What is it about shipping container homes?

Big and boxy, it’s easy to think a shipping container only has one use – shipping things – but nowadays that’s not true. With the right design tricks, it’s a fast and easy way to construct a house, and it’s quickly gaining popularity.

The main purpose of a shipping container is to store and haul heavy items. They’re in use for about 15 years at a time, although they last far longer, and while in the past they would have been destroyed, savvy builders have recognised their advantage as a cheap, strong and eco-friendly material. 

Green Construction

Even the top of a shipping container can be turned into living space.

Most builders that construct from shipping containers make use of old stock no longer used in the shipping industry, so reusing them is extremely eco-friendly. Anyone looking for a green build can’t look past recycled materials – particularly when they’re as durable as shipping containers, which have a life expectancy on par with traditional housing. Rather than letting them be destroyed, repurpose them into a home!


Shipping container homes use fewer resources, thanks to the simple fact of their design. Right there you have the four walls of a room, and if you’re relying on the metal to make a statement there’s no need for a facade. Because construction is faster, it’s also cheaper in terms of labour, which is always a good thing. 

Rise, an online resource for sustainable home improvement, says the cost of a single shipping container home, including customisation, permits, government approval, materials, and labor, can cost anywhere from $13,000 to $225,000. And while it does increase costs, it’s easy enough to add an extension or extra floor as well, with the containers stacking almost like Lego blocks.

Case Study

One Australian example can be found in northern Victoria, where JBM Modular Buildings has constructed a container home out of seven extra tall shipping containers. The design makes the most of the shapes’ strong angles, while the different materials of the facade mean you might not even realise what it’s made of!

The central, double-storey ‘main house’ has several living areas and three bedrooms, while semi-detached containers hold a rumpus room, master suite, and home theatre.  The design allows the family to close off unused parts of the house, which is great for energy bills, and means they’re not cleaning rarely used spaces. 


JBM Modular Building has one warning – container homes that meet Australian standards are not always the cheap build people sometimes think they are, especially if multiple containers are used in the design. 

Just like any house, maintenance and climate consideration is an important factor – rust is a particularly important thing to watch for and treat.  The other thing to remember is that even if a shipping container is structurally sound it can still be dangerous in other ways. There are several potentially harmful treatment chemicals used in shipping containers to keep vermin away, so make sure the container is professionally treated and washed before moving into one to avoid health risks.

At the end of the day, container homes are without a doubt becoming more and more popular, and thanks to the endless versatility of the shape there is no limit to the different style of home you can build.

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