Shipping container houses offer cheaper alternative

Lower building costs could be passed on from developer to buyer



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Shipping container houses

Shipping containers lower the cost of building houses

In August 2013, the Atira Women’s Resource Society cut the proverbial red ribbon on a new type of housing development in Canada—one that used recycled shipping containers.

Building the first multi-dwelling containerized housing project in Canada the project was judged the winner of the Real Estate Foundation of BC’s 2014 Land Award for the non-profit sector. It also won two prestigious Georgie Awards.

Oneesan's exterior design aesthetics focused on retaining container characteristics (

Oneesan’s exterior design aesthetics focused on retaining container characteristics (

But the real win is that housing could actually be made more affordable, particularly in uber-expensive cities such as Vancouver. In a News1130 article, shipping container resident Marnie Crassweller shares her experience living in a 285-square-foot suite that offers an ocean view, in-suite washer and dryer, a kitchen and private bathroom. “I find it to be a beautiful suite,” she says.

For those curious about how a large metal box can become a home, the containers are fitted with plumbing, electrical wiring, insulation and drywall to transform them into cozy homes. Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Property Management Inc., describes the containers as Lego blocks. “You have to think of them as exoskeletons or substructures,” said Abbott during the News 1130 interview. Since the containers are built with high-grade steel, that is much stronger than wood, and the blocks can be welded together to create multi-bedroom suites the shipping containers could become an cost-effective way to build housing across Canada.

While there are significant factors to consider when using containers to construct dwellings, the Oneesan project did help establish some costing guidelines. For instance, a custom built house using standard building methods should cost anywhere from $400/square foot to $1,000 per square foot. Using building containers, this cost could drop to $225 to $350 per square foot. Condo complexes constructed using standard methods cost between $175 per square foot for low-end basic quality and as high as $450 per square foot for high quality, tall towers. Using containers the price to construct condo complexes would be limited to $195 to $250 per square foot (and are intrinsically non-combustible).

Tempohousing Amsterdam University container housing project (

Tempohousing Amsterdam University container housing project (

And Canada is not the first to discover the adapted use of shipping containers. While developing nations continue to repurpose these steel boxes, other developing nations, such as The Netherlands, attempt to push the envelope on recycled container building.

For more on the Oneesan container housing project read the full report.

Read more from Romana King at Home Owner on Facebook »

5 comments on “Shipping container houses offer cheaper alternative

  1. The use of recycled shipping containers as a building material is a growing trend all over the world because of an abundance of the containers and shipping containers make excellent building materials because they are built to carry heavy loads and they reduce construction costs by greatly cutting the time it takes to erect a building. Building with the containers is safe, durable and sustainable. Construction is about 40 percent faster and 20 percent cheaper than traditional construction.
    Than Nguyen


  2. We are currently building a container house out in Texas.
    Great alternative for Tornado Proof purposes and because of the lower cost we can pay cash. We are doing it ourselves and are thoroughly enjoying the process. Our two containers cost about 6,000. We framed out the inside pretty quick as it is only 640sqft. Closed Cell spray foam insulation is a must because its a huge heat conductor! Spray foam can be expensive but it is worth it.


  3. I would love to one day own a shipping container house. This is a beautiful example of a shipping container house. I like how many windows there are. I’d probably just want a single unit though, because I want to travel and live in different areas. How did you get the shipping containers to your lot? I’d imagine you can’t just throw one of those on a trailer and bring it home. A professional transport company would probably be a good choice.


  4. Interesting article – I have no idea why so many people are not convinced to container houses.
    I really enjoy living in container house.
    Unfortunately it is not so obvious how to build it properly. Personally I made a few mistakes which become annoying right now like noisy wind…
    Currently with my husband I’m trying to fix it.
    I’d like to give a advice to everyone who is planning to build a house from containers – take look at this book:
    You can find a very detailed plans and tips how to avoid mistakes. It’s a pity I haven’t read it before construction.


  5. Conventional housing is so expensive; I see shipping containers being a very affordable option in place of conventional housing. See how to build one and free plans here h t t p://


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