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New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

rdeforest01
March 28, 2017 11:04AM

Registered: 8 months ago
Posts: 3

My Husband and I are looking to relocate to St Thomas from the great state of Michigan and have been considering using shipping containers to build. My Husband is a licensed Contractor and specializes in New Residential/Commercial building, but I've been doing lots of research and have found a very limited amount of information on building these types of homes on an island, any island.

I understand there are certain building codes you would need to adhere to as far as hurricane proofing, and of course salt proofing (if there is such a thing) but I'm wondering if anyone has heard of, or known anyone to have completed, or been denied for that type of construction.

I have come across several stories where people have used the "pre-fab" homes that basically come in a box and you put them together, so I would assume using the shipping containers would be about the same thing.

Any insight on this would be greatly appreciated!

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

speee1dy
March 28, 2017 12:29PM

Registered: 9 years ago
Posts: 8,217

someone on stx is currently residing in one. dont know his name though

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

Alana33
March 28, 2017 01:31PM

Registered: 5 years ago
Posts: 11,580

Metal shipping containers, IMO, are going to be extremely hot to live in, costing you a ton to air condition. Depending where you're building you may be effected by zoning, HOA rules and regulations (if any) and deed restrictions for the property.

You should contact DPNR about permitting and regulations.
You're still going to need a cistern, septic system, etc.

Homeowner's insurance may be something you'd wish to check into as we do live in a hurricane zone.

What will you use to anchor the containers so they don't get blown away, flipped over or tossed down a hillside in the event of a direct hit hurricane with sustained winds over 150 mph?

Check this out:
Contact VI DPNR for specific details. Any architect should already be familiar with the standard codes and will need to bone up on this link.
[www.lexisnexis.com]

Taken from this link:

[www.vimovingcenter.com]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/28/2017 01:38PM by Alana33.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

Gumbo
March 28, 2017 03:56PM

Registered: 3 years ago
Posts: 456

Yes you can build with shipping containers.
If it were mine, I'd anchor them right and wouldn't pay for any Hurricane insurance.
Don't believe the concrete myth either, I can show you many wood frame houses that made it through Hurricane Marilyn undamaged. If you build it to survive it will.
Being that your husband is a contractor is another reason I'd do it that way. If you pay Hurricane insurance for 5 years you've paid for a lot of damage that may never happen.
Those houses in Key West are wind loaded and mostly wood.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/28/2017 04:01PM by Gumbo.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

rdeforest01
March 28, 2017 04:40PM

Registered: 8 months ago
Posts: 3

I've been to DPNR website but unfortunately there's not a whole lot of information there to review. We've been looking at different properties available and one of my worries is how steep some of the land can be and how we would even begin, but that's a problem for my husband and builders to figure out! wink

He's thinking we could anchor them into the ground using steel rods welded throughout the home but again, we're way up north and are really only familiar with building codes and regulations here.

Our thought is to pack the containers with most of the building supplies we'd need, send them down and have them delivered on site and go from there but not exactly sure how that would work with Customs.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

Alana33
March 28, 2017 05:34PM

Registered: 5 years ago
Posts: 11,580

Maybe you should figure it out, first.

Ventilation and how any home is built/situated/located is key.
Check out zoning, HOA, deed restrictions and call DPNR.
Make sure you get name and extension # of anyone you speak with there.

Honestly, I wouldn't want an ugly container adjacent to my property, a danger to myself or neighbors and not in compliance with codes, etc.

Have you been here before?
Perhaps before you begin to bring a container onto any residential property, you should do more homework and make sure that you can actually do so and island life is what you really want and can sustain.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

Gumbo
March 28, 2017 06:35PM

Registered: 3 years ago
Posts: 456

You can build container homes to code. Maybe you can anchor them into rock.
I've seen some pretty cool ones all over. There is a 3 container system I looked at in Coral Bay. The fellow told me he had no issues permitting it. Perhaps a drawing from a local Architect would be helpful. There are plenty lots without deed restrictions about container homes. Follow your dreams and remember everyone has an opinion about everything here.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

AandA2VI
March 28, 2017 10:19PM

Registered: 5 years ago
Posts: 2,080

Have you been to STT before?

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

Scubadoo
March 28, 2017 10:43PM

Registered: 3 years ago
Posts: 1,645

Quote
Alana33
Honestly, I wouldn't want an ugly container adjacent to my property, a danger to myself or neighbors and not in compliance with codes, etc.

Anything you would build would need to meet code and I agree with Gumbo that it can be done with the proper engineering and builder/contractors/your informed self. I've seen them built well and dressed up elsewhere such that they are not an eyesore at all. As was said you still need to meet cistern/septic requirements so you may end up with a concrete foundation for cistern and to anchor too. The salt will inevitably be a challenge. The cooling will need to be addressed although I'm sure it can be.

But aside from those specific details the general concerns always expressed to dreamers still apply with respect to making sure island life is for you before longer term commitment of which buying/building property is one of.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

amanda4882
March 28, 2017 11:30PM

Registered: 10 years ago
Posts: 82

Dont get discouraged! It is very possible to do what you are trying to do. There is a property on St John that has three containers built as cabins. This is great news for you because they have set precedent with DPNR.
Salt is not a problem, shipping containers are made of CorTen steel and actually get stronger when exposed to salt air. They are built to travel the ocean!
All construction on STT is a challenge, regardless of the building type.
You will need to be resourceful, have patience and find a USVI architect or designer who can understand your vision. You will also need them to stamp you plans in order to get a building permit!
Container homes have been built all over the world and in many tropical locations. They can be beautiful and functional as well as safe. A building built with containers would exceed the building codes in the USVI. They have much higher wind and earthquake ratings.

The most difficult part of this will be educating the tradespeople. plumbing, electrical, septic are all different when you consider metal walls.

Do your research and get to know the people at DPNR very well. They will make the final decision on your build.

You may ask yourself how i know all this? I too considered a container based home. I did all the research, asked all the questions and drew up the plans. In the end i ended up buying an existing home.
But,... I still have the bug! I may still take on the challenge in the future. I even already have the lot picked out!

Good Luck.
Jerry and Amanda

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

daveb722
March 29, 2017 06:58AM

Registered: 2 years ago
Posts: 424

Quote
amanda4882

Salt is not a problem, shipping containers are made of CorTen steel and actually get stronger when exposed to salt air. They are built to travel the ocean!

I wouldn't say that it makes it stronger, as it states this from it's website: COR-TENĀ® resists the corrosive effects of rain, snow, ice, fog, and other meteorological conditions by forming a coating of dark brown oxidation over the metal, which inhibits deeper penetration and negates the need for painting and costly rust-prevention maintenance over the years. In simple terms the steel is allowed to rust and that rust forms a protective coating that slows the rate of future corrosion.

Since Salt is steels biggest enemy, it may slow the process but I doubt it eliminates the process and by no means makes it stronger.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

tedc
March 29, 2017 10:41AM

Registered: 5 years ago
Posts: 70

Amanda,

All the holes in my Cor-ten container seem to indicate that it is not, in fact, any stronger than when it left its factory.

Rdeforest,

As Alana mentions above, the "box" of habitable space is not the driving cost in construction here - as with any other "box" (whether it's wood, concrete, block, whatever), you'll still need allll of the expensive parts - cisterns, pumps, water collection, septic treatment, power distribution, footings, finishes, driveways, furniture, landscaping, permits, etc. You may very well be able to save a little money in outfitting the habitable 320 square feet you get from a 40-footer, compared to any conventional building technique, but all the remaining costs will be similar, if not more expensive.

That container, for example, has no wall cavities in which to bury electrical and plumbing, nor add insulation. Sure, you can furr it all out by building a secondary wall either inside or outside - but then you've built a second wall, eliminating savings. You'd be much better off building that wall freestanding *without* the container constraining your proportions. Seeing as though you have a contractor husband, he should be able to keep costs in check with very strong, well-engineered wood construction, and as a bonus you can have 12' wide rooms instead of 8'... and higher ceilings... and not deal with all the crap involved in cutting and welding steel to install windows and plumbing.

Contrary to Amanda's claims, It's not a matter of "educating" the local professionals and trades on how to do it right based on her three months of intensive Google searching and reading at least five different blogs on other people's experiences in building container houses. The pros here have lots of experience in building - and if there was a magic bullet to get you in a $10k house in two months, we'd all be doing it. We typically use containers for what they're intended for - shipping stuff around, occasionally storing materials or tools on a job site. Some of the examples provided aren't exactly glorious successes - in that they were waaaay more expensive to build than initially planned, rented far less than expected (the lack of function trumped the novelty, I suppose?), and didn't make much, if any, money in the eventual sale.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

rdeforest01
March 29, 2017 02:05PM

Registered: 8 months ago
Posts: 3

I appreciate everyone's input!! happy

Keep in mind that we are in the very beginning stages of all of this. I completely understand there are going to be many challenges, and am fully aware we still have lot and lots of research and planning ahead of us. The people of St Thomas have always been extremely friendly and welcoming so I figured there's no better way to educate myself than to get advice from those who are there.

We've been to St Thomas, Hawaii and throughout the Florida Keys, but have only experienced the islands as vacationers. There's no doubt in my mind living in any of these places would be a dream come true but St Thomas is the one that calls to us every time so we've decided to take that leap of faith and follow our dreams.

You only get one life, might as well do what makes you happy with the time you have right?? wink

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??
avatar

Exit Zero
March 30, 2017 12:47AM

Registered: 9 years ago
Posts: 2,209

I have a good friend here who has used 2 shipping containers on the property - one as a guest room/office and one as tool storage/workshop - very functional and strong - useless for water collection in their case - they took quite a bit of work to comply with the electrical code and are both using window type AC units when occupied.

The whole cistern and water collection issue will be a challenge with a container housing - septic may be easier to solve..

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

MaryZ67
March 31, 2017 08:11PM

Registered: 10 months ago
Posts: 9

I love the idea of container houses! You can use them as storage and then convert them into your home-win win! Best of luck to you following your dream.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/31/2017 08:12PM by MaryZ67.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

Jerry Barth
April 14, 2017 03:49PM

Registered: 3 years ago
Posts: 11

Rolando Asencios is building a container house for a client in St Thomas. Here's a link to his site:
[www.asenciosconstruction.com]
Based on my experience building on Water Island I don't think it's realistic to deal with the DPNR yourself. You wouldn't believe how much stuff they want. I hired architect Chris Tavernier to do it for me. I can't say enough good things about Rolando and Chris, they were wonderful. Having watched a couple of disasters presided over by some other contractors, I would be very careful about who you pick to do the stuff you can't do yourself. Send me a PM if you want more details.
Jerry Barth

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

LoveUSVI
April 15, 2017 06:28PM

Registered: 2 years ago
Posts: 28

I too have used Chris Tavernier to process my permits and he was great. It is much easier to use somebody who knows the ropes instead of dealing yourself with the government.

You will need to build a cistern and your plans will need to be approved by a USVI licensed architect or structural engineer. We use Paul Ferreras as our engineer and he has a great reputation. Paul can tell you how to secure the containers to the structure of the cistern. Remember that you cannot have a toilet or shower on top of the cistern, so this may have some implications on how to secure your containers.

Best wishes on building your dream!

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

Cindynok
September 11, 2017 11:30AM

Registered: 2 months ago
Posts: 3

We are moving to STX soon and have dreams of building container home for guests, curious to know how the container homes faired since Irma?

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

Scubadoo
September 11, 2017 12:08PM

Registered: 3 years ago
Posts: 1,645

STX did not get much Irma impact, I doubt any impact to any container homes. The question is what impact was seen on STT and STJ? There was a tiny home episode on HGTV filmed on STJ (not a container). Wonder how that one made out?

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

Cindynok
September 11, 2017 12:38PM

Registered: 2 months ago
Posts: 3

We are contractors state side, and feel helpless seeing the destruction on STT and STJ. Trying to find a means to get some housing via container home or even camping trailers on island. But if the container homes that are there sustained Irma that would be a more viable resolve rather than returning a trailer. Was hoping to get some feedback

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

speee1dy
September 11, 2017 03:51PM

Registered: 9 years ago
Posts: 8,217

there is a container home in cotton valley

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

singlefin
September 11, 2017 05:38PM

Registered: 3 years ago
Posts: 514

Where in Cotton Valley?
I've seen temporary dwelling in one while a (masonry) home is being built on-site.

I honestly can't imagine living in a steel container here. Like anything built of steel, it will quickly deteriorate. Insects love those plywood floors, the door hinges rust and rot off. If the paint is scratched anywhere it'll rot through quickly with the humidity and salt air. If it's insulated for air conditioning (because they're like pizza ovens when the sun comes up) it's less than 7 feet wide inside. If a pelican lands on the roof it sounds like a 747 just crashed.
Check out recent photos of St. Martin's container port. 20' and 40' shipping containers got tossed around like matchsticks by Irma.
No thanks,
Stick with steel reinforced cement walls tied into cement footings, hurricane rated doors and windows, 3" thick pressure treated timbers in your roof with through-bolted steel plating in the joints, research the term "bond beam".
I really don't believe there's an "inexpensive" way to go with construction here. There are basically 3 options:
1. Built correctly (expensively) and not have to buy very expensive windstorm insurance.
2. Build wrong (inexpensively) and buy very expensive windstorm insurance to rebuild wrong again within a few years.
3. Build something that is so wrong it can't be insured, take a complete loss after the next major storm and then abandon everything, leaving a mess behind that your neighbors have to look at for decades to come.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

NorthsideKevin
September 11, 2017 05:46PM

Registered: 3 months ago
Posts: 37

Two things about containers: 1.) they are designed solely for vertical strength for stacking and 2.) they are LOADED with paints and pesticides (wood floor) that are intended to prevent weather deterioration and insect infestation almost anywhere in the world.

I looked at them closely. Might be fine. Be aware of all the toxic materials. Seems like complete sandblasting and removal of all wood and replacing the floors would be a good start. Then there is the lateral weakness of the walls.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

Gator's Mom
September 11, 2017 07:19PM

Registered: 4 years ago
Posts: 688

There is a plan in play for an eco resort made from containers east end STX. Would use well water.

Re: New Construction - Shipping Container Home - Is it possible??

AandA2VI
September 11, 2017 11:34PM

Registered: 5 years ago
Posts: 2,080

What do you think? This WAS surrounded by concrete also.

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