Are Shipping Container Homes Earthquake Proof?

Several disaster-stricken countries around the world have been looking to shipping containers as a solution to emergency housing for earthquake-prone areas. Shipping container homes are said to withstand hurricanes, earthquakes, and wind speeds of 175 miles per hour. Not only this, but their affordability, portability, and ability to be powered off-grid makes container homes a great solution for households surviving the aftermath of calamities.

Image from Shipping Container Homes & Buildings: Earthquake-Resistant Modular Shipping Container Home (prefabcontainerhomes.org)

As shipping container homes are still relatively new and still under consideration of being integrated into building code, this piece will look into different examples of shipping containers used as a response to earthquakes around the world.

Global Case Studies of Container Homes

Several earthquake-prone countries around the world are experimenting with shipping container homes as their structural integrity and affordability may pose a solution to disaster stricken structures.

Even famous architectural firms all over the world are either using shipping containers as a solution for private homeowners wanting an earthquake resilient home or as emergency shelters for disaster prone areas.

Architect Carla Gautier Castro of Puerto Rico sees shipping container homes taking off to address homes being lost in natural disasters and as a way to meet the housing demands of global migration. She states shipping container homes can stand against hurricanes and earthquakes, withstanding winds of over 175 miles per hour. (1)

Furthermore, she points out that shipping container homes can also be designed in a way that they are not dependent on your local power grid. It is easier to integrate a solar panel (PV) power system and rainwater recycling tank. This is a great advantage as power loss is a common occurrence household often experience after calamities. (1)

The portability of container homes can also be beneficial should the homeowners eventually decide they need to relocate.

Above all, container homes are relatively more affordable than those traditionally stick-built. This makes container architecture more appealing when deciding what to rebuild with on a lower budget.

Architect Castro’s earthquake-proof container home below consists of three 20-foot and two 40-foot shipping containers. The clients requested an affordable, earthquake-proof home that could be constructed quickly. The home totaled to around $75,000 USD and was built in three months. (2)

Image from Shipping Container Homes & Buildings: Earthquake-Resistant Modular Shipping Container Home (prefabcontainerhomes.org)

Shipping containers are also looked at as a response to a housing crisis in Haiti. Studies from Clemson University have looked into using container homes as emergency shelters against big hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean. Consequently, they found container homes would perform well against earthquake prone sites as well. Indeed, other countries have been utilizing shipping containers as emergency shelters from earthquakes.  (3)


“Because of the shipping container’s ‘unibody’ construction they are also very good in seismic zones and exceed structural code in the United States and any country in the world,” – Haiti earthquake: Converting shipping containers into emergency housing — ScienceDaily (3)

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Pritzker award-winning architect, Shigeru Ban has chosen shipping containers for a temporary housing project for Fukushima. Japan is notoriously known for having several earthquakes regularly. However, some provinces are also bound by several mountains, making flat land sparse and precious. Therefore Shigeru Ban architects quickly constructed a multi-story housing complex of six buildings, with three stories each. The structures would only stack up to three stories to address the density while keeping the buildings low enough to still be resilient to earthquakes.

This aimed to give disaster relief to 144 families in Ogawa and can accommodate a total of 188 homes. The complex comprises a market, a library, and even an assembly area. Despite it being built for temporary residents, homeowners are given the option to stay on a permanent basis. (4)

A Structure That is Safe and Sound

As we can glimpse from the examples cited, shipping container homes are being looked at and used as a solution to earthquake prone areas at a global scale. Not only that, but specifically in countries that are known for suffering from earthquakes on a regular basis. 

Therefore, we can safely assume that shipping containers perform relatively well in earthquakes among the different types of home construction available. It also renders beneficial in post-disaster situations, being able to live off the grid and be non-reliant on any power systems should they fail mid-calamity. Worst case scenario, you also have the option to pack up your container home and relocate!

References

  1. Are Container Homes Ideal for Earthquakes and Hurricanes? (amobilebox.com)
  2. Shipping Container Homes & Buildings: Earthquake-Resistant Modular Shipping Container Home (prefabcontainerhomes.org)
  3. Haiti earthquake: Converting shipping containers into emergency housing — ScienceDaily
  4. shigeru ban: earthquake relief shipping container houses (designboom.com)