Who uses freight containers for houses

Container house: the easiest way to a tiny house?

In the past, container houses did not have a particularly good image. In the meantime, not least because of the tiny house movement, they have hit the nerve of the times. A container house is movable, stackable, freely combinable and inexpensive. For many, it is an alternative to the classic single-family home that is still affordable. On the other hand, others appreciate this type of house as a holiday home or extension.

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What is a container house?

The term container house is used for different types of houses. First and foremost, it refers to houses that consist of converted shipping containers. You can read more about these upcycling houses in our article "Ship container house: How to convert a sea container into a tiny house". In the course of the Tiny House Movement, more and more people are interested in this type of house because they are a relatively cheap way to get a Tiny House quickly.

However, it is not so easy to make a sea container suitable for living and approving. This is due, among other things, to the design: as a closed box, a freight container is very stable. But as soon as you cut holes in it for windows and doors, it becomes unstable. Construction site containers have now become an alternative to shipping containers. They have a steel skeleton and therefore stable statics.

Modular house as a container house

More and more frequently, however, one comes across container houses whose appearance is based on that of ship container houses, but which are not made from containers. These are actually modular houses, but they are often also called residential containers or container houses.

These houses can have the same dimensions as standardized freight containers. A 20-foot sea container is 5.90 meters long and 2.35 meters wide inside. The height is 2.39 meters. This results in a living space of almost 14 square meters. A 40-foot container is 12.03 meters by 2.35 meters. It is also 2.39 meters high. This results in a usable living space of a good 28 square meters. If modular house containers have these dimensions, then this has the advantage that they can be transported easily and, above all, inexpensively with a truck from one place to another.

But there are also modular house containers with other dimensions. They resemble a prefabricated house with individual cube or cuboid elements that can be combined.

This article is about the advantages and costs of container houses that are not made from used sea containers.

Advantages of a container or modular house

While first-generation modular buildings were still known as container buildings and were often only used temporarily, a lot has happened in recent years. There are a large number of different models that can compete with classic prefabricated houses from an architectural point of view. In addition, modular houses have the following advantages:

  1. Fast availability: One of the greatest advantages of container houses is their immediate availability. After placing the order, you usually only have to wait a few weeks for your new house. In contrast to building a classic house, there are no imponderables during the construction phase.
  2. Flexibility: An extension or conversion to enlarge the house is not a big problem. If your life situation changes, then you can expand the container house relatively easily - be it on the same level or by simply stacking the container modules.
  3. Favorable foundation: As a rule, a simple point foundation or a strip foundation is sufficient for modular houses. That means: There are fewer costs for earthworks.
  4. Transportable: If you have to move, you can have the container house transported by truck to a new property and set up again there.
  5. Price: A modular house is often cheaper than comparable properties in prefabricated or even solid construction, as these are associated with higher production and transport costs.

Who is a container house suitable for?

Container houses are suitable for commercial use as office, work or storage space as well as for private users, for example as a holiday home or garden house or as a private home office. Container houses are also used as student apartments.

They are especially a good choice if you have a temporary need for additional living or work space, for example for a renovation or as a pavilion for an exhibition or installation. The use as an allotment house is also conceivable, which can be used, for example, as a holiday home container for guests or as a leisure and hobby room for youngsters.

For those who can and want to live minimalistically, a container house or modular house is also suitable for permanent living, as a kind of tiny house. It is more flexible than a Tiny House on Wheels, for example, because you can expand it if you want to move in with someone or start a family.

Container house as a house extension

If you live in a classic single-family house and need more space, you could also choose a container house as a house extension. This is often the cheapest way to quickly expand existing living space.

What does a container house cost?

If you build a container house yourself from used shipping containers, you can get it with 10,000 euros with simple equipment. You can get fully equipped sea container houses from 15,000 euros.

If you want to buy a real living container, you often have to reckon with costs between 1,600 and over 2,600 euros per square meter. The following applies: the larger the entire container house becomes, the more residential containers are connected to one another, the cheaper the price per square meter becomes. Elaborately designed facades, better thermal insulation or other special requests naturally increase the price.

Small prefabricated modular container houses are available from 60,000 euros. There are no upper limits in terms of the number of containers and interior fittings.

However, you should keep in mind that there are also transport costs for residential containers. The exact height depends on the amount of space containers to be transported and the distance. The costs are shown separately when preparing the offer.

Who builds container houses?

Are you thinking of buying a container house? There are now a large number of providers who offer modular houses. Here is a small selection:

You can find even more providers of mini houses in our article: Mini house providers: There are small houses under 100 square meters here.

How do I get a building permit for my container house?

As for all other buildings, you need a building permit to build or erect a container house. However, buildings with a floor space of less than 50 square meters can be approved with a simplified building application, depending on the federal state.

In addition, there are development plans for most properties in Germany, which prescribe the appearance of the house in terms of facade design, height, roof shape, roof pitch or roofing. If the development plan calls for a gable roof, then you will probably not get a building permit for a container house. In any case, you should clarify this with the responsible building authority before buying. A preliminary construction inquiry could be worthwhile for you.

In order to ensure that the appearance of the town is not impaired by the construction of a mini-house, some municipalities also set out in a local planning statute which colors and materials are used for the facade or which windows may be used. You also have to take this into account when planning your modular house.