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Council Approval For Container Homes In South Australia – Is it Important?

If you are from South Australia, you probably came here to find an answer to the question, “Do you need council approval for container homes in South Australia?” We shall answer this question momentarily but first, let’s talk about shipping container homes.

Container homes in South Australia are gaining popularity. This is partly due to the fact that shipping containers have uses beyond the sea and the port. People buy them for storage, and sometimes it is possible to make homes out of them.

These containers can build main houses and outbuildings such as barns or garages. Some people build their barns, storage units, and smaller buildings using containers after making their main houses using traditional materials.

Whatever you intend to use the containers for, they are a new phenomenon, and the regulations around their use are not always clear.

Shipping Container Homes

Shipping containers come in various standard sizes. The sizes are as follows, 10ft, 20ft, and 40ft; the width for all of them is 10ft. This means that the smallest of these containers has 100 square feet of floor space, enough space for one person to live without any problems.

You can combine several containers to increase the floor capacity to whatever area you want. Also, when put together by an expert, some of the shipping container homes in South Australia are architectural marvels. The creativity with which these homes are being made makes them seem like a real alternative to traditional houses.

Advantages for Container Homes in South Australia

1. They are Easy to Position and Move.

One of the reasons shipping container homes are so good is that most of them are easy to move, especially when they aren’t too complex. After you have set the foundation in place, all you need is to lift the container and position it on the location where you want it. Moving them is as easy as it is to set them.

2. They Have Predictable Costs.

When building a traditional house, you are never sure when the prices of certain materials will change, usually upwards. There are too many moving parts involved for the price to be predictable. Some of these moving parts include the price of individual materials, the cost of transport, labor costs, etc.

On the other hand, a container home is quite simple to price because all you need to know is the price of a container, and you have about 90% of the cost of the entire house. With a container house, therefore, you can quickly know if you have enough money or not.

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3. They are Recycled.

Sea containers used in building homes were initially used in the shipping industry. And therefore using them to build homes is recycling them. Container houses, therefore, don’t just provide the best homes for the people who use them. They are also good for the environment.

4. Container Homes Take a Short Time to Build.

Container houses make for excellent temporary homes because they are easy to build. People who have lost their homes and need an alternative place to stay can have temporary homes made for them within a few hours.

Such ensures that people get sheltered quickly in emergency cases such as natural disasters. The versatility of moving them is another factor contributing to containers’ speed of construction.

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Some Disadvantages of Container Homes in South Australia

1. They Aren’t Always the Most Effective Recycling Option.

If using containers for the building is recycling, then using them for construction isn’t the best approach. For a container to make a good house, it needs to be in reasonably good shape.

If, therefore, the container has only been used for shipping a few times before being used for building, then recycling them at that point wouldn’t be necessary. It might be more prudent to keep using it in shipping.

If, on the other hand, the container has been used to the end of its usefulness, it wouldn’t make a habitable house. The condition of the container used to make a home is one of the factors local authorities consider when approving container buildings.

2. Shipping Containers are Structurally Weak.

The corners of shipping containers are very strong, but the roof isn’t as robust. The weakness of the roof is especially an issue in winter because it will have to carry the weight of snow.

You can mitigate this situation by installing a pitched roof over your container home. The relevant authorities would like to ensure that the roof you install can withstand the elements and keep the occupants safe.

The other point of weakness comes when you cut a window or a door on any side of the container; having the sides in their pristine condition is why the sides remain strong. This means that the sides have to be reinforced after the sides have been cut.

Putting high-quality welding anywhere the containers touch is necessary if it isn’t on the corners. The structural integrity of buildings is one of the considerations made by governments when approving buildings. The government of SA is likely to have something to say about building quality.

3. Are Shipping Container Homes Safe to Live in?

Other factors to consider when approving a container home besides its structural integrity. The following two are the most important.

  • What the container was used to transport: Shipping containers are used to carry all manner of things, from harmless things such as food items, furniture, vehicles, etc., to more dangerous cargo such as agrichemicals and other highly toxic products.

    It is vital to have the complete chain of custody of any container you want to convert into a home so that you may know where it is from and what it transported. If there was toxic cargo, find out whether it can be cleaned properly and use a professional cleaner to sanitize it.
  • Paint on the container: Shipping containers aren’t originally intended to be homes, the paint used on them is, therefore, industrial, and it may contain elements that aren’t healthy for a residential house.

    Some of these harmful substances can include heavy metals such as lead, and it is a well-established fact that long-term exposure to such elements can lead to serious health challenges. You can make the container safe by scrubbing off the industrial paint and giving it a coat of residential house paint.
  • Insulation: These containers are metallic, which can get very hot or freezing depending on the weather. In South Australia, the temperatures can get quite extreme, making the house unsafe. Insulating shipping container homes in Australia and elsewhere can be challenging due to its narrow shape.

    Too much insulation on the inside can eat up space, thus reducing the building’s floor space. Ensure that you insulate the building from the inside using a high R-value per inch insulator. One of the most commonly used insulators is polyurethane spray foam.
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Container Homes and Approvals

Shipping containers are more readily available for uses other than shipping than they have ever been. They are easy to use when making out-building in homes and commercial enterprises, and in some instances, they are cheaper.

There are increasing instances where these containers are used to build the main buildings, and shipping container homes for sale in Australia are now mainstream in the construction industry.

Physical Planning Challenge

This new development has come with new physical planning challenges, and some local authorities have made it necessary to get approval for the containers.

Considerations for licenses are, sometimes, different for container homes from the considerations for traditional buildings, but some parameters are the same.

In some instances, local governments have rewritten their by-laws due to the lack of revenue occasioned by these containers. They weren’t captured in the traditional definition of buildings, and they, therefore, couldn’t be taxed.

This negatively affected the amount of money governments collected as revenues from this stream.

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Container Home Movement

Container homes are a development that has taken root worldwide, and South Australia isn’t exempted from it. Building regulations and approvals in South Australia mainly preserve cities and towns. They make relevant by-laws and manage licenses.

Although this is the case, the State Government has a role in legislation and regulations at a higher level. There are, therefore, two tiers of regulation; state level and local level. In some instances, there are laws at a national level. 

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Container home in South Australia
Shipping container home made out of 40 feet shipping containers

State Laws

From a legislative perspective, the state considers shipping containers to be buildings according to the definition given by the Development Act of 1993. The act defines a building as follows:

“A building or structure, or a portion of a building or structure, whether temporary or permanent, moveable or immovable”

This means the container is likely to require approval if it is to be allowed to remain on the property. On the other hand, local governments have roles in defining what a temporary building is and a permanent structure. They are also responsible for the finer details on the requirements for approval for permanent and temporary installations. But what are the critical issues in container approvals?

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Development Approvals Usually Hinge on Three Questions;

  1. What effect will the container, if used as an out-building, have on other buildings in the property? Is it going to compromise the safety of residents? Will it impede access, especially by vulnerable people?
  2. Is the container appropriate for the zone? According to international best practices, urban centers in South Australia zone their suburbs, and installing containers may be inappropriate for specific zones. As we shall see later, there may be conditions on which container you can put where and how you can position it to be acceptable.
  3. Is the container safe for human living? Earlier on, we talked about the safety of container buildings. Cities employ engineers and related experts to see if the facility meets the standards of safety for the purpose for which it is meant.

Size, Color, and Condition of the Shipping Container.

Other conditions inform approval of container homes in South Australia or lack of it. They include the container’s size vis a vis the size of the property on which it is to seat and what other facilities have been put on the space. The color of the container may be another consideration. This depends on the zone’s rules where the container building is located.

Age of the Shipping Container.

The vast majority of the shipping containers used in this manner are not new; they have been used elsewhere. If the container you suggest use is old and beaten up, the authorities may not approve its use in your location.

The considerations above are only applicable when the container needs approval. There are instances when the license may not be necessary.

For example, if the property on which you want to put your container already has an approved building, you may not need further approval. In this instance, you need to ensure no significant changes regarding the building’s accessibility or other essential features.

Ilegal to Spend the Night in a Shipping Container Without Approval.

According to the laws in South Australia, you can use a container to store materials when constructing an approved building. In this instance, you don’t need approval for the container. It is, however, illegal for a person to spend a night in a container.

The law states that the container must be removed from the property when the building is completed unless you have obtained separate approval for it. These are the general statewide rules, but each local authority has its own rules for approval.

Know the Rules of Your Locality

It is essential to know the rules that apply in the locality where you want to position your container home before putting it in place. If you don’t know the rules beforehand, you may end up doing the wrong things only to suffer loss later.

From reading these regulations, you may have noticed that they are pretty reasonable, and they are meant for the best. That’s a good reason to cooperate with a good attitude.

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