Posh Pre-Fabs
23 June 2014
On the Road: Transporting Modular Buildings & Containers
18 July 2014

Habitable Containers

Often described as ‘Tardis like’ by those who live in them, containers are an innovative accommodation solution for temporary, or even more permanent housing needs. The question is – how to make a dark metal box suitable for habitation? The answer, it turns out, is pretty straightforward and containers are not only practical solutions to problems, but capable of making attractive design statements too.

Survey the land and lay foundations

If space is tight, as with many projects we provide container solutions for, there may not be much choice as to which part of the plot the container needs to stand on. If so, the terrain will have to be prepared to create a suitable base for your container. The gradient has to be levelled, just like for any building work, but soil bearing is particularly important for containers, as less foundation work is required than with traditional building methods. There is still a need for foundations however, and it’s in the foundation that water, utilities and gas supplies are laid.


Originally intended for long periods of exposure and seafaring, containers will be naturally weather proof. If your container is second hand, then check inside for spots of rust; a quick and easy way to see if there has been any water damage. You should also check along the seal between panels for water damage. If there is any damage or holes, then it’s very easy to fix up with silicon and expansive foam. Some choose to create a roof to fit above the container, but this is entirely a design choice and doesn’t impact on weatherproofing or insulation standards.

The ‘core envelope’

The core envelope of a container is made up of the exterior walls, ground floor, roof and glazing. These have to be insulated to keep things cosy during the British winter (or for keeping things cool in the summer, should we be so lucky). Each area of the core envelope needs to be insulated differently, below is a diagram of how typical insulation models for containers:

Spray foam is another favourite for preventing condensation, although it is possibly the most expensive.

Windows, doors and skylights

Windows can be made to bespoke designs, as can doors, and fitted into your container with a steel section. Hollows can be created for sliding doors and windows too. To give your container that extra something, stencil cut outs can maximise natural light and give your space that aesthetic edge.

Create simple a floor plan and layout

Floor plans can be created and rolled out in the container to reflect the specific needs of its purpose. However, there are some basic principles such as space maximisation and suitable locations of bathrooms and kitchens to meet hygiene standards. Steel cutting, welding and framing is a large part of shipping container design and construction, as multiple containers can be arranged next to or above and below each other to create a larger space – most of this can be done off-site before delivery, and is something to think carefully about, when planning lay-out.

Interior Framing and Sub-floors

This is where the shell begins to look like a home. A sub-floor is an optional step to provide an extra layer between yourself, the ground and treatment chemicals used in the foundation laying process. It’s often an aesthetic choice, to allow for more homely flooring options. Interior frames provide the base for building walls and decorating them, and the size of studs used can vary on what a premium space is.

Once these essential steps are completed, you can begin moving in furniture, appliances and plumbing, pretty much as you would with a traditional building. Remember that Reds10 can simplify the process even more for you, by project managing the whole process from sourcing your container to fitting it out.


Images: Residential Shipping Container Primer

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