Shipping Containers

Building homes with container home construction.

Last Month we just finished our two 20ft shipping container home.

We loaded them up and shipped them out just a few weeks ago. This project lasted about 6 weeks.

Our container home client lives way down south in Costa Rica and the delivery of the shipping container home took about 10 hrs when the units were finally in place. The truck had to drive down to a drop off point in San Isidro de General, Costa Rica. This took about 5 hrs. When our driver arrived he was instructed to guild a backhoe driver to lift off the containers and place them on a smaller flat bed truck. Each of the 20 shipping containers was brought up the hill separately. This took about an hour up a twisty and turning road. Then the units were put in place on a cement platform. I will post photos of this when we return from our final inspection date.

This container construction project consisted of two 20ft units. We cut out half the inside adjoining wall. Then we sanded down the two containers, primed the rust spots, along with spot priming any holes. We then used our new spray gun from Home Depot to paint the two shipping containers in less than one hour. After cutting out the holes for the windows and installing both the metal and wooden frames, we put in the glass.

We learned its best to do the windows first, because in container home construction it can get very hot inside. Well after the windows we began to cut out the door. We reuse the cutout from the door to create a new door. The shipping container steel is by far the best and most secure steel on the market. As seen in the following photo.

We then began the construction of the bathroom and kitchen. We combine the two, next to each other for several reasons. One is for the distribution of the water coming into the container homes and the water going out. Also, so we can share the walls. When building a shipping container home we prefer to use the opposite side of the bathroom wall for our kitchen shelves and our electricity.

Our newest project. A 20ft standard ISO shipping container converted into a small apartment.
A steel box, with a giant unfolding door. The opening of the unit can be done with several options depending on the client�s budget. The least expensive is with your truck, a cable and a roll bar. You basically hook up the cable to your truck and open and close the lid. A much easier approach is to install a wench, usually a 12V wench has been know to be able to do the job. With this particular project, we are going with a pulley system most commonly used for small bridges and very large doors.

The future is … Off the grid!

1. Solar power, Being used with low energy appliances and a conservative use of electricity.
2. Rain water catchment systems/ Well water/ Water from the air converter
3. Incinerator toilets/Composting toilets.
4. Wind power.
5. River water generators.
6. Location of the container home to maximize wind exposure and minimize sun exposure.
7. Placement of fast growing trees and Bamboo for sun protection.
8. The use of high RV factor paint and proper insulation.
9. A-frame roof system and space creation between insulation and wall board to minimize the heat.

Why homes in Costa Rica must be very secure.

Homes in Costa Rica have to be very secure for one big reason; Costa Rica has an extremely high home robbery rate. Now don’t be scared for your safety, it’s when you leave the home that it gets robbed. Every Country around the world has issues and in many countries there is crime. So it’s always a good idea to build a home that will keep out any uninvited guests.

Our Company specializes in container home design and construction. Our homes a made from these used shipping containers for security reasons, environmental reasons and the ease of transportation and installation.

These standard ISO steel shipping containers are made of heavy gauge steel and are impossible to break into, unless you have an electric saw with a steel bid and electricity and you plan on making a lot of noise. The point is, is someone is going to take a piece of machinery to break into your home then they are probably going to get in no matter what. However, the odds are in the container home owner that no one will be breaking into your steel can.

In Costa Rica, at our shipping container workshop, we are constantly adding new features to the container homes to increase the security of the home. We include solid steel lock boxes that are welded into the structure of the home. Solid steel doors that open up the entire side of the home made of glass windows and doors, elevating the shipping container home for safety.

Design Changes and USA construction costs of Shipping container homes

Well it is now September in Costa Rica and the shipping container home building business is preparing for its newest container home model.
After the completion of our last shipping container home, we went back to the drawing board in order to come up with a different model, with out the opening of the deck. We decided as we market and continue our 20ft studio apartment We wish to create a different type of door opening system. We like the glass door effect that our last product has, so we plan on maintaining that aspect of the studio apartment. The new door option is a door that will open up like a garage door, maintaining the upright position and sliding open. This option does remove the deck/platform. However, the container homeowner can build a deck themselves on their property. A deck that is permanent along with the construction of the container home platform that is required prior to installation.
With our new model shipping container home, we wish to explore the second floor options. We want to take advantage of the strength that the top of the standard ISO shipping containers have.

As we explore the many options of the shipping container home construction business, we constantly face structural and design challenges. All of these challenges are in the permit and regulation departments of Costa Rica. The engineer department of the country has yet to recognize the container home building construction. This is the same in many states in the USA a well.

Now the USA is a very different place to build a shipping container home. The prices of materials are a bit higher, construction costs i.e. cost per square foot is much higher than in Costa Rica. The design fees are higher, and the permitting process is very rigorous. We receive many questions about the cost of a container house here in Costa Rica, and it’s quite different. The budget cost varies according to location of your project. For example a low end of costs for residential construction can be as low as $90/SF in some areas of the US, as well as Costa Rica. In fact, location of the project in Costa Rica can be very costly due to the soft soil. With a steel shipping container house, the structure must be analyzed structurally to comply with requirements of the Code both in the USA and in Costa Rica, which requires more time and usually more money. So even though the shipping container home building process can save you money, it really depends on where you will be building.

The shipping container home construction represents a very green building material, and a form of recycling. The most money is saved on the on the larger scale projects, especially when building upwards. Structurally, the shipping container homes are an unbelievably strong building material and very suitable for housing along the coast where high winds and flying debris can be expected during tropical storms and hurricanes.

This week our company has received many requests for international quotes. We are very excited to begin exporting shipping container homes all over the word. In the beginning we will only ship our newest product, the 20ft studio apartment.

We learned that we could ship to the USA for under $2500. We are currently exploring a way to create the service door to door. Naturally the shipping container home will need to clear customs, pay it’s import tax and then be loaded upon a flatbed truck. This process is very new to us. So far we have only re-modified shipping containers into homes for clients in Costa Rica. The idea of exporting around the world is very exciting. We are learning that the shipping containers, once they have been modified, must meet the standards of being seaworthy. This is a very important factor because the shipping containers will naturally be stacked upon each other, so any units with structural damage will be a concern. When we take off a sidewall of the container home, the unit becomes unseaworthy. So naturally we re-support the cut out with 2×2 steel beams, that we weld into the structure. This is still considered an alteration and the container home must pass seaworthy inspectors.

About Transportation:

To transport a shipping container around Costa Rica you need three things.

1. A truck with a trailer

2. Driver

3. Crane or backhoe

When you are searching for quotes there are some important questions to ask, such as:

Is the price cheaper because the shipping container has no cargo? Can I pay in full upon delivery?

Do you have photos of the shipping container? (this is a great question because many containers are dented and rusted, and sometimes plagued with holes) Now remember that these are used shipping containers in Costa Rica. So they have been around the world and are not new. No worries. These are heavy gauge steel blocks and can withstand a tremendous force.

OK, back to transportation. Most of shipping containers in Costa Rica  come from Limon. So you can imagine the transportation costs if you live in Tamarindo. One of my goals is to establish my own transportation department to bring these costs down. I have been told that a trip from Limon to Tamarindo could be as high as $1300 per shipping container. I think that’s crazy. I will keep the blog posted on any new prices.

Now in regards to a crane and or backhoe, you will need one of them to lift the container off the truck. Transportation costs do not include this at your site. If you are building with multiple shipping containers then you want to schedule the crane and transportation all in the same day. You want to avoid transporting your multiple units over the course of a few days, which could be the decision of the transportation company in Costa Rica.