Is “bigger” always better? IMHO – Not with ISBUs…

10 Nov

I’m getting barraged lately by people who are posting photos and floorplans of “Container Homes” that use custom built, extra wide “4 meter” containers.

4 meter home

They want to know which “container yards” you can find these in, for sale.

People, you CAN’T.

These wider containers (usually called “4 meter boxes”) are CUSTOM BUILT for the housing industry by specialty builders or architects. You have to special order them, you have to pay a big premium for them and they aren’t “repurposed, recycled or reused”. They are brand new boxes and they are usually custom manufactured in places like China or (gasp!) Australia.

4 meter home1Admittedly, they ARE cool. But in our view, these aren’t “container homes” because (by design) they are “another” direction in “modular construction”.

One of the “core values” in using ISBUs for us was that you were taking something “cast-off” that no-one wanted and affordably and efficiently converting it into something that you couldn’t imagine living without. You were giving it “new life”.

Here are some thoughts about “4 meter” boxes;

You don’t buy them from salvage yards.You buy them brand new and built to specification, direct from a  Container Contractor or representative.

You’ll pay a premium to get them delivered to you from China or “The Land Down-Under…” The reason for this is that they don’t fit the traditional footprint on the container ships.

You’ll pay a huge insurance premium increase to get them shipped to you once they’ve been modified, if you can get them shipped to you at all.

You’ll pay a huge premium to truck them to your site because they’re so wide. You’re going to need special permits and you’re  going to need pilot cars and extra personnel.

MANY of the more “popular” Container Hotels you see on the Internet use these wider boxes. Using these wider boxes means that you can pre-build (in factories) your hotel suites and then just stack them up on site to assemble your hotel. It makes good economic sense, but it’s NOT “Shipping Container Construction in the “usual flavor”.

It’s (financially) well beyond the reach of most “modern mortals” trying to build Shipping Container homes on a budget. 🙂

I actually see these hotels as being “modular constructs” more than being “container buildings”. In fact, in my view, they aren’t “really” containers at all. They’re “reasonable facsimiles thereof”.

Since the early ’70’s, the “Shipping Container Housing Movement” was BASED on reusing or repurposing AFFORDABLE shipping containers that had been retired from service traveling the high seas. The idea was to take something discarded and then breathe new life into it. I personally know this is true because I was THERE (we’ve been doing this, hand’s on, since 1977).

So, to those of you who keep asking me if I can build these “newer, wider models”…

My answer is YES, but I WON’T.

In summary;

They’re too expensive, they involve too much red tape and expanded transport costs and they violate my principles about building alternative housing using “repurposed” materials. They aren’t affordable. They aren’t reused and they aren’t recycled.

Seriously, buying a pair of High Cubes here in the States is cheaper than buying one of these “miracle” boxes overseas and then waiting for it to arrive… eventually… to your construction site. And I’ll point out that if you do it MY way, you end up with more square footage. 🙂

If you have money to burn or you’re simply building to “one-up the neighbors”, then kindly disregard this message. I’ll be happy to refer you to a design house that will build these monstrosities for you.

That is all…

RR Avatar Image Credits: Container Homes of Sydney Australia