As shipping container housing and modular buildings grow in popularity, there are more and more questions coming up regarding building permits, container specification sheets and technical drawings, and how to get the container building to be approved before any sizable investment is made. While it's nearly impossible for us to determine the building codes for every county and township in the United States, we can offer some guidance as to where to start the process of building a container home or commercial building with shipping container components.
The process of building a container home typically starts with the design process. However, we also recommend that you have an informal discussion with the local municipality that handles building permits. This may help to steer you in the correct direction when you begin to develop your plans. Alternatively, the building commissioner may have strict rules against container buildings and save you the effort and investment before you get started.
Technical drawings of shipping containers are sometimes required by the government so they know that the containers are strong enough to be converted into a habitable structure. This is a potential problem, especially with used shipping containers. A used shipping container is typically 12-18 years old and may have been sold and leased to multiple organizations over the course of its life. This means that you, or the company selling you the container, would need to track down the manufacturer who is most likely in China, provide the original unit number, and hope that they still have the spec sheet and drawings of that specific container. This isn't likely to happen as the time required to do this could be weeks and the cost of a used container would prohibit the investment on the behalf of the line or leasing company selling the container.
If the building inspector doesn't require specification sheets or technical drawings, things will be a lot easier.
Local permitting is a difficult subject. Many areas aren't familiar with shipping container housing, just as years ago many weren't familiar with log or modular housing. Permits may be required by the township or the county, and there's really no consistency throughout the United States. It's best to start by tracking down the person in charge of issuing building permits for where you plan to build the container home. If no building permits are issued, you may be able to step past this issue and get your container home started.
Other potential issues with container homes that may, or may not, be related to permitting, are:
ContainerAuction.com is an online marketplace for new and used shipping containers. While our company does not building container homes, many of the supplies active on our site either do, or know local builders that can help. If you have any questions about a specific shipping container for sale please contact the seller directly. If you have general shipping container questions and don't know where to start feel free to contact us directly.