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Published: June 15, 2023

Workforce Housing: A Solution that Won’t Box You In

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Modified shipping containers have great potential to address the issue of workforce housing by providing an affordable, sustainable, and adaptable building material. Their solid construction, small footprint, and endless modification potential offer benefits for both workforces and employers looking to house workforces in a variety of industries.

Types of Workforces Needing Flexible Housing

Of course, not all workforces require on-site or near-site housing. It is a requirement unique to certain workforces, including but not limited to seasonal workers, mobile businesses, workforces whose numbers fluctuate throughout the year, and workforces in remote areas. 

Seasonal Workforces

Seasonal workers often require short-term or temporary housing during peak work periods. This can include agricultural workers, tourism industry employees, or construction workers. The seasonality of these industries also results in fluctuating workforce populations, meaning housing solutions need to be cost-effective and easily adaptable to accommodate more or fewer people. Even though these workforces are often in need of housing for just a few weeks or months, they still need access to essential facilities like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry that are critical to comfort and well-being during the work season.

Mobile Workforces

Mobile workers, such as those in the construction, entertainment, or research industries, may require housing solutions that can be easily transported and set up in different locations. A housing solution for your workforce should be self-sufficient, providing amenities like kitchens, bathrooms, and sleeping quarters within the unit itself. Access to utilities like electricity and water is also essential for many mobile workforce accommodations.

Workforces with Fluctuating Numbers

Similar to seasonal workforces, industries with fluctuating workforce numbers require housing solutions that can quickly adjust to accommodate varying personnel. Housing options allowing for flexible expansion or contraction to match workforce demand is ideal for growing and shrinking workforce populations. Common facilities like dining areas, recreational spaces, and meeting rooms may be desirable as they promote community and collaboration, which is often difficult with people coming and going regularly as opposed to a static team. 

Workforces in Remote Areas

Housing solutions for remote area workforces, such as oil rig workers or researchers in remote locations, should prioritize self-sustainability, including renewable energy sources and efficient water management systems. Housing should also be resilient and be designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, often equipped with backup power and communication systems due to lack of access in remote areas. 

Benefits of Housing in Modified Storage Containers

Using modified storage containers to accommodate workforce housing needs has many benefits including safety, comfort, mobility, affordability, and a small footprint. 

Safety

As they’re made of steel with solid, reinforced construction, shipping container housing offers superior structural Integrity. Shipping containers are designed to withstand harsh conditions, making them sturdy and resistant to natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires. Containers can also be adapted to ensure security from things like intrusion and burglary with certain modifications. Reinforced doors, windows, and locks can be easily added to enhance the safety and security of the occupants.

Comfort

Shipping container housing is regularly fitted with insulation and climate control. Proper insulation can be installed to regulate temperature, making the container comfortable in various climates, as well as adaptable to seasonal changes. Windows and vents can be added to enhance airflow and provide ample natural light, creating a pleasant living environment similar to traditional housing structures.

Mobility

Modified shipping containers are designed for transportation, allowing for easy relocation if needed. They can be transported by trucks, ships, or trains, making them suitable for temporary or mobile workforce housing solutions.

Affordability

Using shipping containers as building blocks for housing units significantly reduces construction costs compared to traditional housing. Containers are readily available and can be repurposed quickly, saving on materials and labor.

Small footprint

Containers offer incredible space efficiency and provide a compact living space while still offering essential amenities such as kitchens, bathrooms, and sleeping areas. Repurposing shipping containers also helps to reduce waste by giving them a new purpose. Their small size compared to many permanent structures allows for minimal disturbance to the natural environment during construction, which is particularly beneficial in remote areas.

Modified Shipping Container Configurations for Workforce Housing

Single-Unit

Individual shipping containers can be transformed into self-contained housing units. These units can be complete with basic amenities such as a living area, kitchenette, bathroom, and sleeping quarters. The container can be insulated, fitted with appropriate windows for natural light and ventilation. Additionally, they can be equipped with electrical and plumbing systems to ensure a comfortable living space.

Stacked

Shipping containers can be stacked or combined horizontally and vertically to create multi-level housing complexes. This allows for scalability and the accommodation of a larger number of residents within a compact footprint. Stacking containers can be designed to include common areas, such as shared kitchens, communal spaces, and recreational facilities. These common areas foster a sense of community among the workforce residents.

Clusters

Multiple shipping containers can be arranged in a clustered configuration, forming a small community of workforce housing units. These clusters can be designed with shared outdoor spaces, gardens, or common facilities to encourage interaction and a sense of belonging among residents.

Hybrid structures

Shipping containers can be integrated with traditional building materials to create hybrid structures. Containers can be used as the framework or structural elements while conventional materials like wood or concrete are use for the interior finishes. This hybrid approach allows for customization, design flexibility, and the integration of specific features or architectural elements.

Mobile units

Shipping containers optimized for mobility and can be transported to different locations as workforce housing demands change. This flexibility makes them suitable for temporary workforce accommodations in industries such as construction, disaster relief, or remote project sites.

An employee leaves the second story of a stacked shipping container workforce housing site.

Compliance Considerations When Using Shipping Containers for Workforce Housing

Like any housing options, storage container housing needs to be compliant with local, state, and federal laws to avoid complications. Examples include:

  • Building codes and regulations - Building codes and zoning regulations vary by region and may apply to shipping containers converted for workforce housing.
  • Structural modifications - Any modifications must adhere to engineering and structural standards to ensure safety and integrity of the unit.
  • Electrical and plumbing systems - It is often mandated that electrical and plumbing work be done by locally licensed professionals who are familiar with local regulations.
  • Accessibility and safety - Required safety and accessibility features include things like ramps, minimum door widths, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and emergency exits.
  • Permits and certifications - Permits may apply to things like occupancy limits and must be acquired to be sure that the housing is legally compliant.

Could Shipping Containers Be the Answer to Your Workforce Housing Needs?

The modification potential of shipping containers makes them an excellent option for workforce housing. Housing needs are unique to every business and industry. M1 Containers has the expertise to develop the best solution for you. Contact M1 Containers today to discuss your options for shipping container customization.

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