It has taken time, but more people are embracing the concept of using refurbished shipping containers as houses or business premises.
A 2013 Kenya National Housing Service study showed that 26 million Kenyans are living in improper housing structures. According to a 2017 World Bank report, Kenya has a deficit of two million low income homes.
A case for embracing all means of narrowing this deficit. However, many do not know where the containers come from and how they are made habitable.
Also, many don’t like container houses because they think they are not safe.
“I think they have the crazy idea, that since it’s portable, someone can just come and carry it off with them inside as they sleep or even when they are not there. However, this is not the case because they are securely placed when we are setting them,” says Joseph Keyombe, sales and marketing manager, Mauru Containers.
Mauru Containers is a company that sells new and used containers, and refurbishes them. The company was started four years ago and it has been getting more clients every year.
Containers are especially common as business premises. This is because they are ready made and all you have to do is to repaint them and partition them to the size you want for each individual shop. They also need little space.
“Containers are becoming popular because they are versatile, portable and reusable. People also use them for aesthetic purposes and for their industrial outlook. They are also eco-friendly in that you’re recycling a shipping container that could have been discarded,” says Emma Miloyo, CEO of the Architectural Association of Kenya.
Shipping containers, also known as Intermodal containers or freight containers, are made of non-corrosive Corten Steel. The material is further coated with Ceramic which makes it mildew proof, rust proof, and antiseptic.
This material can withstand the climate and water of the sea, frequent handling and remain intact. The red paint, which initially coats the container, aids in this. This paint can stay intact for up to 25 years without fading or chipping. The containers come in standard sizes of 20 or 40 feet
Two or more containers can also be joined if one wants a larger space.
“We used to make (refurbish) and deliver the containers, but now you have to pay deposit which is like the full amount of the container and a bit for the refurbishment. This is almost 80 per cent of the price. So that in case you back out we don’t end up losing a lot,” says Dennis Majani, the owner of Mauru Containers.
“Unscrupulous businessmen forced the company to take this route after some of them failed to deliver their end of the bargain after transactions,” he says.
“New containers are expensive but there are some people who prefer them, so they order in advance and we purchase for them,” says Keyombe. “Most organisations prefer them and they go for approximately Sh850,000 and old ones are approximately Sh480,000,” he says.
You need documents of ownership from the place you bought them. “We issue these documents and the sale agreement too. However, if you want a house/office/shop prefab we can do a floor sketch with you on your expectations. Then we take it to a professional architect who does the fine designing,” says Majani.
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“The input of an architect is important to ascertain if you what you plan to do is possible, especially in the case of a permanent container structure,” says Miloyo.