Container homes are surprisingly affordable.  Not just because of their small sizes, but also because they present a series of significant hidden savings and benefits to the owner.

Mortgage Savings:  The cost to build a shipping container home is significantly less than building a conventional home.  Without the large price tag, some may even be able to afford to build a container home without an overwhelming mortgage burden. Not being tied to a large or long-term mortgage can provide some of the most significant cost savings of all. Being mortgage-free while owning your own home allows for a more liberated and stress-free lifestyle.

We all know that the cost to borrow money is one of the most significant liabilities of home ownership.  Is it any surprise that the *word “mortgage”* is derived from the words “death pledge”? It denotes a kind of gamble… one that may extend until death, given the soaring costs of owning a conventional home.

Save Time And Money On Site Storage

Hidden savings exist in the ability to simply and easily secure your job site at the end of the construction day. When you build a container home, you arrive on site, unlock your container of tools and materials, and begin work. Everything is stored in a secure space overnight: the container itself.

There is no need to spend additional funds on a secure storage facility. At day’s end, you only have to close and lock up the storage container and your work space is secure. On a traditional unsecured job site, you must collect and store tools at day’s end.  This can translate into as much as an eighth of the day spent in cleaning and prepping the work site, which of course translates into additional costs to you as the builder.


Tax Savings

In Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau is proposing tax hikes for those who live a high-carbon lifestyle. One can only assume that there would likewise be compensation for those who live in carbon neutral homes.

A container home has the potential to be carbon neutral. Or better yet, to operate at a carbon deficit. Consider earning tax credits every year as a reward for living in a green and environmentally conscious way.

The use of re-purposed materials is at the foundation of the shipping container home movement. There are hundreds of thousands of used shipping containers available and ready to be re-used. The installation of solar panels could not only power the home but the surplus energy could be sold back to the grid at a profit. A green roof, which is a garden space hosted on the container home’s flat top, could provide food and cooling potential.


Land Ownership Savings

Chief Seattle of Puget Sound is reputed to have said: “The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.” Container home dwellers often experience this in a very real way. The portable nature of a container home means that land ownership is optional.  That is, you do not need to own the land that the container home sits on, because ultimately the home is moveable. Alternative options to land ownership are renting, leasing or even borrowing the land on which the container home sits. As described in my *book*, I was lucky enough to enter into an arrangement that allowed me to spend $70 a month for the property where my *Foxden* sat. The mobile and agile nature of the shipping container home means that it can be easily moved should the need arise.

Because container homes are moveable like snail shells they allow us to challenge the paradigm of land ownership. This is an important and exciting aspect of the container home movement, especially considering escalating house and land prices in many parts of the world. Container buildings open new options for homeownership and housing security without necessarily requiring ownership of land. Imagine for a moment being the owner of the beautiful paradox of a 5000 pound steel box that is both moveable and light.


Structural Savings Compared To Wood

  • The structure of a container home provides a hidden long-term saving in terms of repair costs. The fact that container homes are made of steel means that they are more structurally sound than their wooden counterparts.
  • Steel is a far more efficient (and therefore cost effective) construction material than wood. Building code requirements are easily met with a steel construction and for as little as $1500 for a box.
  • Wood framed homes require particular care and maintenance that is not necessary when building with a steel shipping container. Without wood in your building, you will not have to deal with the potential of wood rot.
  • And unlike wood, steel does not warp. Wood naturally twists and torques, which can lead to structural damage and breakdown. But steel does not suffer the same problems.
  • Pound for pound, steel is a more efficient and structurally sound building material than wood.  The load bearing weight and structural integrity of wood is less than that of steel. And steel construction makes fire retardant measures less burdensome and expensive.

Modular Savings

Container homes are modular by design. That means you can build them out according to imaginative design blueprints or future expansion needs. For example, adding to an existing construction is easy and can be done simply and efficiently as the need arises. Creating a new wing, a second floor, an additional bedroom or shared space is relatively easy, both in theory and in practice.

Another advantage the modular design of a container home is that additions can be built off-site and then transported to the home. Think of it like adding Lego bricks together.

The standard shape and dimensions of shipping containers ensures ease of construction. Additional units can be stacked on top of one another, placed side-by-side, or even dug into the ground. The only limit is creativity and imagination; cost is significantly reduced because of the modular nature of the shipping containers themselves.

Portability Savings

When it comes to moving the container home, the savings – both financial and aesthetic – are significant.One of the appealing aspects of container home construction is that the house itself can be built anywhere and then transported to its final location.

Depending on the length of the move, it can cost as little as a few hundred dollars to take your container home from construction site to lot. Consider the relief of not having to disturb the landscaping, not having to construct a temporary road for construction vehicles or create a temporary job site with all its resulting costs and complexities.

A prefabricated container home, one built and then transported to your lot, presents a considerable cost savings over one that is built on-site. Your home can be built off site – partially or completely – and then brought to you. Prefabrication means that you can build your container home closer to expertise (i.e. carpenters and other tradesmen) and then transport the finished work to the site for installation. The result can be a higher quality end-product and reduced labour costs.

And, when possible, you can build multiple container modules concurrently – replicating the design and contents – reducing costs for materials and assembly, hence, in a small way, creating economies of scale.