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Mountain Home to explore shipping containers for housing, commercial buildings

Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams has announced that city officials will begin looking into creating ordinances to regulate the construction of residential and commercial buildings made from shipping containers.

The move to research shipping containers and their use as construction materials comes after Mayor Adams received several requests from developers in the area to construct homes from the metal containers.

“We’ve had some interest recently from more than one developer here to build some commercial stuff ranging from a coffee shop to housing. There’s been at least three requests,” said Mayor Adams during last Thursday’s City Council meeting.

While City Council has not signed off on any plans to allow shipping containers to be used within city limits, they did agree that the city should begin research into their use as building materials and how other cities throughout the country are regulating their use.

Greg Ifland, building inspector for Mountain Home, expressed his concerns about the paint and chemicals used on the containers as they travel across the planet’s vast oceans and seas.

“We’ve all been doing research, too,” said Ifland. “The floors are treated with some nasty stuff on these things. And if you want to close them up and make them homes, there’s a lot you’re going to have to do. A lot of the paints that they paint them with is bad for people because of the chemicals in them to keep them from corroding and all that stuff.”

Shipping containers have become a popular and cost-effective method of creating homes and commercial structures over the past decade or so. This popularity sky-rocketed again during the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic as people fled cities and built homes in suburbs and rural areas.

A shipping container home is a prefabricated structure built for another purpose originally, but is amenable to a new one. Because of their metal structure, homes built from containers are billeted as resistant to fire, durable and long-lasting, and “eco-friendly.”

A shipping container can cost anywhere from around $1,400 at the lower end to around $6,000 at the upper end, with small homes costing around $10,000-$40,000. Large shipping container homes run well over $100,000.

Malcolm McLean, an American trucker, first applied to patent the shipping container in 1954, and his invention has changed the way we live and trade. Today an estimated 90% of all goods pass through as many as 170 million shipping containers circulating around the world.

And increasingly, people are using them in ways their inventor could have never imagined. Houses, coffee shops, restaurants, offices, swimming pools, even a stadium for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, have been built out of shipping containers.

While no shipping container homes exist within Mountain Home’s city limits at this time, several homes and offices have been built with the metal structures throughout Baxter County.

“Well, the thing is, too, if you look at building costs now, I mean, this is something that utilizes the availability to add more residents or apartments. However, you want to do it,” said City Councilman Bob Van Haaren.

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