Although it can be difficult to obtain precise figures about America’s homeless population, rough estimates put the number at more than 2 million. Every day, homeless families and homeless veterans wonder where they will sleep at night: one state is taking action to house its homeless population. Orange County, California city officials are starting to build homes for the homeless, and they are making use of an unexpected building material: steel shipping containers.
City officials say that they are not housing people in a metal box: used and new shipping containers for sale are climate controlled and insulated against the California heat. The program is a good start in a county that has more than 15,000 homeless individuals and families. Used steel storage containers are being used by architects as well: steel is a hardier material than wood, and people who want a custom home often request that their architects utilize steel. New thermally broken steel windows and doors actually provide protection against fires, and people who live in California want to protect against wildfires: storage containers withstand high winds very well.
The movement to house people using interesting and new building materials is not a new idea, but in the last several years the market for steel shipping containers has really taken off. There is ample office space in the United States and the market for commercial real estate has never been stronger. In spite of that growth, however, more American workers are looking to build their own mobile office containers. Millions of us work from home, and used steel storage containers for sale offer us the opportunity to customize our own office space. Steel shipping containers can be placed in our backyards, in an adjacent parking lot, or anywhere we want them to be. They can be insulated, wired with internet and phone, and soundproofed.
We are all searching for ways to minimize the costs of running a business, and steel shipping containers offer us a way to lower our startup costs. There are millions of square feet of commercial real estate that are sitting empty: businesses that hire remote workers no longer need to lease a retail space. Some businesses will subsidize the cost of installing a steel shipping container office space, figuring that the costs of modification and installation are still much cheaper than having to rent office space for full-time employees. The movement toward low-cost construction with alternative building materials has been going strong since the late 1960s, but now enthusiasts can connect with each other online.
Whether we are building new offices or building a sense of community, we need to keep a good eye on the most vulnerable populations in America. Homeless veterans and homeless families need a warm place to sleep at night, and used shipping containers could be the perfect solution. There are small scale housing experiments being conducted across America. The Tiny House movement is helping people embrace the idea of downsizing. Tiny homes are often small enough to be hitched to the back of a truck. Mobile houses are the new mobile homes. To qualify as a tiny home, your house has to have less than 500 square feet of livable space: the potential that tiny homes have to eradicate homelessness in America is profound.
What builders like the most about used steel storage containers as housing is the fact that they can be assembled into livable units on a shorter time frame. Building a suite of smaller homes also saves cities money and time. Homeless individuals in Orange County, California have expressed excitement about the possibility of living in their own apartment again: there are millions of chronically homeless people and the county is trying to find them and to help them. Once they move into their housing, case workers will be assigned who can help residents find medical care and maintain their new homes: the cost of remaining homeless is too high.