Shipping Containers: What You Need to Know Before Building a Home

They are the heavy metal boxes dotting properties across the country that have morphed into self-contained coffee shops or boutique food outlets.

Until recently they have more frequently been used as a place to store tools, paints and machinery.

In a few instances they have also been stacked together, modified and sculpted into an architecturally-designed home.

Here are some things you might want to know about shipping containers before you move in to one:

Am I allowed to live in them?

Yes. But before you rush out and spend between $1,500 and $2,200 on a used shipping container as your new home, it is worth noting that conversion is probably not as easy as you think.

For starters, every local government region in Australia has its own rules around living in a shipping container.

Most of them are similar, but you need to do your homework before you pop the box on your block.

Almost all councils treat a permanent shipping container almost exactly like they would any other building on your property.

That means you will need all the proper approvals, engineering, plans, and inspections just as you would for a granny flat or similar building.

That is the same deal for the container you want as a backyard shed.

What’s more, you will have to modify your container in order to live in it — because you probably want actual doors, windows, fixtures and plumbing.

Everything you change about the container brings a risk that you’re making it weaker, which means it may need reinforcing.

Dr Vidy Potdar from Curtin University in WA explored all of these options as part of a project to find out what it takes to build a container home in Perth.

“They don’t know what it has experienced in the past — maybe it was dented or hit.

“And the moment you switch from used to a new container, the price blows away — it becomes very expensive that way.”

For a new container, expect to pay at least $5,000.

What if I just want one for a little while?

That might be allowed, but temporary use generally means for a few months, not years.

Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Council just reinforced its own rules around containers, meaning no approval is needed for 30 days’ use in an urban area and up to 90 days in more rural areas.

An exception is made for construction workers using a container as storage, but once construction is completed the container has to go.

In Victoria, Cardinia Council requires a permit if you put a container on your own property, while South Gippsland Council does not allow them in any residential area.

In New South Wales, Wollondilly Council went to the Land and Environment Court in 2016 after someone refused to move an “unauthorised” container from their front yard.

In north Queensland, Mackay Regional Council has threatened people with fines over unapproved containers in a rural area.

The common theme here is that neighbours complain and councils respond, not just for aesthetic reasons but because containers are also potentially dangerous.

Is my shipping container trying to kill me?

Maybe. The issue with shipping containers is that you usually have no idea where they have been.

Used containers may not have a detailed history, so buyers do not necessarily know what potentially deadly materials have been inside for long periods of time.

For instance, a container could have been used to carry fertiliser, poisons, food or stuffed toys.

Dr Potdar said while some might be structurally perfect, others could have been dropped from a great height.
This article was originally published by ABC. Click here to continue reading.

Interested in sustainable design?
The 2018 International Urban Design Conference is taking place from 12-13 November at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney.
The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.
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Sustainable House Day 2018

BASSENDEAN building designer Romona Sandon will be opening up her sustainable home for the first time for Sustainable House Day on September 16.

The day is part of an Australia-wide event where about 250 houses across the country are opened to the public.

Ms Sandon’s James Street house is one of three which will be displayed on a bus tour organised by Environment House in Bayswater and guided by Alternative Technology Association WA committee member Kim Wilkinson.

The bus will leave Environment House at 9am and visit each house for 45 minutes, where the features, building materials, sustainability features and technologies will be discussed.Coming from a sustainable architecture background, Ms Sandon built her “eco-home” in 2016.

Building designer Romona Sandon of Bassendean, in her sustainable home. Picture: David Baylis http://www.communitypix.com.au d486051

Her home features passive solar design principles including large north-facing windows and doors allowing in winter sunlight, insulated cavity bricks, cross-ventilation, solar-powered LED night lighting and low Volatile Organic Compounds paints and carpets.

She said her home also encouraged her family to transition to a low-waste way of living.

“Organic waste goes into our Bokashi bins and by reducing the purchase of single-use plastics and packaging, our landfill waste has significantly decreased,” she said.

“I also wanted to showcase that an ‘eco-home’ does not have to look a particular way or cost the earth.

“Most people that visit my home have no idea that it is a passive solar-designed home until they say how comfortable it is and ask where the heaters or airconditioners are – there are none.”

Her aim was to inspire people to live sustainably and show them how to lower energy bills and help the environment through good home design, practices and technology.

Originally Published by CommunityNews.com.au continue reading here.

Save Our Minds, Bodies and Souls, Not Just Our Town

Ms Robina Crook, Associate at HASSELL joins us at this year’s International Urban Design Conference to discuss  “Save our minds, bodies and souls, not just our town”.

A tale of how a small rural community taught their urban cousin a thing or two about “Building an Age Friendly Community”

When Ian McCabe, CEO of the Shire of Wyalkatchem, requested the Western Australian Planning Institute of Australia assist them to address the complex challenge of an ageing community, we jumped at the opportunity to help (1).

When you are the CEO of a local rural shire you are not just advocating for the citizens of a community, often you will have a personal connection. The Shire of Wyalkatchem is 194km north east of Perth. It is a community of only 516 souls in 314 private dwellings; with a handful of those dwellings forming the town centre. More than 46% of the “Wylie-ites” are aged 55 years or more, with a median age of 53 years. Ageing infrastructure combined with catering for an aged population is a major issue for the Shire.

Robina Crook

With issues associated with an ageing population becoming a daily reality the Shire of Wyalkatchem took the lead. They invited local government community development officers and chief executives from around the Western Australian Wheatbelt to address a common issue “Building for an Age Friendly Community”

The people of Wyalkatchem are predominately farmers and a few town’s folk, with no particular interest in urban design but a passion for community. They are however a very pro-active community. When the only butcher closed in town, the community came together (2). In drought stricken times, the farmers still managed to diversify and learn new skills becoming master chefs in all things meat. It was this determination to keep their community alive that has driven the decision to “Build for an Age Friendly Community”.

In a workshop environment, local government community development officers and chief executives embraced urban design philosophies to identify age friendly strategies for this passionate, be it small country town:

  • Guidelines for the Development of Dementia Friendly Communities (3)
  • Healthy Active by Design (4)
  • Healthy Built Food Environments (5)
  • Curtin University Universal Design Guidelines (6)

    This is the tale of David and Goliath, unperturbed by the massive challenge ahead a small town has started the journey to create the type of community they want to grow old in.

The 10th International Urban Design Conference will be held at Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Queensland from Monday 13 – Tuesday 14 November 2017. 

Secure your seat and register today!

Preserving Urban Watercourses: An Affordable and Ecological Design Approach to Manage Urban Flash Floods

The 10th International Urban Design Conference will be held at Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Queensland from Monday 13 – Tuesday 14 November 2017.

Ms Rumana Asad, PhD Student at the University of Newcastle will be at this year’s Conference, discussing “Preserving urban watercourses: an affordable and ecological design approach to manage urban flash floods”.

Rumana Asad

The growing awareness of ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) confirms its acceptability due to environment friendly and locally preferred approaches. In the age of climate change, EbA entails adaptation strategies and processes that are grounded in the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystem services often managed by local people and technology. Despite its potential the applications of EbA remain still limited, particularly in the realm of urban design and planning.

In favoring its applications EbA, recent literature attempts establish theoretical connections between ecological design and EbA while dispiriting hard engineering solutions, which seem to be expensive and have negative impacts on ecosystems. Thus for developing cities the use of EbA is particularly important and effective. The theoretical framework of this paper is grounded  on the connections thereby testing it through a case in developing cities. Such a city Khulna has been increasingly affected by flash floods over last decade due to heavy rain every year.

The study investigates the potential of local ecosystem and strategies of ecological design as well as landscape urbanism to reduce these impacts. Since multidisciplinary approaches “participatory and culturally appropriate” are widely recommended, this study employs interviews with local people and experts to identify urban design challenges and to appreciate ecological design integrated with EbA so as to enhance the resilience of urban infrastructure.

This study finds that Khulna’s planning policies focus more on physical planning offering piece-meal based and problem-based solutions only while disregarding incorporating the potentials of EbA.
Additionally, new infrastructure, which is often failed linking to urban watercourses and wetlands and thus increase the city’s imperviousness and surface runoff, thereby posing Khulna more vulnerable to flash flood.

Accordingly, this paper advocates for an interdisciplinary ecological design approach to bring nature back while preserving watercourses so as to increase the resilience of urban infrastructure.

The 2017 International Urban Design Conference is an opportunity for design professionals to exchange ideas and experiences, to be creative and visionary and to contribute to redesigning our urban futures.

Find out more here.

Sustainable Living in Community (SLIC)

A paper was presented at Urban Design Conference in November 2016 hosted in Canberra. A presentation was made regarding sustainability at the Conference which focused on urban sprawl and its impact on society. Further work has been carried out in this regards in New Zealand and the outcomes are encouraging.

Small groups of societies and specially education sector has started investing in the concept and trying to embed the thoughts in the younger generation. The aim of SLIC has always been about communities and making them self-sustainable. Let’s take look at some of the result yielding activities in New Zealand.

A community garden project has been initiated which has converted spare land into productive food supply source. Small patches have been allocated to community groups who take ownership of the patch and are responsible for management, maintenance and upkeep of that patch. The concept of recycle, reuse and reduce is used extensively. There is help provided with seeds, manure and organic growth technology to the patch owners.

Sustainable activity like rain water harvesting is actively promoted and supported through the area. One of the major advantage of these activities has been the involvement of DHB in this, along with community boards! DHB’s interest lies in the fact that gardening has proven to be a health benefit for physical and mental wellbeing. Change in behaviour as well as health has been observed in the active participants.

SLIC will take this further by introducing healthy living, healthy eating principles by lecture, demonstrations about food, cooking styles and its medicinal impact.

An educational institute has provided land for creating an urban jungle. Families can take advantage of the free land for growing their choice of vegetables. One of the important aspect has been to impart the knowledge and know-how of gardening and getting the interest of young children. This will create a long-term interest and future for sustainability. SLIC will encourage the participation and availability of such patches as these will provide not only fresh fruit and veggies but also create green patches across the urban sprawl.

Finally, we would also like to compliment the schools which are encouraging sustainability as a part of living and have taken pains to provide infrastructure and create interest among the young. One of the hardest part is involvement of the society and understanding the benefits of physical activity and its relationship to well-being. It is not all about cheaper alternatives at supermarkets but the ability to self-sustain and live in a harmonious society.

This article was kindly provided by Varsha Belwalkar, Consultant at Nirvana Consultancy Ltd