Below are my responses following an enquiry from a student investigating the viability of container homes as permanent dwellings.
Dear Mr Gilbert,
I wrote to Chris Gilbert a couple of months ago asking him to assist me in my dissertation by answering a few questions. I am attempting to understand whether shipping containers could be used to provide viable permanent low-cost housing and felt that your company’s prior experience of Richardson’s Yard would be beneficial.
Chris was kind enough to answer the questions I sent him and also responded by suggesting that I contact you with regards to my research. Now that my research is in its advanced stages I was hoping that you may be able to answer just a few questions in relation to the cost of the project and the overall costing process.
I understand how important your time is and that these questions may be better suited to a quantity surveyor, if you believe this to be the case would it possible to have the contact details for the QS who worked on the project.
In order to save time I have included the questions below:
RG: Happy to help, answers below, before I carry on I would suggest you think about the word permanent here, shipping container homes and buildings have a huge role to play in a more diverse property mix (res & commercial), we are very much coming from the interim solutions point of view (5 years) rather than looking for permanent solutions. Not to say containers are not suitable for permanent solutions it is just a different offering, differing techniques etc. Happy to have a chat about this on the phone if you would like.
1. Was the cost of building Richardson’s Yard cheaper than if you had built the same building with a more traditional (brick and block) construction method?
RG: yes, cheaper and significantly quicker.
2. If yes, could you give an idea of how much money you believe was saved in using shipping containers (either as a figure or a percentage)?
RG: time – we built RY in 14 weeks start to finish, in bricks would probably have taken between 12-18 months.
cost – total cost was £900k – to build around approx. 1,000 sq m of traditional you are probably looking at £1500/sq m plus
3. Could you tell me what the cost per m2 was of the build, NOT including the cost of land?
RG: As above – we own the land
4. Other than the shipping containers themselves, what other elements of the build were cheaper as a result of using this type of construction (e.g. cheaper foundations)?
RG: interest/opportunity cost on the cash to fund the development. Financial returns on the investment are coming back much quicker than with traditional creating savings.
we were able to reduce the cost of the walkways and stairs (which are re-usable) as we could tie some of the elements into the existing structure
transport of materials to site
waste removal from site
embodied energy as well is worth considering
there are also residual values on deconstruction to consider
5. Were there any elements that were more expensive?
RG: difficult to say – i dont think so, but there were a number of items such as planning fees and design fees which i felt should have been lower for a 5 year project versus permanent
6. Did you find that the use of the shipping containers allowed for a more accurate/efficient costing process?
RG: yes, due to kit of parts manufactured off site – gives certainty on timeframes and cost. Less subject to fluctuations in labour and materials often experienced on a long term build
7. If so, why do you believe this was?
RG: see above
8. Are there any relevant reports you would be able to share with me that could assist me in my research?
RG: case study attached and available to download from our website