Self-contained: Habitat Affiliates Use Shipping Containers for Affordable Homes

When one thinks of houses built by Habitat for Humanity, they usually envision a traditional, stick-built house being constructed from the foundation up.

However, some Habitat affiliates are taking a different route by converting used shipping containers to affordable homes. That’s happened in Kentucky, Louisiana, Texas, Ohio and North Carolina.

In Hardin County, Kentucky, Habitat officials converted their first shipping container home in 2015, turning a container measuring 8 feet by 40 feet into a 285-square-foot home.

In Lafayette, Louisiana, Habitat for Humanity built a so-called 1020 house out of two containers, one 10 feet long and the other a 20-footer.

In addition to being more affordable – some estimate a savings of $10,000 in construction costs compared to a traditional house the same size – container homes are energy efficient and require little maintenance.

But you won’t see container homes constructed anytime soon by Habitat for Humanity Capitol Region.

“We are looking into more dense housing opportunities,” said Capitol Region President and CEO Vicki Hamilton-Allen. “We feel the cost savings come in building homes instead of changing the superstructure.”

She explained that entails building duplexes, row housing or even condominium-style dwellings.

Habitat officials in Collin County, Texas, are working on construction of three-dozen container homes in a neighborhood called Cotton Grove. As is everything in Texas, the planned development is big – much bigger than a one-bedroom unit.

Celeste H. Cox, CEO of the North Collin County Habitat for Humanity, said the organization will bolt the metal boxes together and stack them to build each of its new homes.

“There are four containers for our 1,280-square-foot, three-bedroom plan,” Cox told the Dallas Morning News. Four- and five-bedroom versions are also planned. Solar panels on the roof of each unit will add to the affordability factor.

The trend in shipping container homes is not limited to Habitat affiliates.

At Iowa homebuilder IndieDwell’s factory in south Boise, visitors find a structure that was once two boxy, 40-foot-long containers, according to the Boise Statesman. Instead of walking into a boxy structure, they find an attractive entryway leading to rooms with high-performance windows to let plenty of light inside. The floors are made of polished maple and the kitchen boasts quartz countertops.

Used shipping containers can be purchased for several hundred dollars each, said IndieDwell CEO Scott Flynn, who obtains his from a company in Ontario, Oregon.

Shipping containers were invented in 1956 by trucker Malcom McLean. Homes made of shipping containers are a more recent development. The first patent for a shipping container home was issued in 1989 to Phillip Clark of Miami.


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