I recently read: “Tackling the under-supply of housing in England Research Briefing” Published Friday, 19 May, 2023 https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7671/ and it got me thinking
Exploring Solutions to the Housing Shortage
As the housing crisis continues to pose significant challenges, various solutions have been proposed to address the shortage of homes. These include 3D printing, the use of hempcrete as a building material, modular flatpack construction, and prefab buildings. Among these options, repurposing shipping containers has sparked controversy and debate.
The Controversy Surrounding Shipping Container Homes
One compelling critique of shipping container homes is presented by Belinda Carr in her video titled “7 Reasons Why Shipping Container Homes Are a SCAM” [link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7yEDz6bCfU]. While I understand \ Like her points as an architect she is mostly correct.I have extensively researched the topic, I found myself reconsidering \seduced by the potential of this concept https://www.pinterest.co.uk/ideaswiz/modular-structures/.
Global Shipping Container Market Insights and Trends
What if we were to introduce a new type of shipping container specifically designed for repurposing as homes? This would require a fundamental shift in container manufacturing. Currently, the top ten shipping container manufacturers are: CIMC (China International Marine Container Group Co., Ltd.), COSCO Shipping, SINGAMAS (Singamas Container Holdings Ltd.), CXIC (CXIC Group Containers Co., Ltd.), W&K Container Inc., Daikin Industries, MCI (Maersk Container Industry), TLS Offshore Containers International Pvt Ltd, YMC Container Solutions, and DCM Hyundai Limited (DHL) [link: https://www.container-xchange.com/blog/container-manufacturers-new-built-and-used-containers/].
Furthermore, the global shipping container market size was valued at USD 6.41 billion in 2020 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.0% from 2020 to 2028 [link: https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/shipping-container-market-report].
Most shipping containers are manufactured according to the specifications outlined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to ensure smooth loading/unloading, structural integrity during transportation, and the ability to withstand extreme environments.
Introducing a New Type of Shipping Container for Homes
Now, imagine a one-use shipping container that meets the ISO size and structure specifications. In consultation with building engineers and architects, this container could be reinforced for a second use as a home. It could function both as a shipping container for a single use and as a house once sold. Considerations such as environmental footprint, ventilation and insulation standards, removal of doors and windows for repurposing, and the standards to conform to health and safety( pesticides\ materials) could be incorporated. This would also consider the weather conditions in the final country of use.
Additionally, for every five modules the conversion parts could be efficiently fitted into a single container, allowing the remaining four to transport specific goods and thus saving the cost of shipping empty modules. The objective would be to create an affordable housing solution.
In the second part of this approach, manufacturers would take existing excess container inventory and reengineer them to meet the new standard. Leveraging economies of scale, container manufacturers possess the necessary equipment and facilities to undertake this transformation at the end of a container’s life or usage. Assuming a “year zero” scenario, it is plausible that manufacturers would consider producing all-new containers with a minimum standard enabling the manufacture of standard multiuse containers with future conversion in mind, as well as new single-use containers.
Creating a Market for Versatile Container Types
Considering the current cost of empty shipping containers, ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 (excluding delivery to site) [link: https://www.container-xchange.com/blog/shipping-container-price/], a market could potentially be created for two or three container types:
- Regular containers
- New single-use containers designed for housing after one trip (or two uses)
- Used reconditioned containers converted into single-use one-trip containers
The suggestions mentioned above serve as a starting point for the development of a new manufacturing framework for containerized homes. Alternatively, container manufacturers could explore the option of creating flatpack buildings, similar to how hotels and other structures are currently manufactured [links: https://modularhomesource.com/citizenms-latest-modular-hotel-built-in/, https://elements-europe.com/hotel-sector-wakes-modular/]. It is worth noting that CIMC, a shipping container manufacturer, is already involved in producing modular student accommodation [link: https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/premium-student-accommo7dation-glasg7ow-ma7de/].
Considerations and Conclusion
While container architecture showcases striking and innovative designs, it may not always be the most suitable method for design and construction. In areas where resources are abundant, and wood framing is cheaper and more energy-efficient, opting for traditional construction methods often makes more sense. However, container architecture shines in scenarios where resources are scarce.