Container homes are becoming the go-to solution for first-time homeowners. More cost effective and with a shorter lead time, it could be the answer to those trying to get a foot onto the property ladder.
But don’t go comparing these structures to the hideous looking steel containers you’ll find on the side of the road; container homes have grown up to become something to behold in the property market, something that screams “Hi, look at me!”
One such home belongs to former nightclub owner Lucas Steyn. When he envisioned eco-conscious living, he went completely off the grid with sustainable shipping containers. “I scrolled around on social media one night and came across a conversion someone had done in the States,” he told Top Billing. He became obsessed with container conversions and decided to incorporate it into his home.
The result is a secluded getaway on his family farm just few short kilometres outside Bot River. The walls are insulated with non-combustible mineral wool, clad in recyclable boarding while the interior is chic and minimalist. Now standing tall for three years, Steyn saw the potential in the move and now rents out the property as part of his booming ecotourism venture.
Cape Town-based Berman-Kalil helped bring his vision to life. “That was one of our first luxury products where we looked at it and thought maybe there’s something to this,” says Bradley Berman, founder and co-owner of the company that specialises in innovative housing solutions.
While the trend may be taking off overseas, South Africans are slowing starting to take note of the potential of other alternatives to living in a conventional home.
Bermin thinks there’s a simple answer for this, saying that there has been a trend in general in the housing market of moving towards industrialised spaces, and also smaller spaces. “In the city bowel you’ll see all these new urban developments. Moving into containers is the next logical step of that process,” he adds.
When looking at the pros and cons, it’s a unbalanced contest. “The price, the timeline, the portability of the whole thing and the nature of things [clearly wins out]” says Berman.
He goes on to explain that a container home will cost anything between R8 000 – R10 000 per square metre to complete, depending on the finishes. Whereas a traditional brick and mortar building can cost up to R12K per square metre in an affluent part of town.
The minimum lead time is about six weeks, and in most cases you can get your container home up in 10 to 12 weeks. Berman-Kalil also uses less water in the process, another win for the Cape’s water crisis.
As attractive as it sounds, there are limits to container spaces. “But we have over the years found ways to address it by making hybrid spaces where we extend the width of a container because the only real problem is the width,” adds Berman.
There’s also the challenge with municipal regulations – officials might not be familiar with the building method and deny your building control and city planning approval.
But Berman is hopeful the trend will gain more traction locally. “It’s been a bit new and people have been reluctant to experiment. But all of those types of cases that we’ve worked with, everyone’s been pretty happy with the results and have gone on to more."