“Live simply so that others may simply live.”
- Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Do you dream of owning a sustainable home? A new trend is emerging for affordable housing and the designs are so complex that many times it is hard to believe that these homes are recycled shipping containers.
The containers are eco-friendly, easy to construct and most importantly cost-effective. Did you know there are over 11 million unused shipping containers throughout the world because the insurance companies’ warranties ran out after 25 years of service?
The large containers are 40 ft. long, 8 ft. wide, and 8 ft. tall, and can cost between $3500-$4500 each. They are made with industrial-grade steel and will provide airtight, impenetrable solutions for homes. Be aware portable storage containers can be damaged in transport or corroded by rust. A few dents or rust does not necessarily affect the functionality of a storage container, but it is important to pay attention to the condition of the unit and research its history before signing a contract.
I learned about Konti Design Build|Studio in Puerto Rico at Kontidesign.com. The word “konti” is a Finnish word meaning: Container. The owner of Konti Design is architect Carla Gautier Castro and her goal is to produce affordable containers homes that will be made in Puerto Rico and can be shipped all over the globe. Carla believes container homes are a worldwide solution to the housing crises caused by natural disasters and refugee influxes.
After traveling to Germany and Africa, she realized how other countries were recycling and she wants to bring her knowledge to Puerto Rico. “These homes will be able to stand up to both earthquakes and hurricanes, with winds in excess of 175 miles per hour. They can be completely off the grid, equipped with a solar panel system, rainwater collection tank and a bio-garden septic tank system, and could be portable,” she said.
Her philosophy is based on the three “Rs”- reduce, reuse and recycle.
Permits – Cost will vary based on your area and types of permits required.
Site prep – Foundation that is rocky, uneven or prone to flooding will increase the cost.
Delivery – Price varies by number of units to be delivered and distance traveled.
Availability – This is not a problem.
Professional labor – Cost depends on the area.
Budget – Find out the legal requirements of your property, including any necessary permits before starting construction. Get an accurate estimate of the cost per square foot to budget appropriately.
Planning – Design the floor plan, elevation and any conceptuals.
Retrofitting – Set the foundation, interior framing, insulation and drywall (the insulation of a shipping container home can make or break the entire build), plumbing, electrical, mechanical and any additional features.
Financing – This could be a problem because this is basically a new concept in housing, so it can be difficult to obtain a bank loan.
Carla told me she hands her prospective buyers a “to do” list. This helps manage the costs, if the buyer participates. She has been offering two custom designed units. The price for the first unit starts at $39,000 and the second at $120,000. Construction can be completed in two or three months.
When I was a young girl, Montgomery Wards and Sears, two big mail-order companies, offered kit houses in their catalogs. Today, Amazon is offering container and other pre-fab homes online.
Our world is changing rapidly and we really need to learn to recycle. As I looked at the container homes that have been designed, I am inspired. Just like the wish book I received from Montgomery Wards and Sears, I find myself dreaming again of owning a completely self-sustaining, off the grid, safe and green container home in Puerto Rico.