Tag Archives: static caravans

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. (http://earthsci.org/education/fieldsk/container/container.html)

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.