Lucas Steyn’s Copia luxury eco cabins was built by Berman-Kalil.

Container homes are becoming the go-to solution for first-time homeowners. More cost effective and with a shorter lead time, it could be the answer to those trying to get a foot onto the property ladder.

But don’t go comparing these structures to the hideous looking steel containers you’ll find on the side of the road; container homes have grown up to become something to behold in the property market, something that screams “Hi, look at me!”

One such home belongs to former nightclub owner Lucas Steyn. When he envisioned eco-conscious living, he went completely off the grid with sustainable shipping containers. “I scrolled around on social media one night and came across a conversion someone had done in the States,” he told Top Billing. He became obsessed with container conversions and decided to incorporate it into his home.

Cape Town-based Berman-Kalil helped bring his vision to life. “That was one of our first luxury products where we looked at it and thought maybe there’s something to this,” says Bradley Berman, founder and co-owner of the company that specialises in innovative housing solutions.

While the trend may be taking off overseas, South Africans are slowing starting to take note of the potential of other alternatives to living in a conventional home. 

Berman thinks there’s a simple answer for this, saying that there has been a trend in general in the housing market of moving towards industrialised spaces, and also smaller spaces. “In the city bowl you’ll see all these new urban developments. Moving into containers is the next logical step of that process,” he adds.

And because people are becoming more eco-aware and with South Africa’s housing shortages, he mentions that with container homes, you have the option of recycling once you move on.

When looking at the pros and cons, it’s a unbalanced contest. “The price, the timeline, the portability of the whole thing and the nature of things [clearly wins out]” says Berman.

He goes on to explain that a container home will cost anything between R8 000 - R10 000 per square metre to complete, depending on the finishes. Whereas a traditional brick and mortar building can cost up to R12K per square metre in an affluent part of town.

The minimum lead time is about six weeks, and in most cases you can get your container home up in 10 to 12 weeks. Berman-Kalil also uses less water in the process, another win for the Cape’s water crisis.

Berman-Kalil’s 12m unit containing 2x bedrooms + 1x bathroom and 6m container with kitchen containing oven, hob and extractor is estimated to start at R237 500. Picture: Supplied

Inizio Homes specialises in sustainable prefabric structures. In operation since 2009, most of their homes are assembled and finished on site. The components are flat packed together on a truck; once the truck gets to the site the material is set in place with minimal lift requirements.

If the investment potential and green credentials are there, why aren’t more people building these modular style homes?

“There is a lot of interest in these homes, but not yet many people willing to buy them,” Dirk Coetser, director of Joburg architectural firm A4AC Architects, told Property360. “Since 2014 we have constructed and designed four. Most of these are in Gauteng as transport over a distance greater than 50km can be costly.”