Steel Structures: Accessible building

There is a hot new trend: shipping container homes. This basically means that you modify, and re-purpose used shipping containers and stick them together to build a house. Your home.

With a lot of thinking and creativity, and after a lot of cooperation, architects, designers, and builders have actually found a way to transform big boxes of steel into beautiful and fully functional homes. With proper planning, it is now possible to design and build a luxurious house for half the price of a “normal” house. 


Average costs

There are two standard sizes for shipping containers: 20 x 8 x 8 ft. covering a surface of 160 sq. ft. and 40 x 8 x 8 with a surface of 320 sq. ft. A used 20-footer costs anywhere between $1,500 and $3,000, whereas a 40-footer costs between $3,500 and $4,500 per unit.

You will also have to pay for professional labor (about $75-$150 per hour per professional) and for the modifications needed to make the container livable. Expect to pay at least $15,000 for professional labor, and more likely between $25,000 and $40,000 per container, depending on the container size and how elaborate your design is.

There are some prefabricated shipping container houses sold for as little as $15,000. A larger and more luxurious house made of shipping containers can cost significantly more than $250,000, but it’s still only a half the price of a high-end home of a similar size.


Examples

 Here is what a guy from Dallas, Texas, managed to build; an impressive house comprised of 14 steel shipping containers designed and built for around $380,000 – $550,000 (estimated total cost to build in 2021, not including the cost of the land). It has an impressive surface of 3,700 sq. ft., featuring 3 bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, a garage large enough to fit 2 cars, and a roof deck.

There is also a study that the owner (who is an architect) probably uses for late night work. You must admit that the design is innovative. You can barely tell the walls are made of metal.


 The cost to design and build this 1,000 sq. ft. container house in the US is estimated between $125,000 – $225,000, depending on the contractor selection, location, and your overall project planning and resourcefulness. The architect and builder team that built this house in Costa Rica, used two 40 ft. long containers, and added large windows to make the house look very spacious. Large windows will undoubtedly help get your mind off the fact that the house is made of metal containers, which is a really cool trick, which makes the building look even more luxurious. This is a great way to build the house of your dreams without burying yourself in debt. In fact, it only cost $40,000 to build this container house in Costa Rica, which is at least three times less than you would need to budget for building the same house in the US. However, if you are a builder or contractor undertaking a similar project, your total cost will be significantly lower compared to the total final cost paid by the retail buyer.


Advantages

These have to do mainly with pricing, durability and the consequences this type of house building has on the environment. 

  • Pricing: Any young millennial couple who recently bought a house would agree that their life has become a whole lot more difficult after taking on a mortgage of say $350,000 to $550,000 or more, depending on the home’s location. So, why overpay for a conventional house when there is a more affordable way? 

  • Durability: Container homes, which are made from containers which are made from steel are very resistant to weather and climate conditions. Some of the benefits steel has regarding this subject are expressed in the article “Steel Buildings: The future of Architecture”.

  • Effect on the environment: It is no surprise that the new trend of taking on activities and ways that have the best interest of our planet and the environment in mind as one of the main priorities (if not the main) is here to stay. Building your home with re-used steel containers is an extremely environmental-friendly action. 

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