these have always fascinated me. the uses seem endless! last time I saw them on craigs list they were $2500-$3,500. does anyone know what a typical square footage of one of these containers is? (not cubic but floor space)
"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Location: Western WA
I just learned that these containers are called 'intermodal transport units' (aka ITUs) or Isotainers.
They come in five different sizes, 20-ft long (160 sqft) , 40-ft (320 sqft), 45-ft (360 sqft), 48-ft (384 sqft), and 53-ft (424 sq ft). All are a standard 8 ft wide.
Around here, the beat-up ones seem to start at $1,200. The best-looking ones I see on the rails hold merchandise. The last-use ones haul garbage. The last-use ones are very beat up, dented and rusted. Price may indicate age and quality. Never agree to purchase one sight-unseen.
I wish I could find one to hack up to use for a green house! the ones I saw (if the pics were honest) seemed in mostly good shape. one had a side that was squished but the were up front about it. I never could get ahold of them. I wanted to know if that price was delivered, I figured that could be a chunk of money right there!
Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Location: Western WA
If you find one you like, ask what the price is with and without delivery. Then ask around your neighborhood and see if there's a semi driver who would be willing to pick it up and deliver it for some cash under the table, for less than the delivery charge.
I think these have some promise for re-use as housing. Not for everyone or for everywhere, but when I think of the energy and resources that went in to making these containers, it seems silly to have them rot or get beat to hell.
A person should have some welding/metal fabrication skills to take on this project and the use of a crane to move the units around. Other skills of electrical wiring, plumbing, air handling, insulation, etc. would be useful, too. I have always imagined that some sort of spray foam insulation would be the way to go, but I know NOTHING about that--are some foams more inert and earth-friendly?
As a challenge to myself, I use Google SketchUp to design homes using standard shipping containers configured as blocks put side by side, or offset with internal tangent walls removed for use elsewhere in the design. I am working on a design that has a second story connected to the first floor with a spiral stair case. I am not very good at it yet, but it has shown the potential and the challenges!
When I figure out Paul's forum scheme (I am still new at this) I would be happy to have a place here to view other's SketchUp earth friendly houses!
Another, probably more practical way of moving the containers would be a semi tractor. These are far more ubiquitous than cranes. The containers have the built-in ability to have trailer wheels and landing gear mounted on their underside. Also more ubiquitous than cranes are fork lifts which can be used to mount and dismount landing gear and wheels. Forklifts can also be used to push trailer and container sections into place. One could also recycle old trailers for similar reuse. Although designated trailers are generally not as sturdy as shipping containers, they are designed to take quite a beating. They are just not designed to be stacked in addition to the requisite loading, that's the major difference. Many trailers have a wood plank or plywood floor with plastic or fiberglass laminated plywood sides in a metal frame, generally aluminum and steel.
"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller -- Jeremiah Bailey Central Indiana
Joined: Jun 07, 2009
Location: Tokeland, WA; Riverside WA
jeremiah bailey wrote: Another, probably more practical way of moving the containers would be a semi tractor. These are far more ubiquitous than cranes. The containers have the built-in ability to have trailer wheels and landing gear mounted on their underside. Also more ubiquitous than cranes are fork lifts which can be used to mount and dismount landing gear and wheels. Forklifts can also be used to push trailer and container sections into place. One could also recycle old trailers for similar reuse. Although designated trailers are generally not as sturdy as shipping containers, they are designed to take quite a beating. They are just not designed to be stacked in addition to the requisite loading, that's the major difference. Many trailers have a wood plank or plywood floor with plastic or fiberglass laminated plywood sides in a metal frame, generally aluminum and steel.
They use special trailers with a semi tractor to move these shipping containers. LandAll is one such brand of trailer. When we bought a used 40' reefer SeaLand unit for our place in the Okanogan, we called around and found that Randy's Towing (a local tow company) had the ability to move the container for us. It was quite a process - given the tight turns on our access road - I wish I'd taken video!
The LandAll has movable wheels, which can be re-positioned as needed. A semi tractor was used to pull the trailer w/container. They had to move the trailer wheels forward to traverse a hair-pin turn, which in turn shifted the center of gravity of the load such that the tongue of the trailer (and subsequently, the driver wheels of the tractor) were significantly unweighted so he couldn't get any traction on the gravel road. They had to bring another 4x4 wrecker to help pull the tractor around the corner, after which he could move the trailer wheels back and put the weight back on the tongue/drivers and make it the rest of the way up to our place.
Our 40' container weighs around 11,000 pounds empty, so these need some significant horsepower to move. The LandAll is a tilting trailer with a solid bed and a hefty winch; there was no real "lifting" done, just a lot of pulling and sliding on the tilt bed.
I expect you'd get into a significant amount of cost if a crane is involved. I was surprised at how cheap (relatively) it was for Randy's to do the job for us. They picked up the container about a mile from our place, and delivered it to us for around $250. With the additional equipment and guys needed, and about four hours of work all told, I expected it would cost a lot more.
Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Location: Oakland, CA
I hear they're finding lots of use in Afghanistan, because the trade imbalance is so steep, and so many buildings have been damaged over the years.
Not so much as housing, from what I've read, but as retail space: it's a rare building that locks so securely in that part of the world.
"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men. They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
I've drawn several house plans using shipping containers. I've been looking into getting some land in a village on the Bristol Bay side of the Alaska Peninsula (someday, when my grandmother no longer needs me here), and everything has to be either flown in, or taken in by barge in shipping containers. It seemed like it would be a waste not to use the containers once they were there. The village only has the capability to move the 20' containers (with forklift), so that's what I designed with -- it's amazing, actually, what you can do with them (I was only drawing one-story plans, BTW).
The recommendations I've seen are to
1. get the containers that were meant for ocean transport, as they are much more rust-resistant;
2. pressure wash the interior and thoroughly seal the floor, as some of them have been used for hauling toxic chemicals; and
3. insulate the inside and use the outside for the weather surface of the home, since that's what it is already. Looks a little industrial, but it grows on you -- and better metal on the outside than on the interior walls!
We use a conex now and again for break rooms and tool sheds on the job. There are pros and cons, as with most structures.
-Without windows and only one door, they get mighty warm sitting in the sun all day. Steel walls (without insulation) make for a cold break room in the winter. Steel is airtight. With good insulation, the things are cozy.
-Solid steel walls meant to hold several containers on top makes these things just about indestructible in a residential/farm setting.
-The doors are steel and lock down well. The weak link will be the locks you put on it.
-There are no systems, wiring, or plumbing. Its a box, albeit a strong one. Plumbing must be drilled through the floor, which is often walnut or maple, about 1.5" thick, and may or may not be covered with steel plate.
-The roof is flat and thinner steel. It is subject to thermal expansion and contraction which tends to leave some low spots where water will pool. This promotes rust if the roof is not well sealed.
-Adding a stud frame inside will give you a place for insulation, a place for wall hangings, something to which to attach cabinets, a place for electrical wiring. This will shrink the width from 8' wide, but makes it functional as a residence, office, store, tool shop or whatever you like.
-I've seen them in the $1500-$2k range in Jacksonville. Delivery runs $400 for the 75 miles to this town.
I've given these considerable thought. As a shed on a farm, it would be hard to beat the price and durability. I'd like to have one. Run a power cord for lights and tools. Add a sink, hose, and greywater drain I can wash my hands and make coffee. As a stand alone structure, these things are hard to beat for versatility and durability.
As for converting one to a home, for the money that would have to go into it, I've reasoned I'd do better with a repo mobile home. Less hassle with permits, everything is already built/wired/plumbed/HVAC/windows/doors/insulation/cabinets/bath fixtures/wall covering/floor covering. Its a novelty as a home.
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