James Mitchell

Recent years have seen a rise in the use of container vans for homes, accommodations and retail spaces in the Philippines. Because they’re relatively low cost, easy-to-use, durable and environment-friendly, using container vans is an increasingly popular choice for homeowners and budding entrepreneurs.

But is this practice really a viable, cost-efficient alternative? Here, we list some items to help you decide.

The Pros

Some of the most attractive features of using a container van are:

  1. Relatively low cost — Container vans come in different sizes and prices, with its price in the Philippines ranging from P65,000 to P75,000 for a 20-foot container, and P105,000 or more for a 40-foot container.
  2. Environment-friendly — These are mostly recycled containers, with some having been used only once (known as one-trip containers). They can be reused for homes, retail shops or accommodations, which is better than letting them rust away in a scrapyard.
  3. Modular — Their uniform shape and size make it easier and quicker to make a suitable design for homes or business spaces. This gives architects and designers a degree of flexibility in terms of design and layout.
  4. Sturdy — As container vans are made of steel, you don’t need to worry about problems that come with other materials, such as weathering or wood rot.
  5. Easy to insulate — Containers can be insulated with fiberglass or insulating foam, then sealed with plywood or fiberboard, making them suitable for habitation.
  6. Easy to modify — The tough steel skin of container vans can be easily painted, covered with cladding, or cut out for large windows or doors. They can also be welded to other container vans and other structures.

 The Possible Cons

While container vans offer many advantages when used as raw material, there are also a few caveats you should know about:

  • Can become expensive — Depending on where your container is being picked up and where your prepared site is, container vans can be expensive.
  • Complicated to situate — Offloading your container from a truck trailer and onto your site can be a complex process. Hiring a crane or forklift can also add to your cost.

Ask the Experts

At every step of the construction process, you’ll need expertise.

The site must be prepped — A plan designer will assess the proposed site of construction following different criteria. The land where the container vans will be sited may have rock outcroppings, or has steep slopes, or have complicating factors such as seepage zones. In these cases, you’ll need to remove the rocks and debris, or have the topsoil compacted. For these, you can hire a supplier of heavy equipment to make the site more suitable for your home or accommodation.

The containers must also be inspected — Not all the containers will be ideal. Your contractor needs to make a thorough inspection before you buy. They will look out for rust, dents, cracks or holes before the purchase, as these can create problems down the line.

Before you take the plunge, do some research and seek out contractors, architects, and designers who’ve had experience in the use of containers. They can assess your needs, get your permits, and outline your costs. You can also consult home or business owners who have used container vans. They’re the best resource who can help with their project. Alternatively, there are Philippine-based suppliers of prefabricated living spaces that use containers as a base. These can provide more turnkey solutions.

Check What’s Out There

Container van turned into an extension of a house

It’s easy to look for examples of container van homes online. These can range from small retail spaces to boutique hotel rooms. There are shops, bars, restaurants, resorts, hotels, and even budget accommodations that are worth visiting to see the possibilities. Some of these have been around for a while, and you can book any of these resorts and boutique hotels built with container vans to get ideas about your home or business.

Final notes

There are advantages and possible disadvantages of building a home or business that uses containers. The low cost, ease of use and modular nature of containers have made them a viable option. While there can be disadvantages, these can be addressed. Thoroughly inspecting the container before buying, and consulting the right designers, contractors, architects, or local heavy equipment dealer can make the process easier. Building your home or business using container vans can be both exciting and profitable, and makes you part of the new wave of sustainable construction practices.

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