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Bot River, Western Cape, container home
Bot River, Western Cape, container home | © Berman-Kalil Housing Concepts
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Container Homes are Taking Over South Africa, Here's Why

Picture of Carina Claassens
Updated: 18 April 2018
A major lifestyle shift is occurring as South Africans, who are used to tons of space, are slowly but surely downsizing their homes. Millennials, especially, no longer have a need for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home complete with a study, dining room, and living room. The more appealing option is a (much) smaller home filled with only the essentials and eco-friendly features. The answer? Container homes.

Why containers?

A relatively new concept in South Africa, interest in container homes is picking up fast. It’s affordable in a tough economy and it’s easy to maintain, plus it doesn’t have a major impact on the environment.

Container homes still need to comply with building regulations, so full architectural plans with council approval are required, just as when building with bricks and mortar. The appeal, however, stretches beyond these “restrictions.” From residential properties to low-cost housing schemes, schools, shopping centers and more, there’s a whole world of opportunity when it comes to buildings fashioned out of containers.

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This beautifully designed container home comes complete with scenic views and an indoor fireplace | © Berman-Kalil Housing Concepts

Drive Lines (a project by Propertuity and New York-based architectural design studio LOT-EK) in Maboneng, Johannesburg, was one of the first large-scale container structures in South Africa. In this case, apartments are constructed from upcycled containers to create pretty little spaces of 30-45 square meters each.

Another South African company specializing in housing and other mobile solutions constructed from shipping containers is Berman-Kalil Housing Concepts. They have a whole range of designs to choose from to suit any space-related needs, budget, and look. Another plus is that their units are shipped as complete as possible, with all fixtures and fittings included.

The most appealing part of these container homes is that most are capable of using alternative energy supplies, like solar panels, solar geysers, and rainwater harvesting systems. These homes are the perfect example of sustainable living.

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Pringle Bay, Western Cape, container home | © Berman-Kalil Housing Concepts

A solution for the less fortunate

The New Jerusalem Orphanage is a wonderful example of how shipping containers have been used to aid the less fortunate. Established in 2000 to aid abandoned or orphaned children, the founders of the New Jerusalem Orphanage decided to use recycled shipping containers to expand the orphanage. The containers were a quarter cheaper than conventional building materials, and, as the amount of space needed was quite high, this was the perfect solution.

Big Box also put containers to good use by constructing a new wing for the Khaya Centre (an initiative that supports children orphaned because of HIV/AIDs) in the township of Lehae.

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Khaya Centre in the township of Lehae | © Big Box

Another major issue South Africans face is the millions of families in need of housing. Although over two million homes have been built since 1994, thanks to the government’s Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), there’s still a large backlog of families waiting for homes. Companies all over the country are starting to implement low-cost housing solutions, made out of, you guessed it, containers. They’re quick to set up, sturdy, and much cheaper than building RDP houses. If successfully implemented, container homes might get South Africa one step closer to solving its major homelessness crises.

Retail, cafés, restaurants, and so much more

Shipping containers are so diverse, in fact, that many trendy establishments are housed in them. Johannesburg’s bustling 27 Boxes in Melville is a market/shopping center created solely out of containers, while the list goes on to include independent coffee shops, restaurants, clothing stores, offices, and more. You really just have to take a walk around a trendy neighborhood to notice just how popular containers really are.