Appreciated in particular for its rapid construction times, its modularity and its controlled costs, the container house is attracting more and more families in search of original and up-to-date housing!

A container house, also called a “container house”, is a modular construction made up of several shipping containers, new or used, fixed together by a metal frame. Used in China in the 90s as makeshift housing, then to build student residences in the early 2000s in the Netherlands, container houses have gradually become an essential construction concept in contemporary architecture.

Container house or container: what is it?

When they are intended to be converted into dwellings, these containers are reinforced in the workshop, and insulation is provided on their interior and exterior surfaces. They can then be installed on the land provided for this purpose. Depending on the exterior finish chosen, the industrial look of the containers can become partially or totally invisible.

Although there are now more and more individual houses in containers, this type of construction is also suitable for collective housing (student residences, social housing, etc.) or premises for professional use (offices, shop, restaurant, data -center, sanitary block, recording studio…). Note: it is also possible to use containers as part of an extension or an elevation of a house.

What containers are used in construction?

For the construction of container houses, shipping containers are traditionally used. They meet specific ISO standards, which guarantee great structural strength, as well as excellent resistance to extreme conditions and fire. They are also treated against corrosion, which makes them particularly durable over time.

The “Dry” type containers are those most commonly used in the construction of container homes. Indeed, these boxes are designed for the transport of non-polluting and dry goods, and are subject to very strict maintenance standards. These drastic standards make it possible to limit the risks of toxicity as much as possible when the containers are used to build houses.

In standard dimensions, a Dry container weighs between 1.4 and 4 tons, for an interior surface ranging from 6.7 to 28.3 m². To obtain the living area, do not forget to deduct the thickness of the interior walls and partitions, as well as that of the insulation.

What are the advantages of a habitable container

What price to consider for a container house?

Price of a container house: according to what is it defined?
The price of a container house depends mainly on the following criteria:

living area and number of floors
the type of foundations (concrete slab, stud foundations, or raft foundations)
connection to the electricity, telecommunications, running water and gas networks
the level of interior and exterior finishes
the heating system
the use of an architect or a builder.

What is the average price of a container house (or container)?

The price of a container house (excluding land) is on average between 900 and 2,200 € / m². The price can vary greatly depending on the interior fittings and the type of finishes desired, as well as the fact of calling on a builder or an architect.

There are mainly 2 types of deliverables:

house in undeveloped containers (out of water, out of air): foundations, compliance with standard standards, and structural work – excluding garden, fence, or swimming pool
converted container house (turnkey): foundations, compliance with standard standards, structural work, finishing work, and exterior cladding (plaster, wood or stone) – excluding garden, fence, or swimming pool.
Price per m² of a container house depending on the type of builder

Container house: advantages and disadvantages

Advantages of a container house

A container house has many advantages:

Reduced construction times: the structure of a container house being already pre-built, generally not requiring foundations (a simple slab or concrete pillars are sufficient), and its interior layout can be carried out in the factory in optimal conditions, you can save up to 70% time compared to traditional construction.
Advantageous price: for the same reasons as those mentioned above, the costs associated with the construction of such a house are particularly competitive.
Modularity and scalability: a construction based on containers allows you to build a tailor-made house: you can stack, assemble or cover the containers, to obtain the house that suits you. Later, you can also decide to expand your home by adding one or more containers to the existing structure.
Robustness: designed to carry heavy loads and withstand extreme weather conditions and fire, the containers can also support up to 5 times their weight. When they are not maintained, the lifespan of the containers easily reaches 40 years!
Low environmental impact: transforming containers into homes is an operation that requires little energy. And if the distance between the container storage location and the building site is not too great, the impact on the environment will be low overall.

Disadvantages of a container home

However, a container house has some disadvantages:

Poor thermal performance: the frame of the containers being made of metal, known to be a material with poor thermal capacities, it is necessary to take particular care with the insulation (which can be carried out outside and/or inside), as well as a perfect seal.
Size of containers: by default, the internal width of a container (from 1.86 to 2.40 m) restricts the possibilities of development compared to a traditional construction, knowing that it is also necessary to deduct from this measurement the insulation layer if you choose interior insulation. Fortunately, the containers can be easily cut, which allows them to be assembled together, and thus widen the surface of the parts and the field of possibilities.
Aesthetics and town planning rules: in its raw state, the appearance of a container is not necessarily very aesthetic. It suffices, for example, to add exterior cladding (in wood, plaster, or stone) so that it blends in more easily with the environment. In addition, before considering the construction of a container house, make sure with your town hall that your project is compatible with the town planning rules in force.
“Faraday’s Cage” effect: the metal structure of the containers makes them hermetic to external electrical fields, which can disrupt the operation of certain devices (radio, mobile phone, TV with internal antenna, etc.) inside a container house. It is possible to greatly reduce this effect by installing large glass surfaces or outdoor antennas.

What regulations for the construction of a house in containers?

Before buying the land for your future container house, it is strongly recommended to consult the local urban plan (PLU) of your municipality. Available at the town hall, this document will allow you to know the town planning rules in force in your residential area, and in particular the restrictions concerning the appearance of the facades, the color and the inclination of the roofs… If the PLU does not can theoretically not oppose the construction of a house in containers, this one will allow you to adapt your project so as to make it compatible with the regulations in force. For your project to be validated, you may, for example, have to dress your container house with exterior wooden cladding and add a sloping roof to your future home.

To obtain detailed information on the rules in force for your land, you can also request a town planning certificate, which will allow you to know if your project is feasible. The town planning certificate is available in 2 versions: the simple version, which can be provided to you within 1 month, and the operational version (more complete), which is obtained within 2 months.

After making sure that your project complies with the PLU, you will have to apply for a building permit at the town hall. Note that you must imperatively attach to your file a certificate proving that your container house complies with the thermal regulations RT 2012. Allow a period of 2 months to obtain an answer.