Building Codes for Shipping Container Houses
Probably the most challenging aspect of using ISBUs in home construction is the question around building codes for shipping container houses. The perception is that they can’t be used in most suburban areas. The reality is that many building departments simply lack knowledge and experience in this area.
While you may be considering building a home from shipping containers, what you are really doing is using steel construction for residential purposes. Since steel is generally not the material of choice for traditional homes, building departments may not have much experience in understanding your plans.
If you are interested in pursuing this option, do some homework up front so you are prepared to have your design reviewed in the best possible light:
Check with your community planning or building department office and confirm which set of building codes apply to the area in which you want to build a shipping container home and the date those codes were last updated.
Review the code online yourself or discuss the code with an architect who has experience in using shipping containers or steel in home construction.
Get a firm understanding of the use of steel construction allowed by the building code that applies to your area before you begin coming up with your own shipping container home plan.
Here’s a website that lists links to all of the current building codes in the US organized by state:
Building Codes For Shiping Containers
More cities now have building firms and architects with more knowledge about using shipping containers in construction than ever before. If you have any concerns, simply call and ask to speak to a design member at one of these firms and ask whether or not they have run into challenges having their projects approved, how they got around any challenges, and what advice, if any, they have for you.
It’s possible they’d be more interested in taking you on as a client than they would be in giving information freely, but it’s worth a shot. If you explain that you are comparison shopping at this point and that they are on your list of possible resources, they may be more open.
The other thing to keep in mind if you have concerns about building codes for shipping container houses is that it is your finished design that has to be approved, not your use of shipping containers that has to be approved. If you called your local building department and asked if it was okay to build a home out of used shipping containers, you might get an interesting, or negative, response.
Going in front of any review committee with pictures of a well designed home and a thorough set of plans that meet current code requirements keeps any consideration focused on your well laid out plan and not the fact that you are using used shipping containers in the construction. That piece of information will likely be nothing more than a novelty item of interest to a review board.