildings framework.Transport and Handling
Steel shipping containers are designed to be transported by ship, railway and trucks; in addition, they can be easily loaded, handled, lifted and moved with simple equipment like fork lifts, loaders and small cranes.
Cost and Availability
Shipping containers are available just about anywhere across the globe. Used containers can be found at a low cost compared to a finished structure built by other labor-intensive means such as bricks and mortar. Construction involves very little labor and used shipping containers requiring only simple modification can be purchased from transport companies.
Cutting and welding steel is sometimes considered to be specialized labor and can increase construction expenses. Unlike wood frame construction, attachments must be welded or drilled to the outer skin, which is more time consuming and requires different job site equipment.
The size and weight of the containers will require them to be placed by a crane or forklift. Traditional brick block and lumber construction materials can often be moved by hand, even to upper stories.
Temperature & Humidity Extremes
Steel is a conductor of heat. Containers used for human occupancy in an environment with extreme temperature variations will need to be better insulated than most brick, block or wood structures. In temperate climates, moist interior air condenses against the steel, becoming clammy. Rust will form unless the steel is well sealed and insulated.
The use of steel shipping containers for construction is not widely used. Obtaining building permits may be troublesome in some regions due to municipalities not having experience with this application before.
When manufactured, most container floors are treated with insecticides containing copper (23–25%), chromium (38–45%) and arsenic (30–37%). Before human habitation, floors should be removed and safely disposed and replaced with a more suitable flooring substraight. Units with steel floors would be preferable, if available.
A container can carry a wide variety of cargo during its working life. Spills or contamination may have occurred on the inside surfaces and will have to be cleaned before habitation. Ideally, all internal surfaces should be stripped to bare metal and re-painted with a nontoxic paint product. In addition, solvents released from paint and sealants used in manufacture of the shipping container might be harmful.
While in service, containers may be damaged by handling collisions, friction from rubbing on each other, and force of heavy loads overhead during ship transits. The intermodals will inspect containers and condemn them if cracked welds, twisted frames or pin holes are found, among other faults. For use in construction, some damage may be more consequential than other damage.
Intermodal shipping containers make an excellent basis for a light construction project; they are cost effective and readily available. However, as with most alternatives, there are tradeoffs to consider before starting a construction project of this nature. If you wish to undertake a project using shipping containers it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages before starting, the success of your project depends on it.
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