Cons of Shipping Container Architecture
1. Insulation and Heat Control
Shipping containers are basically large steel boxes meaning that they absorb and transmit heat and cold very well. This leads to the problem of controlling the temperature inside them. Often times this can be solved by the correct type of insulation, or paint, though it can also lead to non-environmentally friendly solutions like energy guzzling ACs. Insulation can also further reduce the already limited interior space of the container.
Many used shipping containers are old and nearing the end of their life span. Many, especially the ones made of Corten steel, also rust quickly, especially the ones that had already been scratched or dented while serving their primary function. Such dents and scratches might give the home a more industrial look, but they are also the places where the structure will begin to rust.
3. Health Hazards
Since shipping containers are not intended for human habitation, substances harmful to humans may have been used in their manufacture. This includes paints and solvents, as well as insulation materials installed to control the temperature inside the containers during transport. Long term exposure to these could lead to health problems for the inhabitants. Among these are chromate, phosphorous, and lead-based paints used on the walls, and arsenic and chromium that are sometimes used to infuse the wooden floors of the container in order to deter pest infestation. Another concern is that they may have been used to carry toxic or even radioactive cargo in the past, which might have been accidentally spilt during transport.
4. Not-So-Modest-Ecological Footprint
Sure, using disused containers as building blocks is an effective way of recycling them, but the eco footprint of these homes is still larger than it appears at first glance. Before these homes can be habitable, the entire container must first be sandblasted bare, the flooring needs to be replaced and all the openings need to be cut with a torch or fireman’s saw. There are also carbon emissions associated with transport and assembling. Building a multi-container home can produce thousands of pounds of hazardous waste before it can be used as a residence.
5. Obtaining the Permits
Since using shipping containers to build a home is a relatively new idea, it might be hard to obtain the necessary building permits in your area. The process can take years, and might never be resolved positively, and this wait time should be factored in to the total expected construction time and cost when considering a shipping container home.