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Going with a fad? Contain yourself…

-By Paul Hastings

In my 35 years’ experience building homes, a lot has changed. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that there is always a new fad that gets everyone buzzing. Inevitably, each new fad purports to be the cheapest/most efficient/trendiest thing around. But somehow, they just don’t stick.

The latest trend to pop up is shipping container homes. The selling spiel claims that they are cheap and incredibly fast to build. "You can have a new home in just two months!" "Want a two-story home? You can stack them!" "Feeling environmentally conscious? They’re recycled!"

Take a peek under the shiny finish, and you’ll quickly see some challenges with shipping container homes. Most are single-use containers, or sea cans, meaning that they have only been shipped with one load. The problem is, you will never know what was shipped in the container you’re planning to live in. The floors are bamboo, a very porous and absorbent material. Even though that floor is covered up once the shipping container home is built, any chemicals or substances that spilled during shipment are likely going to be very difficult to completely remove.

Shipping containers are designed to withstand six shipments. However, after six shipments these containers are dented and rusted out by sea water. As such, home builders use "single use" sea cans. By taking one off the market after a single use, another sea can needs to be built in its place. Unfortunately, if you’re hoping to help the environment by purchasing one of these structures, you may inadvertently be causing the opposite effect.

And there is a misconception about cost – with all the modifications required to make a shipping container livable, they are frequently more costly than traditional wood construction. If an industrial "shipping container look" is the desired outcome, at Urban Mews we can clad any structure with corrugated steel in a manner that is much more economical, ecological and doesn’t leave you wondering what was shipped in the home you now live in.

If you’re investing in a garage or garden home – or any type of residence – don’t buy into fads. Wood construction looks better, costs less and stands the test of time.

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