Advantages of Building with Shipping Containers Blog Cover

Advantages of Building with Shipping Containers

Posted By: November 20, 2017 In Featured

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Those of you who’ve read my articles for any length of time know that I’m an advocate for shipping container homes.

They are a fantastic building material and when used appropriately they can offer several advantages over traditional construction materials.

In this article I’m going to cover the main benefits of building your home with shipping containers.

I’ll also cover how to maximize each of these benefits.

Durability and Toughness

An often overlooked advantage of shipping container is their durability and toughness.

Think about it, shipping containers are designed to carry valuable cargo through extremely dangerous weather. Whilst at sea, shipping containers can be subjected to 100 mile an hour winds and 50+ foot waves.

In the video you can see the shipping containers getting rocked side to side by a huge storm yet they all remain intact.

This durability and toughness is generally considered ‘over-spec’ when they are turned into homes. This means that shipping containers are more than strong enough to be used as homes; especially when they are compared to other eco-friendly building materials such as recycled plastics or straw bales.

When building homes with shipping containers, to maintain this toughness I recommend that you don’t cut out too much steel from the containers- cutting too much steel out will significantly reduce its structural integrity.

Also you need to make sure to do regular maintenance on your containers to prevent them from rusting. You can read more about this here.

Flexibility (Off-Site Construction)

One of the biggest advantages of building with shipping containers is that you can convert them off site- we talk about this in depth in our article here.

Let me explain.

If you are planning to live in a remote area, it can be difficult to ship supplies there and also to get contractors to travel that far.

Instead you can convert your shipping containers in an urban area and then once the fabrication/modifications are complete you can transport your finished home to your land.

This allows you to live in places where traditional brick homes couldn’t be built.

If you’re intending to live in the wilderness, the cost of transporting your building materials and paying for contractors to travel that far can be prohibitive. Also with shipping container construction you need access to electricity for power tools such as welders and cutters. Some wilderness locations don’t have electricity which means you can’t modify the containers there.

Instead you can convert and finish your shipping container home at a local workshop and then transport the finished home to your plot of land.

Shipping Container Home


Another fantastic advantage of building with shipping containers is the environmental benefit.

When people were surveyed about why they wanted to live in a shipping container home the second most common response was because it is eco-friendly.

Since the turn of the century people are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment and more and more people are becoming eco-conscious. People are looking for more ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

A fantastic way to do this is to build your home from recycled materials.

Each time a standard 40ft container is recycled, around 3,500kg worth of steel is repurposed.

It’s estimated that each year around 500,000 shipping containers are abandoned. In addition there are several million shipping containers which have already been abandoned- that’s a lot of construction material.

So if a shipping container home build used 5 standard shipping containers, around 17,500kg worth of steel would have been recycled.

Not to mention by building with containers you aren’t using other building materials which harm the environment such as concrete and asbestos; the environmental benefit of this is huge.

They Are Affordable

Without question one of the biggest reasons why people build with shipping containers is because they are affordable.

Take a used 40ft shipping container as an example. They cost around $1,800 and provide 320 square foot. You only need to put 3 containers together and you have almost 1000 square foot for less than $6000.

You only have to look at the following examples:

I’ve seen countless shipping container homes built for less than $50,000. In a time when more and more people are struggling to buy their first home, it makes container homes a very exciting proposition.

One of my favorite affordable builds is called the ‘The Taj Malodge’. It was built back in 2010 and is a 600 square foot home built for way under $35,000.

However this is where the versatility of shipping containers comes in. Not all shipping container homes need to be affordable.

We’ve seen some shipping container homes sell for over $1,000,000. It really depends on you, your budget and what you want to build.

If you’re looking for a more detailed price breakdown read how much do shipping container homes cost.

They Are Portable

Let me start with a caveat here: it depends on the design.

With that said, shipping container homes can be built so they are portable. To make a shipping container home portable you need to do two things:

  1. Bolt the foundations, don’t weld.
  2. Keep cutting of containers to a minimum. If you cut significant pieces of steel out of the shipping containers then you reduce its structural integrity. This prevents them from being stacked and transported.

This portability can be a huge benefit if you want to own your own home but need to move often. All you’d need to do is a find a suitable hookup for your shipping container each time you move.

One man took this idea to the extreme and built a complete portable shipping container home which he ships around the world when he travels with work.

Evan completely stripped out the container and built the ultimate portable man cave- the side of the container even opens up to provide more space.

The home features a bunk bed, sofa, kitchen and dining area and when not in use can be closed up as the original doors have been left hanging on the container.

Fast to Build

Another great advantage of building with shipping containers is that it can be incredibly quick.

If you’ve read our case study on the Graceville Container House, then you’ll know this. Todd and Di Miller built their shipping container home in Brisbane, Australia. When it came to delivering the containers, 31 in total were delivered and siting on the foundations in only 2 days.

This equates to around 6000 square foot of construction laid down in 2 days- this isn’t possible with other building materials and methods.

Also the entire home only took 16 weeks to build. I think that’s pretty remarkable considering the size and specification of the home.

One of the reasons why shipping container homes tend to be quicker to build than traditional homes is because the main structure of the home is typically complete when the containers are delivered.

Another great example of this is Container City. This office block consists of 73 shipping containers and it only took eight days to deliver them to site and fit them in place. Each shipping container was prefabricated beforehand and then transported directly to the office block before being hoisted up into place.

Unique Style

It’s fair to say shipping container homes have a distinctive look. It’s hard to capture this in one word, though people have tried:

Industrial, rugged, modern.

It really is a love or hate relationship. Some people love the appearance of shipping container homes whereas other people can’t stand them.

I’m sure you can guess what I think about them!

It’s this unique style that caused me to find shipping container homes so interesting in the first place. I was hooked after I saw my first one…

Even if you don’t particularly enjoy their external appearance, you can alter this by using external cladding. Take for instance WFH House built by Mads Møller. They cladded their shipping containers with wood and you really couldn’t tell it’s a shipping container.

Whilst cladding is mainly for aesthetics, it has other benefits as well. Depending on the type of cladding used it can actually improve the insulation properties of your home as well.


I hope this article has helped to explain some of the main benefits of building with shipping containers instead of other more traditional building materials.

For me the main two benefits are the unique style and affordability.

It isn’t all sunshine and roses though; there are absolutely some situations where you shouldn’t build with shipping containers. Read my article here for more on that.

Why are you interested in building a shipping container home? Let us know in the comments section below…

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