THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
By Kashief Schroeder – co-founder and owner of Container Container
Intermodal Trading CC (CIT)
December 2019 – Container homes take simplistic living, creative design
and affordable building to the next level. It is not surprising then
that the trend for modular houses is booming; before launching headlong
into your own container build some preparation is required. Here are the
top tips for every stage of building your dream container home.
Get council approval
Most councils are open to innovative types of building and recognise
that alternative housing adds diversity to their town. Do thorough
research on property restrictions before you buy the land. Have detailed
plans drawn up professionally and develop a good relationship with your
council; this will save you time and help you to deal with any hiccups
along the way.
Purchase your container
Buy your container through a reputable company. They will help you
choose the right kind of container for your needs, as well as ensure the
container is structurally sound, waterproof and has not transported
anything dangerous. There are two types of shipping containers: one that
has reinforced square tubing side top rails and one that has flat bar
side rails. Buying the reinforced side railed container will ensure that
your home is better structurally sound, and you don’t have to pay extra
building costs to reinforce the container sides later. Building with a
refrigerated container is ideal as they already have insulation but
comes with different challenges.
Most purchases require an upfront payment after you have seen the
container and have the appropriate documentation with a container
A SARS/customs EDI release (SAD500) is very important as it give
assurance that the container is legally in South Africa has not been
used for any illegal activities and is not part of any investigation.
Design your home
To achieve amazing things with your modular build, simplicity and great
design is key. The more ambitious the designs are, the more time and
resource-intensive it will be to build. When deciding on how many
containers to use make sure you have considered how much space you need
to live comfortably on a daily basis. Many holiday homes make use of
only one container; however, you may need more space for daily living.
Be clear on the vision for your home to simplify the whole building
process. A great way to do this is to look at showhouses. They will give
you a good physical indication of how effective use of space can
transform a container, as well as provide inspiration for your design.
Get a professional to draw your design in 3D. It will give you and your
builder a better feel for the space. A professional designer will be
able to arrange your living space in the best possible way for your
Plan your construction
As many container homes are built on vacant land you need to install
infrastructure – such as foundations, running water, power and sewerage
– before you start your build. Luckily container homes can be built
off-site while you lay the infrastructure. This off-site building method
is ideal for remote builds or smaller urban plots where neighbours are
close by – building a container home generates twice the amount of noise
as a normal building.
The South African building industry is relatively new to handling
modular framed structures and it may be challenging at first to find an
experienced container home builder that will quote a fixed price.
However, there are experts such as Len Douglas of Inter Modular Concepts
(IMC) that will give be able to give you a fixed quote. On any build,
skilled labour is the chief variable; by planning and thinking
everything through beforehand, you will be able to monitor these costs.
Phase your build
It takes around three and a half months to have the container ready for
occupancy and depending on the amount of infrastructure you need. Have
clear lines of communication with your building team, do regular site
visits and create a realistic, detailed building schedule. This will
keep everyone motivated, reduce stress levels and ensure the budget is
Pre-order materials, such as fixtures and pre-cut timber. This is a
great way to lower building costs and ensure the building schedule is
realistic – you can plan according to the delivery dates of the
materials. Keep in mind that you will need a secure, organised,
watertight space to store all the materials and equipment if you are
Budget your build
Your budget should include the cost of the container being transported
to site which will require a crane, labour, materials, equipment hire
etc. The average cost of a simple high-end container home is between
R825 000.00 to R1 million – as with any build it is wise to include a
contingency budget of about 13%. This is for any unexpected items or
finishings that you may need once you occupy the space.
The complexity of your design will determine the amount of customisation
needed. Most building components, such as roof trusses, are designed to
fit onto brick structures, which means that there will be instances
where you must develop your own clever solution to achieve the look you
envision. These customisations may be challenging to predict or show on
the drawings. This might require your attention when they are being
installed; to make sure the building team, the architect and the
engineer are on the same page.
To build in the box you have to think outside the box and container
homes provide a wonderful opportunity to be truly creative with your
home. They give first-time builders a quicker, more economical way of
achieving their dream home.
In the market for a container home? We welcome all your enquiries,
simply visit our website: www.citcontainer.com.