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WATCH: Living in a shipping container is becoming quite the global trend – and a more affordable way to own a home

Shipping container homes can be every bit as attractive and comfortable as traditional homes, and as affordable or luxurious as you want. Picture: Prominent Properties Sotheby's International Realty

Shipping container homes can be every bit as attractive and comfortable as traditional homes, and as affordable or luxurious as you want. Picture: Prominent Properties Sotheby's International Realty

Published Jun 10, 2022


We see them almost everywhere – on the backs of trucks or stacked in storage yards, but shipping containers have become more than just a vessel to transport goods across the sea; they have become company office spaces and even people’s homes.

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At first thought one may turn their nose up at the idea of living in a container, but over the past few years, this global trend has been growing in leaps and bounds, and the homes that people are building with them are every bit as attractive as a similar bricks-and-mortar house.

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They can also be designed with the same amount of comfort and luxury that one would find in a traditional property.

Shipping containers offer an interesting alternative to traditional construction techniques, particularly when it comes to affordable living, says Tony Clarke, managing director of the Rawson Property Group.

They are also compatible with off-grid solutions like solar power, solar lighting, and rainwater harvesting systems, and this makes them ideal for desperately needed rural facilities like clinics and schools.

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“Building anywhere outside of the normal reach of municipal infrastructure can be very difficult and costly, not only because basic services would need to be installed, but also because transport for construction crews and equipment gets very expensive.

“The mobile nature of a container, and the fact that it can largely be built off-site, makes it a very smart solution for this type of structure.”

With the typical cost of a container home being about much cheaper than an equivalent brick and mortar property, Clarke says shipping containers could also offer a very affordable alternative for RDP housing projects. They are also dramatically faster to construct, and can normally be built to 90% completion in an off-site factory.

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Container homes can also be sturdier than cheap brick-and-mortar construction and, with the right cladding and basic maintenance, can be just as comfortable, stylish, and long-lasting as their traditional counterparts, he adds.

A 2019 report by Allied Market Research reveals that the global container homes market size is expected to reach $73 070.5 million (R1.12bn) by 2025, from $44 768.6m (R690m) in 2017. This represents a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 6.5% from 2018 to 2025.

“Container houses can be built using both new or idle containers and old or scrap containers. Architects are building houses of different shapes and sizes using these giant blocks,” it says, adding: “With the use of shipping containers, the builders can construct sustainable and affordable homes with high quality. In addition, these container homes are marketed as environment-friendly homes, as they are made from used containers, which conserve metal resources.”

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The report states that container homes can protect interior architecture from the changes in the external environment, as proper insulation is provided in these prefabricated homes. This, in turn, is expected to boost the demand for container homes in cold regions.

“Furthermore, the growth in population and urbanisation in large and developed cities increases the need for new construction, where the limited availability of space is a major constraint. This in turn boosts the demand for compact and movable homes.

“Container homes are smaller in size and can be moved from one place to another. This factor is expected to fuel the demand for container homes. However, the container homes need to install robust HVAC systems for heating and cooling the internal architecture in extreme hot and cold regions, respectively. These factors hinder the growth of the market.”

It also says that the scarcity of housing units in developing economies, such as Africa, is expected to provide a lucrative growth opportunity to architecture to expand business in this region.

“Furthermore, an increase in focus on adoption of affordable housing structures is also expected to provide lucrative growth opportunities in the container homes market.”

Trends analyst and futurist psychic medium Belinda Silbert believes the future of property in South Africa will include upmarket mobile-home parks. Units can either be let by the owner of the land or there could be the option of individual ownership of the trailers and reasonable rents for allotted space in the park.

Those with money should consider investing in land to develop these sorts of high-end mobile-home parks, says Silbert.

“I believe that there is a definite niche to be filled in the affordable housing market and I am confident that mobile-park homes, with varying degrees of luxury and necessity, will fit the bill. I believe that they will offer excellent investment potential,” she says.