Alexander is a professional engineer who specializes in the construction of affordable houses and structures using recycled materials.
Several states in the USA allow shipping container homes construction, as you will discover in this guide. But what is a shipping container, and why would you want to use it to build your home?
What Is a Shipping Container?
A shipping container is a typical container used to ship items mostly from overseas countries. They are robust enough for heavy handling, shipping, and storage. They make cheap solid houses, whereas a house owner does not have to spend a dime constructing a lush home.
These containers could be made of corrugated aluminum, wood, or steel. Shipping containers are also known as intermodal shipping containers or sea cans.
Shipping container homes come from these containers that are primarily meant to transport goods from one point to another. They can be transported via train, trucks, airplanes, and sea vessels. The container homes also have other uses, such as creating studios, retail outlets, offices, restaurants, and bars.
An Alternative to Permanent and Temporary Structures
Today, these shipping container homes have gained popularity as an alternative to permanent and temporary structures. Many homeowners love the fact that with these containers, there are no building materials involved, such as gravel, water, cement, sand, or wood.
Other countries such as New Zealand, England, Denmark, and France, among others, accept home construction using shipping containers.
Facts to Know About Shipping Container Homes
You need to determine what states allow shipping container homes since not every state allows it. Here are the other things you need to look at. Make sure you check with the building department in your area to seek permission to carry on the project. Assess the living standards, the container's size, property values, and the container home builders.
Make sure you analyze whether you will need land rights, insulation, the distance to the main road, whether the area is affected by snow, and so on. Do some research on these things before you construct the home and avoid any complications. Another crucial thing you have to look at is the type of shipping container home you want to construct.
Most people will consider the simple cabin-like units, while some love customizable homes that suit their requirements. Shipping container homes have other regulations such as building materials, zoning regulations, building codes, property lines, building permits, zoning requirements, and the building space required.
Ensure you abide by all these regulations, including the shape of the material to use, type and size, etc. The International Building Code and International Residential Code govern the building codes in the United States. The National Fire Protection Association regulates the safety of buildings.
That means you ought to have all the correct information about these shipping containers to avoid any inconveniences. As a homeowner, you also need to understand the difference between mobile homes, manufactured homes, and modular homes. All these three have different building norms. Their costs also differ depending on your preferred design, i.e., material, number of doors and windows, and the insulation needed.
Some Checks to Do Before Building a Container Home
- Make sure you check with the building department in your area to seek permission to carry on the project.
- Make sure you analyze whether you will need land rights, insulation, the distance to the main road, whether the area is affected by snow, and so on.
What States Allow Shipping Container Homes?
Below are the states where you can build a shipping container home:
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Typically, Texas is known to have a flexible regulatory environment, especially when it comes to building regulations. That is evident from the numerous numbers of shipping container homes already in the state. Texas is technically a viable place to construct your shipping container home.
Homeowners can easily get approval to complete their container homes in the suburban and rural areas where there is more space than congested cities such as Houston. The state also has several container home builders waiting to make the magic happen for you.
You cannot speak of land freedom in the United States and fail to mention Louisiana. The state has lenient zoning regulations. Local authorities do not meddle with how homeowners build their homes, making it a great state to construct container homes. In fact, Cato Institute ranks Louisiana as the first state in the country when talking about land freedom. A homeowner can construct their ideal container home without interference from the government.
The only standard to be followed in this state is the local land measurement and referring to container homes' local land use regulations.
California has strict land-use policies, but since it is a progressive state, it bends some rules to accommodate shipping container homes as long as it is safe and legal. That is evident when you sweep across the state; you will discover several hybrid container homes for many residents. You need to have all the permits and approvals to build a container home in California. Prime locations for these magnificent homes include the area inland from the California coast or the north. Price tags here are pretty favorable as they are constructed in less constricting ordinance regions.
People residing in Tennessee enjoy land freedom compared to other states in the U.S. Building regulations and local interference are at minimum levels, which makes Tennessee great for container homes. Most lands in this state can easily access clean water, which ultimately reduces production costs.
That means low-income earners have a better shot at creating their ideal shipping container homes. These containers are also cheap in the West Tennessee area. If you are looking for off-the-grid living, consider a shipping container home in the rural areas of this state. The climatic conditions are also very favorable here as the state encounters all four seasons.
In this state, things are a little bit different. Shipping container homes are only allowed on land set aside for single-family homes. Even though Oregon has stringent builder regulations, the state is progressive, and alternative construction seems like a viable solution to many. If you wish to live off the grid, then consider this state for your shipping container home. You will have no external interference.
Local zoning codes in this state see shipping container homes as a lucrative living alternative that is also affordable to many. In fact, you can build your container home here without acquiring a building permit. Missouri's weather is also alluring with the mild winters and warm summers. That makes Missouri a prime state for container homes.
With the weather type in Missouri, you do not have to overspend on insulation which may be pretty expensive. Your shipping container home is already habitable, requiring no expensive insulation procedures.
As long as you have a permit to build a container home in Florida, you can come up with your ideal home made of shipping containers. That means before you commence any efforts to build the home, you first have to talk with the relevant authorities and get the approval.
Housing Regulations for Shipping Container Homes
These are the standard building rules to be satisfied by every structure. Now that you know the states that allow container homes, here are the core housing regulations that ought to be followed. The regulations are typically structure types and building codes.
The International Code Council regulates these codes. The council looks at the construction process and establishes the specific requirements that should be met before one is given the permit. You must ensure you use the suitable material and other guidelines issued by the state when building the container home.
Here you will come across mobile, modular, and manufactured codes. All these structures are different and treated differently. Mobile structures are not allowed in some states simply because they are not permanent housing. Modular homes are typically regulated by the International Building Codes, while manufactured homes are governed by federal Housing and Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standard.
The standard only applies to factory-built homes that await shipment for on-site installation permanently. Different states in the U.S. will have different zoning codes, building regulations, and permit requirements. These regulations are updated twice or once yearly. Before you build your container home, go through all the requirements to determine what is required of you.
A building inspector has to inspect the site for these and more:
- Risk of overturning
- Surface stability
- Wind resistance
- Structural safety
Shipping Container Home Zoning Laws
Zoning codes are responsible for regulating where you can build a home. These codes fragment urban land into zones. That helps in having similar homes in one zone. The government then uses these zones to control population density and even develop the city. You may have noticed that residential areas, churches, and industries are never found in the same area.
Zoning laws ensure every zone has its specific purpose and type of settlement. Just like commercial buildings and standard apartments, container homes also have zoning laws. Some states may lack shipping container homes ordinance, but most states do have. Before approaching the local authority in your area, make sure you know the kind of structure you want to set up.
Shipping Container Zoning Laws
Typically, zones are grouped into two large categories. These are residential and commercial. These broad categories will then be further subdivided into smaller categories. For instance, Tallahassee and Florida use R-1, R-2, R-3, and R-5 subcategories for their residential zoning system.
Check out the zoning system in your state and the subcategories to find out where you fall as a shipping container homeowner. Your primary focus should be on the R-2, R-1, or R.M. requirements.
R-1 is for the single-unit residential apartments, while R-2 is for the two-unit residential apartment. It should not include duplexes or more than two residential apartments. R.M. is for the multiple zoning code, which regulates multiple residential units. These units could be detached or attached.
Homeowners can also switch their property zoning via rezoning, even though the process entails rigorous paperwork. Some homeowners may not agree with the deal for fear of property depreciation.
Why States Allow Container Homes
Most states will allow container homes to show how open-minded the authorities are and prove they are progressive. Shipping container homes are a recent trend and far from the norm of building homes. By accepting these modern housing techniques, states try to prove to investors that they are open to change and can adapt quite easily. Some states, such as California, bend their strict land laws to accommodate container homes. That shows investors that the unprofitable regulations will be bypassed.
Shipping container homes in Florida and other states is lucrative and a viable solution to housing problems, according to these states. With high housing costs and a rising level of homelessness, New York can benefit a lot from these container homes.
Advantages of Container Homes
- Affordability: these container homes require fewer construction materials and labor. It means they are cost-effective compared to the conventional housing methods. Homeowners can now construct these container homes for even ten thousand dollars only. You can also save a lot with these homes because you will construct them in a favorable climate region. You will not have to install any air conditioning.
- Fast construction times: you already know that conventional homes take time to complete. The house must be constructed in several weeks or months and then given time to dry up. With container homes, it is straightforward and quick. You have a place you call home in less than one month since only a few materials are required. With sufficient labor, it could take even two weeks to complete.
- Durability: these shipping container homes are pretty durable. The steel used in making them is self-healing. That means if you purchase these containers, your home will withstand any kind of weather. The steel is also strong for burglary activities meaning you are secure.
- Easily customizable: the best part of these homes is that you can fine-tune it to whatever model and make you wish as long as it is accepted. One can customize it to fit their individual needs without requiring too much cash. Customizing the conventional homes would take months and lots of resources.
- Mobility: with the ancient brick and mortar homes, you are confined to where that house was constructed. However, container homes offer you mobility. If you are tired of living in a given state, you can always relocate with your home to another state of your liking. That makes it a viable home, especially for people who have to move places from time to time.
Reach Out to Authorities and Start Building Your Container Home
Now that you know the states that allow shipping container homes, it is time to look for a permit if your state allows it. Reach out to the authorities and tell them of your dream home.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Alexander Okelo