Realtors and Contractors Say Shipping Containers are Here to Stay

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Buzzworks is proposing a live/work space made entirely out of shipping containers.
Buzzworks is proposing a live/work space made entirely out of shipping containers.

Well, you know what they say about opinions …

… not everyone agrees with yours, amiright? That’s the message I got from a few readers who disagreed with my column’s assertion that shipping containers are over like shell art.

While a some were brief, there were some impassioned pleas for reason.

Here’s what Ashley Stanley had to say about the shipping container project proposed by Buzzworks:

Shipping containers as housing is over? Oh no my friend, they have just begun! The Cedars project is not a PV14 house. The units are not made of shipping containers. They are shipping containers. There will be an HVAC system. You will not be baked. Regarding the size, it’s not for you. I get that. But I would live there with my baby and my dog. I currently live in 494 sq. ft. and sometimes think I have too much space.

Here’s the thing … I hear this all day long: “It’s just me and I want to live in Downtown for under $1,000. I don’t care about the size of the space.” When that regularly comes across your desk, you start to wonder how you could create a hip, modern, unique style of living that would attract those types of people. And who are they? They are the dreamers, the creators, the thinkers, and the makers. This “ModPod” community will be zoned for a live/work space. You may live on the 2nd floor and run your web design business on the 6th floor with your buddies who code.

It’s for the select few who get the minimalist lifestyle. You asked for my thoughts and here they are. I am promoting this project wholeheartedly because I believe The Cedars is the next Uptown for Business Owners, Founders, and CEO’s who just need a place to lay their head when they are in Dallas because tomorrow they have to be in Dubai and next week they are road trippin’ it to Canada. Oh yea, and vacationing in Colorado to go rock climbing all while communicating with their team through Periscope and Slack.

Ashley has a point: We don’t really have any cool, small-living developments in an affordable area. Your choices are pretty much limited to Uptown or downtown at this point, and they are very expensive. And sure, shipping containers are having a moment, but sometimes things are trendy because they work. But what about efficiency? How do you deal with the searing summer heat, because HVAC isn’t a cure-all. It can be expensive to heat and cool a glorified metal shoebox.

Stephan Davis, a building scientist and construction consultant, says that spray foam coatings can solve that quandry:

While somewhat trendy, use of shipping containers as building blocks is certainly a sound and eco-friendly way to build. As with many non-traditional types of building, the planning and product selection is paramount when it comes to insulation and HVAC.

Use of closed cell spray polyurethane insulation, such as QuadFoam, is an essential element in the health, safety, and comfort of container construction. Closed cell spray foam typically has a high R-Value (resistance to heat flow) per inch as well as providing both a vapor seal and airtight construction. These attributes make container living feasible. The high R-Value provides a continuous thermal blanket surrounding the occupants thereby providing a well sealed environment. Use of QuadFoam will also eliminate the concerns with condensation (provided that your ventilation strategy is in alignment – see below). Use of the spray foam will also reduce or eliminate unwanted air from entering the structure and will provide a healthier environment by not allowing dust, pollen, or other allergens/particulate into the conditioned space.

Ventilation is the “V” in HVAC, which is often overlooked. While especially necessary here in North Texas, air conditioning is a requirement for these containers. The amount of tonnage may be reduced due to the high R-Value and air impermeance provided by the QuadFoam to as much as 1,250 to 1,750 square feet per ton! When using QuadFoam the containers will be very air tight, so having a good ventilation system in place will be mandatory. While not expensive, these ventilation systems will deliver an amount of fresh air to the occupants based on the overall conditioned area of the structure in accordance with ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) 62.2 which can be accomplished a number of ways depending on conditions, budget, or sizing requirements. Air brought into the living space should pass through the filtration system to reduce the dust and pollen usually floating around in our N. Texas air.

The beauty of using QuadFoam closed cell spray foam insulation is that it can be applied to both the interior and exterior of the building! Any external application would require a few coats of exterior grade latex or acrylic paint. Use of QuadFoam on both the interior and exterior will provide a very comfortable environment, extremely energy efficient, and resilient to our Texas storms and weather. To add further impact resistance, you could install a QuadFoam Polyurea coating to the exterior of the unit to make it virtually indestructible.

Coating the interior and exterior of the container does add cost, though, but if you’re coming by the containers very cheap and they don’t require substantial modification, this could be a feasible, cost-effective solution.

So yeah, shipping containers are eco friendly in some situations, and they are very much a trendy material right now, but I may have been a bit hasty by calling them “over.”

Are you more enlightened on shipping container construction?


Joanna England

If Executive Editor Joanna England could house hunt forever, she absolutely would. Instead she covers the North Texas housing market and the economy for While she started out with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Joanna's work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News as well as several local media outlets. When she's not knitting or hooping, or enjoying White Rock Lake, she's behind the lens of her camera. She lives in East Dallas with her husband, son, and their furry and feathered menagerie.

Reader Interactions


  1. John says

    I would not be caught dead living in a shipping container. Put two together and is that a double wide? Maybe in a Pleasant Grove flood plain and then well you could just turn it into a boat too.

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