Why Shipping Container Homes Are Overrated

A new video from Vox dives into the use cases for shipping container homes, and why they're not as structurally sound as they may seem.

Shipping container homes: good or bad?

They're fun, difficult to build, and (for the most part) very impractical; It's the shipping container home.

The idea of modularity is an appealing one, and it can have practical, innovative applications. Cloud Apartments, for example, is a start-up looking to make modular-style affordable apartments. But this is far from the likes of turning a shipping container into a dwelling on its own.

"It was a very old argument when I wrote the article," says Mark Hogan, architect and founder, OpenScope Studio, about a seven-year-old article he wrote on the faults of shipping container housing. "There's no debate. They're garbage."

Hogan's—as well as other building science experts—argument is that shipping containers aren't structurally built to withstand additional points of load-bearing.

"Containers have these four major structural points at the end of the container," says Belinda Carr, architect and building scientist, Carr Builds. "Once you start offsetting it, or turning it at an angle, no other part of the container can truly bear the weight of itself, so you have to reinforce it."

This also goes for the doors, windows, and garages being cut and inserted into the container's side.

Additionally, building codes require ADUs like the shipping container home to be placed on a solid foundation. So the idea of picking up your home with a big crane and relocating wherever you want is fairly impractical.

According to the Vox video, shipping container homes can be quite costly as well, especially for implementing proper insulation. However, there are temporary housing solutions that shipping container homes can be adequately used for, like housing Ukrainian refugees for a short time.

Vox's conclusion is that as a solution to affordable, modular housing, shipping container homes are wildly overrated. But as "cool, fun things to stay in" like an Airbnb getaway, the gimmick is enough to work.


To read more about ADUs and modular housing solutions, find it here on Utopia.