In Australia, every local government region has its own rules about 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. However, the requirements and permits you need might differ according to region and location.
Rules and Regulations Guiding the Use of Shipping Containers on Private Properties
Normally, all regions in Australia treat a permanent shipping container almost exactly like they would any other building on your property. It simply means that you will need all the proper approvals, engineering, plans, and inspections just as you would for a granny flat or similar building.
In addition, you are expected to modify your container in order to live in it — because you probably want actual doors, windows, fixtures and plumbing. Note that everything you change about the container brings a risk that you are making it weaker, which means it may need reinforcing.
For instance, Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Council recently reinforced its own rules around containers, and this simply means that no approval is needed for 30 days’ use in an urban area and up to 90 days in more rural areas. However, an exception is made for construction workers using a container as storage, but once construction is completed the container is expected to be gone.
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. Note that 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 threatened people with fines over unapproved containers in a rural area.
In Australia and for residential use, the building code generally mandates you to ‘hide’ its appearance as a shipping container by having them painted or reclad, otherwise kept from public view. Note that some regions explicitly specify the maximum number of containers allowed. Port Headland, for example, only allows one container per residential property so it might be worth considering the: 2×10’ container set to maximise modularity.
Meanwhile, commercial and industrial zones have a bigger allowance depending on how they are stacked, their size and their position on the property. These are some of the things you should keep in mind before you call your local council to find out the zone rules for your area.
In Australia, containers are referred to as an innovative way to create a living space on a budget and in recent years, their popularity has grown greatly. The average price of a used shipping container is around $2000 and a new container costs around $5000. Transportation costs may vary depending on location, but once the container is on your land, what you do with the container, how fancy you make it and how much you spend on it is up to you.
Top 10 Container Homes in Australia
With over 5 million containers coming in and out of Australia every year, re-purposing a used container can be an environmentally friendly way to construct a home. Instead of using traditional construction materials where over 20 million tons of construction industry waste is produced each year, you can choose to re-purpose an old shipping container destined for life rusting in a lot. Here are my top ten best container homes in Australia:
Off – grid Container Home – Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia
This gorgeous container home is owned by Jamie Smallwood – an architect who focuses on sustainability. In this apartment he lives off – grid in the mountain rainforest area overlooking Byron Bay. He has used recycled and repurposed materials to create a stylish and comfortable home out of 40ft containers including beer keg sauna and hempcrete walls.
“The Container” Recycled Shipping Container Home – Tasmania, Australia
This container home is based in Tasmania and rented out as a holiday home via AirBnB. This home was 2016 Finalist in the Tasmanian Tourism Awards and provides one bedroom with king sized bed, outdoor bath tub, wood fire and amazing views.
The industrial feel is padded with added Corten metal sheeting and leaving some of the internal plumbing exposed. The use of reclaimed materials adds an eclectic charm to this container home and the large glazed picture windows frame the beautiful views. Located on a small holding of 50 acres, “The Container” uses solar and hydro sustainable energy systems.
20ft Container Home, Byron Bay, NSW, Australia
This small and cosy shipping container house is constructed from only 1 x 20ft shipping container. This holiday rental may be little, but this container home packs in everything you need for a relaxing getaway and is located amongst tropical rainforest between Byron Bay and Suffolk Park, NSW.
Also note that inside the container there is a bed and lounge area with large glazed doors on one side opening out to a decked area. The large deck maximises the space making the inside seem larger and features a BBQ, hammock, seating area and outdoor bathtub for those relaxing evenings. There is even a dunny squeezed round the back.
House 28, Wye River, Victoria, Australia
Located along the Great Ocean Road, this container house designed by Studio Edwards is a popular tourist town during the summer months. Made from 3 x 6m a long recycled shipping container from nearby Port Melbourne, this weekend retreat is set on stilts overlooking the Otway Coast. Note that this house was designed to make minimal impact on the existing trees and vegetation, and the container house camouflages itself by having native plants growing on the roof.
These plants also provide extra insulation during the winter. Owing to the steeply sloping site, the structure has been elevated on steel stilts embedded in concrete piles. A decked area, large windows and glazed doors on the southern side provide a great vantage point to overlook the coast.
Bungwahl Tiny Container Home – Bungwahl, New South Wales, Australia
This cozy tiny container home is constructed from one shipping container and is rented out as an AirBnB. It backs on to the forest in Bungwahl, New South Wales. A perfect getaway, this container home sleeps 2/3 people and is fully equipped with kitchen and bathroom. It is not connected to mains water and so uses recycled rainwater. Relax and enjoy the great outdoors with hundreds of miles of forest surrounding the property.
Graceville Container Home, Brisbane, Australia
Popularly referred to as the largest shipping container home of its kind, this 3 – storey family container home designed by Ziegler Build is constructed from 31 shipping containers and is in a quiet suburb of Brisbane – Graceville.
The containers sit on a 706 square meter site and stand out from the surrounding traditional Queenslander properties. The ground floor consists of 10 x shipping containers which create a double garage, gym, home office, pool room and art studio. The second level contains 11 x containers and has a large open – plan living room/kitchen, bathroom, three bedrooms and a study.
The top floor is made from 10 x containers which create a master bedroom with walk – in robe, ensuite and terrace. The interior and exterior have both been finished in an industrial chic way with some of the metal beams and columns left exposed along with the metal ceiling.
Copper House, Coogee, New South Wales, Australia
Replacing an old 1890 cottage, this holiday home container house designed by Takt Architects was built on a very tight and steep site. Note that three sections of the building follow the contour of the slope whilst the butterfly roof provides natural light together with maintaining privacy for the house and its neighbours. The copper cladding is a response to the beachside location and the salty and humid air will age the copper giving it a patina which will change the aesthetic over time
Kaloorup Shipping Container House, Kaloorup, WA
Built from 9 x 40ft containers, this two – storey container home is located in the Margaret River region of Western Australia. Inspired by the Devil’s Corner Winery Cellar Door in Tasmania, the owner Steve Hick built this holiday rental in just two years on his semi – rural land in Kaloorup, WA.
Steve used a large amount of recycled and re-purposed materials, sourcing items from ‘verge clean ups’ and land fill. For instance, the jarrah cladding was salvaged from nearby demolition properties and the aluminium sheeting was saved from landfill. To achieve the 6 – star energy rating for new builds, Steve used recycled double glazed glass panels and quality insulation.
South Coast Container House, New South Wales
Note that this shipping container house on Australia’s south coast was designed by architect Matt Elkan. It is an eco – friendly family home constructed from four re – purposed shipping containers. The containers were laid out on the site in a way to maximise natural light and utilise passive temperature control. There was also no excavation on site which saved costs.
Have it in mind that this design does not hide the fact the building is constructed from containers. Instead, this is used as a feature both inside and out with the large container doors being used as ‘shutters’ with the shipping details left visible – a quirky touch. Inside the metal has been painted in a glossy white and mixed with a few accents walls in blonde wood to bring some warmth.
Cronulla Two – storey Container Home, Sydney, Australia
According to reports, it took 8 x 20ft and 3 x 40ft containers to create this two – storey container home by Container Build Group in Sydney. Note that it includes three bedrooms, four bathrooms, an office and garage. This luxury home features large concertina doors which open the home up to the beautiful surroundings.
The containers were fully completed off – site in a factory and then installed on site. The total on – site construction time including landscaping was only six weeks! Prefabrication is a great benefit of construction using shipping containers.
It is very important to note that in most States and Regions in Australia, the usual council approvals are required for any new dwelling, but container homes are worth considering as an alternative to traditional construction methods. Container homes can be space saving so if your land size is small and you need a compact building, a container home is a great way to provide compact living.