The Second Life of Shipping Containers
“Strong, stackable and mobile, the potential uses for out-of-service shipping containers are nearly unlimited – and, also, not well known. Maersk Line Container Sales, a new start-up company within Maersk Line, is betting on customers’ imagination, and big growth.”
Brad Berman bought his first used shipping container in June 2014. It was dented and scratched, the paint was falling off and there were bits of rust scattered over the surface but its looks meant nothing to him. The Cape Town native and real estate developer was looking at the start of his new business.
Today, Berman is the co-founder of Berman-Kalil Housing Concepts, a Cape Town-based company utilising old shipping containers to build a variety of structures but primarily inexpensive high-quality sustainable housing. In South Africa, a nation with high unemployment and an abundance of informal settlement-type housing, Berman hopes to make a difference, and a profit.
“The potential number of uses for containers is so big in a place like South Africa. There are so many settlements in my country that could be replaced by these container homes. But the combination of quality, durability and price make containers ideal for housing but also clinics, schools, stores, almost any structure,” he says.
South African company making shipping containers feel like a ‘real’ house
South Africa suffers from a huge housing shortage. Despite the state building more than 2.6 million homes since 1994 under its Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), the housing backlog is estimated at around 2.3 million families.
For those who do not qualify for a government-subsidised house and cannot afford the loan of an entry-level home, very few options are available.
However, Cape Town-based company, Berman-Kalil Housing Concepts, is looking to offer a sustainable housing solution through converting decommissioned shipping containers into low-cost homes.
The company was launched last year by entrepreneurs Brad Berman and Alicia Kalil, and while the concept of converting containers into homes is not new, the founders argue that no one is doing it like them. For example, their homes are designed so that no one could ever tell that they were ever once shipping containers.
Engineering News – February 2016 Front page featured article
Modular Building Blocks Cape Town-based container housing developer Berman-Kalil Housing co-founder Brad Berman says, after seeing container developments abroad, he decided to investigate the possibilities of this style of building in South Africa.
“Shipping containers are the most wonderfully diverse modular building blocks that modern life has to offer and the potential, particularly in remote parts of Africa, where building is a logistical challenge, is enormous,” he says. Berman adds that the company has a variety of suppliers of the different shipping containers that the company uses, and the containers vary in size.
“The vast majority of our shipping containers come from shipping group Maersk, which has a large network of depots all over South Africa and abroad, as well as the ability to get the completed products to wherever their final destination may be.”
The Cape Town container home on Homify
“South Africans are known for their innovation and daring, which is why it’s no surprise that the country is home to some of the most stunning architecture on the planet. However, have you ever seen anything like THIS before?
The Square Elephant is a luxury home with a difference—it’s made almost entirely of shipping containers! The architects and designers at Berman Kalil went above and beyond with this concept, and have turned what was once an item of pure functionality into a fully functioning home. Hidden away in the mountains outside Hermanus, it’s off the grid but still has all of the fixtures and mod cons that a modern family needs…”
Recent FNB data shows that South Africans living in the country’s most populated provinces can expect to pay well over a R1 million rand for a home, leaving many with no option but to turn to expensive rentals or alternative living arrangements.
Alicia Kalil, Co-Director, Berman-Kalil Housing Concepts speaks with Africa Melane about living in shipping containers.
Kalil lists these reasons why choosing to live in a shipping contain may be the way forward:
Affordability Our solutions are designed to keep costs down while still delivering superior products
Modular Containers can be used singularly, joined or stacked to get any size combination that is perfect for you.
Sustainability One can incorporate the our need for Sustainability into these products, with a range of options available to help save money while being kind to the environment
Weekend Argus 7 July 2017
Interview on Cliff Central
Building a home is a high cost. On today’s show the team brings you alternative building methods that are beautiful, cost-effective, luxurious and complement the environment and surroundings. Alternative buildings challenge the status quo of the South African construction industry, and it provides people with alternative building techniques…
Real Estate Investor Magazine – August 2017
A quick look around the Mother City and one begins to understand the problem with housing in South Africa ‒ and the environment to boot. Overpriced and undersized apartments, hour‒long commutes, and wasted land combine to create a perfect storm for a housing crisis. Add to this an ever‒growing tourism market, and it’s no wonder many are left scratching their heads for a solution.
Cape Town isn’t alone in this struggle. A global housing crisis has emerged, with a dramatic increase of those looking to move to urban areas. This has led to some interesting innovations ‒ and a shift in how accommodation is approached. One such example, popular in Europe, is the conversion of shipping containers into houses. An ideal low‒cost housing solution, recent years have seen it become a bit of a trend amongst the wealthy….
Cape Business News Article
Sustainability Products is the brainchild of three proudly South African entrepreneurs who are passionate about making a difference. The owners have extensive knowledge in construction and property management, with each bringing their own unique skills to the business.
To provide beautiful, quality housing that is manufactured with sustainability and the preservation of the planet in mind…
Sunday Times Article 3rd December 2017
Expresso Show Live interview – 25 January 2018
Alicia Kalil from Berman-Kalil Housing Concepts, shared more on the pros and cons of building with shipping containers and if this trend of stacked steel boxes really is the future for building homes.