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Home   »   Articles   »   Reincarnating Shipping Containers : Instant Construction Site Storage
Reincarnating Shipping Containers : Instant Construction Site Storage
by Deb Andrews  |  3rd May 2013  |  Landscaping

After you have bought your piece of beachfront or rainforest land on a Caribbean island, and whilst your plans are being approved by the Local Planning Authority, there is so much to do before you can actually start construction.  Finding an architect, reviewing estimates from contractors, and a hundred and one other tasks, and during this phase the subject of onsite security and storage looms large.

Consider this...why not purchase a shipping container and have it placed on the property? Penny for penny this is cheaper, its an instant storage solution and a much more durable option than a lock up wooden hut.  
Of course, you will bring many or even all of your worldy goods in a shipping container to your new property, but as this will be stuffed to the gunwails with your much loved goods and chattels, as well as all the new items you have bought, it will be no good as part of the building process where it can be so useful.  
If you do want to keep it after it has done its shipping duty, to use onsite, then make sure you tell your shippers that you wish to buy the container and that the price is clearly stated and included on your invoice.  It is not usual practice for the delivery crew at the other end to leave the container behind when they deliver it to your property, and you MUST have the paperwork to prove that you have already purchased it.
Empty containers are not so easy to find in the smaller islands, but your local shipping office will help you buy one if you cannot find a second hand one in the local paper.  Depending on condition, availability and geography, an  empty container will cost you anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000 to buy and install on your property.  40 ft containers are easier to find than the 20 ft ones, but in many cases a 20 ft may be the largest you can get to your property, if it's down a narrow track, or the largest you can fit on your property, if there isn't much flat land near a good road or track to site your container.
Decide where you want to place your container bearing in mind that when it has fulfilled its initial purpose you might want to keep it for dry storage of gardening tools and equipment,  general storage or for Phase 2 of the building programme.  What you don't want to do is have to move it later on, bringing a large crane in and destroying the landscape and gardens.
Before arrival day take some time to measure out a flat spot, and place or cast solid concrete supporting blocks where each of the containers hold-down castings will lie.  Ensure that all supports are absolutely flat and well supported, so that they wont sink under the combined weight of the container and its planned contents, which may include tons of cement and steel reinforcing bars amongst many other lighter materials.
Your container will have to be lifted and craned into position.   So make sure you have the parking/working space to get both the crane vehicle and the container on the low-loader side by side.  The crane will then lift the container, swing it and place it on the blocks that you have set out already for its permanent position.   Both these vehicles are going to need around 60 ft of turning space.
Separate cranes have a big swing area and give you more opportunity to place your container on a higher slope and at a greater distance from the road.   But if you dont have the flat space for two large vehicles side by side then hire a container truck which comes with an integral crane for a 20 foot container with a limited reach that can usually only place the container very close to the truck, or place a fully empty container about 8 to 10 feet from the truck.  

Once your container is in place you should go up on the roof and check for dings and even holes in the container.

Patch with filler and paint as needed.  Many people add a separate sloping corrugated iron roof at this stage, to ensure that water does not sit in pools and either find a way through to the container, or breed mosquitoes.

But also a pitched secondary roof keeeps the container cooler on those hot sunny Caribbean days.  A temporary container should not be a problem with Planning Authorities, even though temporary might be 20 years or more.
Throughout the construction phase the presence of the container means that all site equipment and supplies are secured every night.  In very bad weather wooden site storage and temporary workshops may get flooded  out or blown down, whereas containers are very secure even in a hurricane.
It is possible to buy refrigerated containers if you want to use the container as an office or working space, or even as somewhere to live temporarily. However you are unlikely to want to use the diesel air conditioning system, as a wall mounted elecrical system will provide a better climate and be more economical to run and far less noisy.
When the house is built and the container no longer full of cement, wood, paint, steel and glass it can make a very useful garden shed and especially if painted in camouflage green and well obscured by bushes and shrubs!!

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