In contrast to that, our local school additions were a snap. They were prefabs that just needed to be dropped onto slabs.
I think there is a definite hipster trendiness to some uses of containers. It's the typical hype, trough cycle where it's being used in novel ways but also not so good effective ways in other cases.
And once you're done with that you run into humidity and ventilation issues. There's a reason people generally only use them for storage containers. If you want a building you can occupy there's cheaper and easier ways to do it.
Watching that series reminds you of what a huge bureaucratic nightmare looks like.
Search for "Modern home project" on YouTube.
Have been considering what it would take to get zoning laws preventing tiny homes changed in less popular locales.
Instead of tiny homes, try thinking within the regulatory box of "classifies as an RV or towed camper". That might allow you to bypass some of the other limitations you were facing.
They still seemed poorly laid out with crummy bathrooms (in this case, no piped water and a terlet that was basically an indoor plastic porta-potty) but I did admire the law-skirting.
There can also be avoidance of property taxes in some states I believe.
You're right though, I think the key to making this work without trying to get laws changed is finding the right combination of laws and solution/use case that remains within the regulations. This is definitely doable in certain locales and not in others. If I'm really going to make what I wanted to do work, I will have to find the right balance of factors.
I was so surprised when I started reading zoning rules for plots of land that I was looking at to build a tiny house - some had minimum home size requirements, others had explicitly outlawed the use of any such wheeled dwelling precisely to prevent people from doing what you said. Some of the larger plots of land that were quite inexpensive required a 2,000sqft and up dwelling to be built if they were purchased and used for residential purposes!
This means having it sitting on, rather than attached to, the ground, and having some "skids" on the piles.
Statewide legislation is probably the way to go. Doing it city by city is a huge slog, and I don't think anything's likely to happen nationwide for a while (but who knows).
Network with like-minded people:
* YIMBY groups in your area
* Strong Towns: https://www.strongtowns.org/
But...I really liked the idea of the above ground septic drain field.
Drop a bunch of old containers into a tent city and all of a sudden it's much harder for the authorities to bulldoze.
(I'd tend to agree.)
They really filled a gap.
In fact, any HN reader who didn't think that should be perma banned ;)
Shipping containers may be the answer to what I consider a plague on the average American: minimum-sized homes. You can't live in a tiny home in America, because all homes are regulated to be a minimum size, rooted to a concrete slab, with a bevy of other regulations. So you have to choose between throwing your money away on renting, or buying an overpriced, unnecessarily large home.
A shipping container is small, incredibly strong, and unlikely to fly away under strong winds. They're also modular, which makes them adaptable. And they can be stacked, creating multiple floors without any extra engineering. You could easily expand your home's footprint whenever you could afford it!
For people who just want affordable housing, they're kind of amazing. Who cares if they don't look pretty? Build a facade! We did it in the 1950's with formstone, when people thought brick looked cheap and ugly. Maybe the editor can slap some fake bricks on the outside of the container and call it retro-modern.
This isn't an academic's whim. Shipping containers are not designed or adequate for residential use. This does not change if you enumerate other examples of awful living conditions.
Plus I would wonder what, if any coatings were on the shipping containers, and if they were toxic, and do they degrade over time.
Plus wood is significantly easier to work with.
Really what I would have wanted to see is people handling disposal of containers and then using the broken down materials to build a structure and/or just being smarter about reclaiming the material, but I haven't seen that come up in passively looking into it.
Shipping containers on the other hand are cheap, easily available and proven.
Why is that a concern? There are plenty of people who are more than capable of designing and constructing buildings. Even if you need to pay for their expertise, their work costs a fraction of the total building cost.
For instance, if you try to stack your shipping containers any way but "directly square on top of each other, bordered by other shipping containers", you need to start over from scratch. All of those fancy stacks with one container crossing or bridging another come with lots of additional structural engineering to create the impression of whimsy. Or if you cut a big hole in one side of a shipping container to create a nice big picture window, whoops, you've destroyed the integrity of the container. Or you try to stack too much weight in the center of the top of the container, and no, that doesn't work either because the weight is supposed to be transmitted through the corners and sides.
You can do that to anything, even cardboard boxes taken out of the dumpster. That doesn't mean they are adequate living spaces.
If you do want to use a plasma cutter (which I admit would be a more pleasant way of doing the job), you can rent a good one for a couple of hundred bucks a week, or buy a crap one at Lowes or Home Depot for $200-300.
Unless you want windows, or a staircase between your floors... Now you're cutting holes in the thing and you've lost your stackability guarantee. Better call the engineer after all.
Arguing that shipping containers are the solution for the housing problem is like arguing frozen steaks are the best way to get a patient temperature down.