How businessmen are building homes, one container at a time

By - Jan 1st 1970

DUNCAN MAJANI and BEN PHILIP saw a gap in the low-cost homes market and decided to strike while the iron was still hot. They spoke to SILAS NYAMWEYA:

Tell us about your journey in the refurbished housing container business.

In 2010, we established Premium Containers to sell and supply shipping containers. The job entailed storing containers in transit from Mombasa to various locations throughout East and Central Africa. Clients in Nairobi would pick up containerised cross-border orders from our Embakasi location.

Co-Founder Duncan Majani

After noticing a gap in the low-cost housing market, we formally launched container refurbishment services two years later. Since then, we haven’t looked back. Since then, we’ve advanced the fabrication of the same into a plethora of designs based on client requirements. While our client list is endless, we are proud to say we serve both local and international clients.

Why do you think refurbished container houses are a viable option for Kenyans?

Thanks to shipping containers, more schoolchildren are now protected from the harsh weather conditions of sun, rain, and wind. It’s worth noting that these are ready in a matter of weeks. Container classrooms and container houses are less expensive, faster to build, long-lasting housing and education solutions that have been embraced by an incredible number of institutions, corporations, organisations, and individuals.

With proper maintenance and care, these can last a century. So, if you want to engage new frontiers in your next construction project, this is a viable option to consider because there is plenty of expertise to get you exactly what you want. Most homes and schools now have houses, classrooms, offices, and staff quarters thanks to container fabrication solutions, a development that would have been impossible with traditional, costly, and time-consuming brick and mortar.

Who are your main clients?

Schools and colleges, landlords and real estate organisations, non-governmental organisations involved in providing education facilities in Kenya, and NGOs involved in advancing education and housing are among our clients. Others include religious organisations that provide housing and education services, Saccos, businesses, and corporations that provide staff and rental housing.

A Container classroom.

How do you value these properties?

Building costs for houses and classrooms are determined by design and specifications. For example, the number of bedrooms, the types of doors and windows (such as French doors/windows and aluminium sliding doors/windows), the type of floor and so on. In contrast to one-level structures, some clients prefer structures with first and second floors, which require staircases, balconies, protective barriers, and so on. It’s a whole different world.

How has the market reacted thus far?

We are astounded by Kenyans’ enthusiasm for containers and container structures. The same is true for non-Kenyans who live, work, or invest in Kenya. This is due to the availability and low cost of shipping containers, as well as the short timeframes in which houses and schools are built. An institution’s entire set of 8 classes can be set up in less than a month.

How do you reach out to your customers?

The internet is our first and most effective outreach platform. We have created Premium Containers Kenya profiles with the same name on Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. On the ground, we disseminate information and raise awareness through placards, posters, catalogues, paper slips, business cards, and hard copy company profiles. We also do adverts via local radio, internet, and TV.

Why do you think Kenyans should embrace container dwellings?

Simple; they are significantly less expensive than traditional brick and mortar, and they are modern, modular (expandable), and refreshing. They are also attractive.

What are your main challenges in this business?

The primary issue is market perception. Clients frequently compare shipping container structures to traditional tin mabati structures. It is easy to confuse the two due to their rough surfaces and the fact that shipping containers are made of steel rather than iron. Another, possibly more serious challenge is the con artists and swindlers in the market.

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