​What to know about container homes in South Africa | homify

​What to know about container homes in South Africa

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Container Living Acton Gardens Industrial style houses Metal Brown
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In South Africa we are currently experiencing a major shift in lifestyle. Used to having lots of space available, we are slowly, yet surely, doing the downsizing thing that has been trendy overseas for quite some time. 

Millennials no longer require a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house that comes fully equipped with a nice study and open-plan living room and kitchen. The more appealing option these days is a much smaller home packed with the bare essentials and eco-friendly features.

Yes! As most architects in our country will vouch, container homes in South Africa are finally becoming a thing!

​1. Container homes in South Africa: But why?

It’s quite astonishing how fast container homes in South Africa are picking up, considering the fact that they haven’t been around that long. But why has this housing option become so popular? Because container homes are affordable in a tough economy; are very easy to maintain; and they don’t have a major impact on the environment. 

Keep in mind, however, that container homes in South Africa still need to comply with building regulations. Therefore, full architectural plans with council approval are required, similar to building with bricks and mortar. 

What makes container homes, here and overseas, more appealing is the fact that they are very versatile. From residential properties to low-cost housing schemes, schools, shopping centres, restaurants and more, there’s a whole world of opportunity when it comes to buildings built out of old shipping containers.

​2. Container homes in South Africa: The costs

Container Garden space Acton Gardens Industrial style houses Metal Brown
Acton Gardens

Container Garden space

Acton Gardens

Normal housing is priced beyond what the average South African can afford these days. Approximately R1 million is what the average house costs, while the average first-time bond applicant is only granted around R800 000. 

But with shipping containers, a starter home can come in under R100 000.

Container homes broke into the South African housing market in 2017 when the Drive Lines apartment block launched in Johannesburg. Constructed entirely out of shipping containers, this block offers affordable living with rental costs as low as R4 000 per month.

​3. Container homes in South Africa: The costs (part 2)

Off the grid house Johannesburg A4AC Architects Modern houses Aluminium/Zinc Grey
A4AC Architects

Off the grid house Johannesburg

A4AC Architects

Thanks to Container Structures, an online container shipping purchasing service, a bachelor pad constructed from a single 12m-long container can be purchased for as little as R100 000. Of course the price increases as more features are added.

Depending on its condition and your location, a typical 12m-long shipping container can cost anything from R25 000 to R50 000. In-land regions tend to pay much more for shipping containers due to the cost of transporting them to the central regions of South Africa.

For a two-bedroom container home, a homeowner can expect to shell out between R160 000 and R220 000, depending on the features and finishes.

Two container units may even be fitted together or stacked, making it large enough for an entire family. This, also, will affect the final asking price. 

With the word “recycling” becoming trendy in the 21st century, shipping containers are even more popular, seeing as they’re recyclable items. By making use of discarded materials, a container home lowers the overall strain on resources. Homeowners can “go green” even further by installing solar panels, as well as insulation.

​4. Container homes in South Africa: The benefits

Container housing units generally have the following advantages: 

• they’re much cheaper, less disruptive, and faster to erect than “brick and mortar” housing; 

• they provide good air circulation; 

• they’re tough, weather-resistant and vandal-proof; 

• they make it easy to scale up the housing space at your disposal; all you need to do is add additional, converted containers; 

• they are fully transportable, meaning they can be relocated as necessary.

​5. Container homes in South Africa: Banks and permits

Container home front street view homify Modern houses Iron/Steel

Container home front street view


A downside to container homes in our country is that most banks don’t finance them. ABSA may consider financing a container home in South Africa, depending on the circumstances and costs involved, yet it can’t always be counted upon. 

Therefore, if you want to build a container house in this country, you will have to do by either paying cash or taking out a personal loan.

Municipal permits are required for permanent fixtures. Seeing as there are elements like plumbing and electricity involved, you will need the relevant municipality to issue you with the correct documentation.

So, what if that container home of yours is a non-permanent fixture? Then the applicable permits could vary according to your non-permanent building method, and alternative electricity and plumbing options. However, it’s advised that you always check with your local municipality before you commence with building a container house.

The more you know, the better. Discover the 9 things you should know before building a container home.

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