Shipping container housing – pros and cons

You’re interested in the idea of shipping container housing? If that’s the case, you’re likely to consider pros and cons of the project. In this article I’ll tell you advantages as well as disadvantages of living in a shipping container.


There’re many advantages in the bold and innovative thought of container housing. First of all, building with shipping containers save costs. A house built from used shipping containers cost significantly less than a conventional house with the same usage area and space.

Secondly, shipping container construction is eco-friendly. Reusing transport receptacles actually lessens the impact of the use of conventional construction materials like brick, cement, and wood. Building a “green” home also saves considerable energy which is otherwise needed to meld down metal containers when scrapping.

Thirdly, importing countries like USA, which import more than export, are now having some hundreds of thousands of freight containers abandoned in ports and container yards. That’s because it’s not economical to send (re-position) them to other places for loading cargo. So building houses helps to solve the problem of container abandonment in those nations.

Fourthly, container structure is designed to be exposed to heavy loads, harsh climatic conditions, and regular rough handling. Thus, their later use in construction ensures durable projects. Besides, shipping boxes comply with ISO standards, and are easily stacked with many layers (tiers) in transit and storage. That feature makes their use in building multi-storied houses easy and safe.

Fifthly, benefit of container houses also results from their structural strength: they are ideal for harsh conditions and on difficult sites. They can make perfect shipping container homes in areas with the high risk of hurricanes and earthquakes thanks to the fact that modular elements are welded together.

Lastly, you can build houses from modular and sturdy units in relative short time, in comparison with construction of regular dwellings.


Along with above apparent advantages, shipping container housing also has potential pitfalls that should be overcome when building container houses.

First, shipping containers are made of metal (usually aluminum or Corten Steel), which conduct heat very well. That means the temperature inside containers can easily go too low in cold season, and conversely, rise quickly to unbearable levels in the hot season. Therefore, controlling temperature inside your steel container house is a major concern.

Secondly, those ISBUs (Intermodal Steel Building Units) actually are used shipping containers and most of them are old enough for scrapping. So rust may become an annoyance when use the recycled material. Theoretically, ISO containers are covered with weather resistant paints. During transport process, however, the protecting layer can be scratched and damaged somewhere and not sufficiently repaired. Those scratches present potential rusty places for later use in housing purpose.

Thirdly, producers of cargo containers never intended them to be used for long-term living, so they may have used harmful paints and solvents during their manufacturing. Breathing the vapors of those substances is harmful to human health.

Besides, shipping boxes in transit carry many types of goods, including dangerous cargoes, even toxic or radioactive materials. Spillage of those cargoes may leave contaminants that are not easily detected. That will be a risk if you don’t carefully and thoroughly strip and clean used boxes before using them for housing.

Fourthly, in many residential areas, there are rules (e.g. zoning rules) which restrict the types of homes that can be constructed. Steel homes, particularly those created from shipping containers, are not commonly built in these neighborhoods. This can cause problems when applying for a building permit within residential zoning. Thus, you will need to consult with local authorities to make sure your new container home meets all local building codes.

Lastly, there must be enough free space available for handling during construction, because modular containers (with needed necessary modifications of appearance, structure, etc…) need moving and placing in the right place. 

So what do you think?

There’re pros and cons as I mentioned above about Shipping container housing. That is actually what people talk about. It’s now up to you to decide whether you still love building your container home project.

If you have another interesting idea, please share it with me and other visitors of this website.

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