Curious About Containers?

December 12, 2014

There's been a lot of buzz lately about the sustainable, design-forward world of shipping containers turned into livable spaces. But how will this trend work beyond shiny photos in architectural magazines?

Now there's a resource to help you envision the future of this trend in your area. Manager of Library Collection Development for the National Association of REALTORS® Mary Martinez-Garcia interviewed members, manufacturers, and government agencies to assemble a helpful primer on the benefits and challenges of using shipping containers to create livable structures. The white paper (which you can download here) includes examples of real estate professionals who are delving into this niche with success. Martinez also looked at specific areas of the country to gauge demand and climate concerns locally.

Though they are considered a quick, eco-friendly solution to affordable housing, infill needs, the demand for multi-generational homes, and temporary housing, there are serious concerns linked to this use of containers (also known as intermodal steel building units or ISBUs). Some containers have been treated with pesticides, local regulations and zoning considerations could restrict their use, and many feel that these structures can be overly industrial in character.

Martinez's conclusion is that the shipping-container-as-housing-structure is here to stay.

"No longer just the pet-project of trendy architects, container housing is gaining traction... among city planners, nonprofit organizations, real estate brokers and developers, architects, and communities alike," Martinez writes. "Given the nearly one-way flow of goods coming to the United States and excess supply of ISBUs, the growing green movement, and the cost and time savings associated with shipping container homes, the container-housing trend will likely continue to gain momentum."

Source: "CRT White Paper: The Shipping Container as a Home," Bites & Bytes (Dec. 10, 2014)