If you've used the internet recently (and I suspect you have), you've probably come across shipping container homes. There are
literally figuratively container loads of popular articles like "23 Surprisingly Gorgeous Homes Made From Shipping Containers" and "This Rusty Shipping Container Seems Abandoned. But Look Inside… It’s Actually A Ravishing Home!" I didn't realize we described homes as 'ravishing'. But apparently we do.
Anyhow, the shipping container house is a fun concept and it can be an affordable option. After all, you're starting with a pre-built structure, so there's the possibility to save a lot of money in construction and labour.
Architects AtelierWorkshop have designed a tiny home from a 20 foot used shipping container that serves as the perfect weekend getaway for a family of four. This one was fitted out in Hangzhou, China and shipped to New Zealand. It is a shipping container, after all -- it's inherently portable! That's why it's been dubbed the Port-a-Bach ('Bach' is a New Zealand term for a small holiday shack)…
Small Space, Big Appeal
While there's not a lot of space inside, the original long wall folds down to become a deck and make the most of indoor/outdoor living. This openness helps the space feel larger. Between the fold down bunk beds and the pull down double bed, it can comfortably sleep a family of four…
The Port-a-Bach fits a lot into a tiny space:
- Fully enclosed exterior steel shell (when folded up).
- Large internal storage cupboards and shelves, stainless steel kitchen and fittings, bathroom with open shower, sink, composting toilet.
- Interior fabric screen system gives the versatility of creating several 'rooms' within the large open living space -- bunk beds, double bed room, dressing room, kitchen and bathroom.
- Exterior canvas screen system shelters the deck area for comfortable indoor/outdoor living and flow.
- Six concrete footings form a stable, non-invasive 'foundation' -- situate the unit on a wide range of ground conditions.
The Port-a-Bach's inherent portability opens up a number of possibilities. It is well-suited for situations where a permanent structure is not allowed for safety or environmental reasons, like another NZ Bach which is relocatable thanks to built in sleds. It might also suit a worldy nomad -- allowing their home to be shipped wherever in the world they're off to next.
The Port-a-Bach can be delivered quickly and easily to almost any site via truck or helicopter.
Safe and Secure
Another important part of the Port-a-Bach's appeal is the ability to lock it down when not in use. Once the drop down deck and the side doors are closed the home because a solid steel shipping container again. This makes it perfect for second homes where security or safety from the elements is a risk. Bushfire-prone areas are just one potential application.
The Port-a-Bach's prefabrication of internal finishes allows for a high level of quality. Off-site fabrication offers other benefits as well. The building can be subjected to more thorough quality control and assurance. It's faster too, because tradespeople are in-factory and there's no reliance on fine weather. The internal finishes are primarily plywood, which is a quality, hard-wearing material for long-term durability. (See more stunning plywood interiors here).
The cost of buying a used shipping container and fitting out the interior to create a livable space is relatively inexpensive in developed countries. The cost of materials and labor are kept to a minimum because you're working with a pre-existing structure. In Port-a-Bach's case, the creation of new openings is minimal which mitigates some of the expensive engineering challenges faced by some shipping container home modifications. The less you do to change the structure of the container, the better.
Due to the Port-a-Bach's portability, it might also be possible to beg/borrow/steal* land rather than purchasing it, which would further reduce upfront costs.
* Don't steal land.
It's possible to make a home like the Port-a-Bach completely self-sufficient -- perfect for sustainable, off-grid living. It could be power, water and sewer independent by installing a rainwater tank, composting toilet or septic system and solar panels and/or a wind turbine. And that means no more costly bills from utility companies…
Port-a-Bach is an enticing solution for a low-cost, low-maintenance weekend retreat. Minimal modification to the standard shipping container keeps the costs down, while an innovative design ensures it's a very usable and multi-functional space -- inspite of the tiny footprint. Really, what more do you need for a low-fuss weekend getaway?
For the record the Port-a-Bach is not in production (damn *puts checkbook away*) but AtelierWorkshop do accept commissions to design customized shipping container homes.