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.
There is also a book on using them for buildings:
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!
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.
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 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!
-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.
I used one of these for a stable for two llamas plus periodic babies. Worked very well, but you have to keep it painted and the hinges oiled to avoid it rusting away.
That's why it's best to use the ones designed for ocean container use -- they won't rust, or at least not as quickly.
Seabox Shelters: http://www.containerhome.info/emergency-shelter-kit.html
More info: http://www.seabox.com/
This kit contains all the panels, connections, etc. to turn a 20ft container into a livable shelter. It was designed to go into emergency situations like Haiti and provide shelters for people:
http://www.seabox.com/haiti/products/SB3352/ There's a video on this link that shows how quick and easy it goes up. There's also a kit for a 40ft container.