More and more people are becoming open to the idea of building their dream home from shipping containers.
The bland looking designs that were the first iterations of container homes have given way to colourful, playful designs that can fit into any modern community.
Building houses out of these intermodular steel boxes is becoming trendier in South Africa and beyond. There are a few reasons why this is the case.
Reasons why container homes are gaining popularity
1. New and creative designs – One of the reasons that held back potential homeowners from going for container houses was the plain designs of the past. Today, the internet has been bombarded with incredible designs that many would not even tell are container homes at first glance. This act of mainstreaming the design process has brought on board many people who were previously on the fence.
2. Cost – In most parts of the world, and certainly in South Africa, building a house out of shipping containers will cost you considerably less than building or buying the same house the conventional way.
3. Sustainability – It is generally agreed that building your home out of shipping containers is much more sustainable than building from concrete or other material. There are millions of shipping containers in the world, and more are made every day. Instead of tossing them into huge crushers, giving them a second life after they are done sitting on massive ships is great for mother earth.
There is also the fact that most people who opt for shipping containers are minimalists looking to live the tiny lifestyle. Their footprint on the planet is much smaller.
4. Mobility – Some of those opting for shipping container homes are doing so for mobility reasons. The ability to pack up your home, and relocate it to a different location is important to some people. This is true particularly for those who love living off-grid away from noise and human interaction. Containers can be loaded on trucks and shipped anywhere across the world.
Try packing up your concrete home and let us know how that goes.
5. Speed of construction – Compared to a conventional house, a shipping container home can be constructed in a fraction the time. Many of these structures can be put up and be ready to occupy in under a month.
The cost of a shipping container home in South Africa
One thing about shipping container home is that they are cheap. In South Africa, the average price of a new home is about R1 million. On the other hand, a shipping container home can start as low as R100 000.
At the base of every shipping container house is the container.
A standard 20′ container costs about R13 500 in the country, while a standard 40′ shipping container will set you back about R19 000.
The number of containers you will use depends on the size of the house you want to build. But you can see that even if you go for 5 containers, enough to build a very massive house, you have only spent a fraction of what you would spend building just the standing structure of an equivalent-sized normal house.
The container price is just one part of the cost.
Labour: The fact that container houses can be put up so fast means you are saving a lot on labour. Workers who would traditionally stay on your site for months, will now only be there for weeks.
Fabrication: Depending on your design, you may opt for open sided containers, which would provide space for large windows and doors, and save you a lot of fabrication time and money. Meticulate planning is necessary to ensure that the open sides face the right way.
Transportation: The cost of delivering your shipping container will vary depending on size and distance. Generally in an area like Gauteng, you can expect to pay about R3500—R7000 per container.
Installation: Just like a normal house, your shipping containers will need a strong foundation to ensure they stay in place. However, they are not as demanding as a normal concrete house would be. And the consequences of having a weak foundation are not as dire.
Insulation: Having steel as your wall is not quite ideal. It will let in too much cold or too much heat. South Africa’s climate is quite desirable for the most part, but if you are to use the house as your primary residence, it’s good to have some insulation. This can be accomplished using materials like spray foam, cotton, wool, or other cheaper synthetic options. Consult a professional for this.
Flooring: Adding a flooring to your container home will ensure comfort and durability. Some of the most commonly used are plywood, wood vinyl, epoxy coating etc. This together with your wall insulation should be done by professionals, and may end up being your biggest cost. Ensure that all plumbing and electricals are hidden under the floors and insulation.
All in all, the price range for a shipping container home in South Africa can be pretty huge. It all depends on the size of the house and how many bells and whistles you want included.
A basic 1-bedroom container home with a kitchenette and bathroom will cost R100 000 – R150 000.
There is however no upper limit.
Do banks finance shipping container homes in South Africa?
Fortunately, most banks do not dictate what building materials you can use to construct your house, or what type of house you should buy.
Many lenders in South Africa have realized there is a need for alternative housing, not just brick and mortar, and are therefore willing to finance them.
According to Mpho Ramatong, FNB Home Finance Division Channel Head: Housing Schemes, the bank is aware of this paradigm shift and is ready to finance such homes subject to approved certification and accreditation.
Nedbank has its own criteria, and would look at container homes as mobile homes, and thus would involve some creative financing.
Standard Bank does not offer specific financing for shipping container houses, but are willing to evaluate on a case by case basis. For example, they will finance it if the house is to be built on a normal foundation and in compliance with national building regulations and municipal by-laws.
Basically, if your bank is satisfied that your house will be permanent and safe, they should have no problem financing it, if you meet their other requirements.
Shipping container home Architects in South Africa
It goes without saying that buying the containers is not the end of the story. In fact, it should not even be the start of the story.
You need a cool design for your future home. Unfortunately, unlike conventional houses where you can step into any architect’s office and get yourself a plan in a couple of weeks, very few specialize in or know anything about shipping container homes.