The problem of affordable housing has been a problem in many areas of the world for a long time, even before our current economic turn for the worse happened along. To combat this problem and also to address the issue of sustainability, some architects started looking at alternative building materials.
One of the building materials that they discovered was used shipping containers; in many parts of the world makeshift dwellings had been made out of these large metal boxes previously but no one had really played with the idea of using them to design a house with all the amenities of home before.
Shipping containers come from anywhere that ships large quantities of goods; the containers are pre-packed then put on boats and/or trains and the goods are delivered all over the world. Due to the expense of shipping the used empty containers to locations that need them from locations that don't, sometimes they end up just sitting around empty. It is reported that it can cost more to ship a used empty container than to just buy a new one!
Due to the materials used to make shipping containers, they can be easily recycled into new containers and other steel items, but using them 'as is' to build homes can save energy as well as recycle the materials. There are a number of concerns that some people have about these container homes but there are also many advantages as well.
Some container home naysayers say that a container home is nothing more than a do-it-yourself mobile home and would rather not see their ugly construction in their towns and cities. However, other than a similarity in the size and shape of the basic building block of a container home, and the industrial-feel of it's steel sides, there really is no comparison between the two.
A mobile home lacks the hardy construction of an all-steel shell and the stackabilty of the engineered container building block. Whereas the mobile home is rather dangerous in a high wind-speed storm, the container home is more than strong enough to withstand the high pressure. Buildings constructed out of shipping containers have a modern building block feel to them, often reminding an observer of an oversized Lego structure.
Shipping container homes can be made 'from scratch' if you want to design your own home, with pre-designed plans, or pre-fabricated; it's all up to you. They are generally fast to install, mould-free and termite-proof. Some pre-made varieties are also designed to work completely off-grid so that they are ideal summer cabins or homes for people who want to live in nature.
Container homes may just be the option that many people could benefit from in these tough economic times; however, with the problems in some areas to allow permits for alternative types of housing it might be a while before they're available as widely as they could be.