Container Homes Can Reduce Utility Costs

Container Homes Can Reduce Utility Costs

Maintaining a bricks and mortar building takes some doing.  It’s constant.  No sooner have you completed one repair job than another appears.  I’ve watched my supposedly retired husband crawl into little places to add a little concrete or cement, strip walls to re-decorate, hire a plumber or a roofer and all in the name of comfort.  You’d be surprised how many times I have said that I would give it all up for a caravan.  They say that a change is as good as a rest.  Maybe it’s better.

Today’s lifestyle is all about managing change.  You’ll quickly think of the transience of relationships, jobs and technological advancement but probably the biggest change we all need to address relates to taking care of our planet.  A growing population means we need to create more of everything.  That means more food, more electricity, more space and that all so important water.  Also, as single occupancy seems to be what the future is definitely on a crash course for, we need more dwellings.

If we moved into a caravan, where would all of my furniture, let alone my boxes of keepsakes, go?  Well, the truth of the matter is that there’s something better and bigger than the caravan as we know it. You really need to look into what can now be done with recycled shipping containers in providing homes, hotels and office blocks and how less energy is used to create living, leisure and working space than is used for traditional builds.

Traditional Build v Container Home.

From an ecological point of view, the brick-style building uses a lot of our ‘in short supply’ energy.  Think of the electricity used to power machines, the fuel to deliver supplies and operate vehicles and, oh, the water to create concrete, cement and clean up afterwards.

That leaves you wondering about the fuel and water needed to create a container home.  Well, a recycled container is a sturdy and sustainable shell just waiting to be converted into a much greener dwelling than the orange brick model.  If you’re now mulling the idea over in your head, you might want to know a little bit more about that sturdy container.

The History of the Recycled Shipping Container.

It was in 1956 that shipping containers starting addressing the needs involved in loading and unloading goods and, although these originally met with opposition from the dockworkers, it was in the seventies when they became standard on all ships.  They were quick to load and equally quick to unload.  However, returning empty containers, or ‘deadheads’ as they came to be known, was not profitable, so they collected near the ports, gathering dust.

In 1987, an American gentleman called Phillip C. Clarke filed for a patent to convert a shipping container into a habitable building.  Patent number 4854094 was granted in 1989.  Since then, recycled shipping containers have served many useful purposes, including storage, site offices, classrooms and also as makeshift shelters in the 1991 Gulf War.

Over the last decade, these containers have been snapped up by top developers to create hotels, student accommodation buildings and everything imaginable.  Each container is fitted out at an offsite location then, once the land is prepared for delivery, the containers are sited, securely stacked to create maybe up to seven storeys and, as their ‘plug and play’ status suggests, ready to use straightaway.

Modular Building Systems in Today’s Energy-Conscious World.

Of course, the same property developers that create these breath-taking modular buildings also design smaller places for individual customers, so the single person can start with a single container home (140 square feet of living space), with the option to increase the footprint, or indeed build upwards, when extra space is needed and can be afforded. Equipped with all the things the eco – friendly person would want in a home (e.g thermal insulation, a rainwater harvesting system and renewal energy systems), the container home doesn’t drain our planet of its much needed resources.

In the long run, these eco-friendly homes will be cheaper to run so, if utility bills go down, life would be much less stressful.  Taking a serious look at the recycled shipping container option makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

Recycled Containers are the Future Sustainable Homes

Recycled Shipping Containers are the Future Sustainable Homes

In the history of human life, so much seems to have happened, yet it is the last three hundred years that seems to have revolutionised the way we live. Industrialisation did indeed make working on the land easier and early transport made leaving your own village a possibility but huge changes seem to have happened within our own lifetimes.  We’ve passed through steam trains, electric trains, aeroplanes and jumbo jets, calculators and computers and have arrived in a time where the world is in our own home.

But even that home has changed.  Now that we have access to libraries of knowledge at the press of a button (and might I add, without the fear of an overdue fine), we can see the lack of respect we have shown towards our planet.  In turn, we can see what efforts are being made to reverse the damage.  Recycling of waste may be respect in its easiest form and we can all do that.  However, home owners can go a lot further, by looking at systems such as waste disposal, heating, re-using grey water (any used water that didn’t come from the toilet / sewage system).

Eco-Friendly from the Word ‘Go’.

If you’re right at the point of becoming a first-time home owner, why not go the whole hog, before you get buried in heavy direct debits for mortgages and utility bills?  Look at today’s lifestyle and take on board that buying a brick and mortar house is not today’s best option.  Why?  Because today’s lifestyle is well and truly transient.  You may find work hundreds of miles from home.  In the future, you may want to be nearer your son who is at university.  When you reach retirement age, you might be planning to move into the country. Things really do change.

Today’s lifestyle is about transient homes and, as nice as they are for short periods of time, we’re not talking caravans.  Today, those in-the-know are having their homes built modular-style and at a much cheaper price than a traditional build.  Recycled shipping containers can form the bones of these homes, so the skeleton is waterproof, rust-proof, wind-proof and not on the woodworm’s list of favourites.  A twenty feet container is enough for a student pad, so two containers would make a good starter home.  But the beauty of modular buildings is that, when your family increases in size you don’t have to start looking for a bigger house: simply add another container to your already personalised modular building.

With correct planning permission, your home can be a bungalow or a two or more storey building, as these containers interlock so sturdily, that even the strongest of hurricanes can’t budge them.  And when fitted with external cladding, an eco-friendly home looks just like any other home.

But before you get to that stage of cladding, you will be adding all the eco-friendly systems that support both the planet and your pocket.  My Space Pod is an excellent site to look at, to understand just what is available for heating, energy, saving water etc..  They prepare the containers offsite and, once the planning permission has been granted and the ground has been prepared to receive your new container home,  the ‘plug and play’ home is up and running.

Getting in right at the beginning really is a good idea, as starting the house ladder with eco-friendly systems in place is a lot easier than changing a traditional method.  Savings on the cost are being made from day one and remember that, when retirement comes, you can take all of your precious memories with you.  What could be better than that?

The Container Home Infatuation

Initially, caravans were labelled ‘playthings of the privileged minority’.  When caravanning became popular in the 30s, this was probably the case as, although a caravan cost only four hundred pounds, it was big money then.

Around the time of the second world war, holidays and caravan production came to a standstill and it was in 1946 when Sam Alpar (known as the Henry Ford of the caravan industry) took the interest in producing affordable caravans from war surplus materials. A year later, Sam had sold five hundred caravans in twelve months: the price for each was £199!  A caravan was made with Spitfire wheels and, to test its sustainability, Sam, accompanied by the press, travelled a little over ten thousand miles in just thirty days, taking in the terrain of Turkey, Greece, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Holland.

In the fifties, car ownership increased and caravanning became very stylish again. A four to five berth Sprite Major would sell for four hundred pounds and there were other well-known makes, such as the Eccles and the Regency.

When the sixties arrived, caravans were forced to stay on regulated sites but this proved to be a good thing, for the sites then began to provide clubhouses and entertainment. Gone was the freedom of the road but here was the one-stop shop, providing everything for caravan holidaymakers.

It was in the seventies that package holidays started but, during the caravan heyday, England had more caravans that any other country in the world.

Even today, the love affair with the caravan continues.  However, there are now two distinct lines of interest in the caravan culture.

Caravan clubs are still popular, owners towing their maybe vintage caravans to meet other likeminded people at a designated spot, where they can while away the weekend, with those same likeminded people.

The other supporters are those who pay yearly rental for a permanent site for their possibly larger caravans.  No longer a plaything of the privileged minority, caravans now give a feeling of ‘away-ness’ to all classes.

Today, some people choose the static caravan as permanent accommodation but times have moved on and the old style caravan now has competition from a more sustainable and eco-friendly container home.  Made from a twenty foot or even longer shipping container, a container home can address all green issues e.g. rainwater harvesting, grey water, heating etc.), supporting today’s environment, whilst cutting bills for the householder.  The My Space Pod website provides comprehensive information about such living accommodation and they support you through all the stages, including the necessary paperwork!

Today’s lifestyle is transient and putting down routes in a fixed accommodation is not necessarily a profitable move.  As with static caravans, the eco-friendly shipping container home can be relocated, should the need arise and, once you have your home how you want it, why change it for another?

Static Caravan or Container Home?

Static caravans fill a need. Owning one seems to indicate status and standing as, for the ordinary working-class person, the static caravan is a holiday home.  It’s somewhere you can go at a moment’s notice, it’s a treat for your children and their families and it can be a money-earner.

But they are not cheap.

Container homes are as good as the real thing.  In fact, they’re actually better.

As a result of an increase in exports from China, there is an abundance of shipping containers and, as they are usually used only once, these containers are therefore in almost new condition.  They come in a variety of sizes: the standard size is 20’ x 7’ x 7’6” high, though there are also shorter and longer ones available.  Made of non-toxic steel, these shipping containers are not only environmentally friendly but also corrosion-proof and resistant to climatic weather extremes. A perfect example is a container home which was being used as a research centre in the dense rainforest adjoining the World Heritage Centre in Queensland, Australia.  Unfortunately, Cyclone Larry with winds speeds of up to 180 mph hit the rainforest in March 2006 and, although the makeshift roof that the researchers had put onto the containers was destroyed, the containers weren’t damaged at all. (

I’m not sure the same can be said for static caravans.  News reports in the past have spoken of caravans being knocked off their footings during gale-force winds and, with time, the roofs do rain in.

Professionally recycled shipping containers are more than holiday homes.  The sky really is the limit.  They can be used as student accommodation, granny flats, disaster relief accommodation and even sales offices on building sites.

Today, there is growing demand for affordable accommodation but house prices are just not within the average person’s price range.  Container homes made from recycled shipping containers could fill that need and there are professionals who turn these into prefabricated houses in one-third of the time of a regular build. One standard container is ideal for a single person, though these containers can be stacked or attached alongside each other, to create bigger container homes.

Taking green issues into account, these modular buildings benefit the environment and local government are keen to take this approach.  A container home can be ready for use in as little as twenty weeks after the paperwork has been completed and the experts out there help you with that, as well!

The Container Home Era

When you think about mobile homes, they come in different guises.

The original caravans of let’s say sixty years ago, were pretty basic.  The living room part converted into a sleeping area, the kitchen was maybe no more than a very small fold-down table which also converted into a bed and the cooking facilities offered only gas rings. They were probably sited quite close to home because, in those days, not many people had cars, so travelling there would have been done by bus.

The water supply was via a plastic flagon, which was filled at some caravan site tap and the toilets were communal.

At that time, there was also the Volkswagen (VW) camper van, which has remained a fashion icon, very much part of the cool image of the wannabe surfer.  I remember that the cooking facilities were very basic and the vehicle was more or less a people carrier.

Then came the grander luxury caravan, too long to tow but offering separate bedrooms and a separate living area and kitchen, as well.  Even today, these make good holiday homes and some caravan sites used to offer permanent residency, though the rule was that it was best if the site closed down for at least one month of the year, so that community tax wasn’t an issue, as the caravan wasn’t truly a permanent home.  It’s what you would call a loophole in the law, which I believe the government are now trying to change.

Eventually, the motor home arrived.  Today’s models include a bathroom but this room is so small, that having a shower means soaking the toilet, at the same time. I have heard many stories of retired people selling up and moving into a motor home, with a dream of seeing the world.  It might be a good idea but only for as long as it lasts.

So, for decades, people have been enjoying the pleasures of the container home and it seems that it doesn’t stop there.  We are now living in an eco-friendly era, where green container homes are becoming permanent accommodation, with the advantage of being movable, as part of the construction process.  The main frame is a recycled shipping container and, via green building techniques, the container is decked out with excellent insulation, water-saving systems and renewable energy supplies. All in all, it’s affordable accommodation and is bought as a completed unit.  When it arrives at its pre-prepared destination, it simply has to be plugged in to the necessary household utilities and away you go.

With today’s concerns about the environment, green accommodation is a priority and shipping containers are sturdy, sustainable and stackable, so you don’t have to stop at one. Your personal container home can be designed to your taste, a choice of cladding ensuring that it fits in perfectly with the surrounding environment. There are some good websites out there, where the shipping container concept is described, including how recycled containers address green issues.

It will be interesting to see if such green accommodation will also infiltrate the caravan scene, or be seen in the next generation of holiday park home sites.  I for one would definitely be interested.