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Toronto Star – Storstac Container Homes and Tinyhomes Feature

Shipping Container home (s) are drawing more interest in Toronto

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The New Old Stock Designed; Storstac built; off-grid Shipping Container Tinyhome/Bunkie

Costs of Building Homes from recycled materials match price of traditional home construction

By: Tracy Hanes

Special to the Toronto Star

Five years ago, there had been virtually no interest in shipping container homes. Times have changed. “I get two to three queries a day about shipping container homes,” says David Pali, director of business development for Storstac (www.storstac.com), a Toronto company that modifies shipping containers and fabricates portable buildings. While most of Storstac’s business is for commercial or industrial clients (it has created a Tesla showroom and a shop for the Moss Park Market), it also creates residential projects, such as the addition to a Toronto residence/restaurant and a four bedroom house slated for downtown Hamilton.

Most shipping containers are used only one or twice to ship cargo before being abandoned in industrial yards or shipped back to China, where they are manufactured.

Storstac has been in business since 2003. Its president and founder, Vincent Ruggiero, has 40 years experience in the industry. He created ways to recycle discarded shipping containers. He also invented the first portable mini storage units and the first portable wireless telecommunication shelters for the companies that became Rogers, Telus and Fido; created hazardous material storage systems for Ontario Hydro; and created shelters for the Trans-Siberian Pipeline.

Toronto architect Jason Halter of Wonder Inc. Designed both the Hamilton home and two man caves for Hollywood producer Dan Lin, fabricated in Storstac’s yard and shipped to Los Angeles. Halter says shipping container buildings have been around for 25 years in the US.

While raw shipping containers are relatively inexpensive – about $17  a square foot – the other costs are similar to traditional home construction, so these types of homes don’t cost less to build, Pali Says. For example, “you have to do steel work, plus you still need interior stud walls, insulation and mechanical systems.” The Hamilton house for example, will cost about $175 a square foot.

The homes also have to meet zoning and building code requirements.

Storstac only uses containers made of corten (or weathering) steel. which is more resistant to atmospheric corrosion then cheaper “mild” steel. Storstac also has a Ministry of Environment-approved paint booth on site that warms the containers so paint will adhere properly and not peel.

Pali and Halter both expect interest in shipping container houses to continue to build. “they are fantastic building block,” says Pali. “They are stackable modular and movable.”

 

(On the weekend of Saturday October 1st 2016, Storstac was featured in 3 separate articles (including the front page article) in the Toronto Star Homes and Condos section regarding the shipping container homes and tinyhomes/bunkies we have built over the summer. This article featured here was a “special to the star” that was an in print exclusive)

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Storstac featured in the Toronto Star for various housing and tinyhome/bunkie container builds

 

PreFab Containers vs Local Shipping Container Modifications

Not Made in China

Storstac does all of its shipping container modification work at its fabrication facility in Toronto, Canada

Shipping container architecture or “cargotecture” as it is commonly refereed to in the shipping container industry has become quite popular in North America over the last few years. Using shipping containers as the frame work to build shipping container houses, bars, kitchens, cottages, offices etc. is currently more widely accepted and is gaining traction in North America. With this increased appeal and demand for modified shipping container structures there are more and more people out there using high end renderings to try and get their foot in the door in this growing industry. Typically, these prefab container re-sellers are small scale operations (1-3 people) made up of architects and sales professionals that use these renderings to sell prefabricated houses and cottages (among other things) to potential buyers. What most people don’t realize is the fact that these prefabricated buildings, although sold locally, are manufactured and prefabricated on an assembly line in China by a few large shipping container manufacturers (these re-sellers will often refer to the Chinese factories as “Their factory” or “Our Factory”). Although the price tag on these prefabricated shipping container projects is usually somewhat attractive (compared to modifying and fabricating the same thing in North America), that’s pretty much the only positive aspect of buying a prefabricated container building from china as apposed to buying it and having it modified and fabricated locally in North America.

  • Shipping Container…think again – Prefabricated Shipping Container Structures (including houses, cottages etc.). ARE NOT made from real shipping containers. They may look like real shipping containers, but they are not. They are built using different grades of steel and different grades of paint because they are not intended to be shipped on the ocean with cargo. Also, they are built with the various openings in place, they do not take a standard shipping container and cut the openings into them (say for windows, doors, staircases etc.). This means that over time, these prefabricated shipping container buildings will not age the same way a standard shipping container will age as they do not use the same grade of Corten steel that they use on their cargo bound shipping containers
  • Build Quality – China is known for mass producing various goods cheaper then anywhere else in the world. This is positive for things like electronics, clothing and other low cost goods, but China should be the last place you want your new home or cottage to be built. Overall building standards and quality of materials are much lower coming from China, then they are if they are sourced and built locally in Canada. China is NOT KNOWN FOR MANUFACTURING QUALITY GOODS, they are known for manufacturing goods for the LOWEST POSSIBLE COST. We have first hand experience with prefabricated shipping container structures and can attest to the fact that the over all build quality is extremely low. Prefab structure from china use only Chinese made products and materials. This means the interior and exterior materials like your siding, insulation, walls, floors, electrical, plumbing, kitchens, appliances, bathroom fixtures etc. will all be made in China (compared to a local fabricator like us who will source locally made insulation, walls, floors, electrical, plumbing, kitchens, appliances, bathroom fixtures etc. simply because that’s what’s available for purchase in North America).
  • Material Quality – As mentioned previously, prefabricated shipping container buildings from china are made with Chinese parts and steel. Here at Storstac all of our shipping container modifications use Canadian made parts and steels. Things like our doors, windows, steel (used for things like framing openings and reinforcing when required) are all made in Canada. This is a huge bonus because generally anything Made in Canada/ U.S.A. is usually superior then the same item Made in China regarding overall quality, durability and longevity. Also, if your brand new window has a defect, but its from china, how do you warranty that window for replacement?
  • Standards of Building – Building standards in Asia are vastly different then in Canada and North America as a whole. Door sizes, hallway widths, staircase clearance and even minimum clearances of doors and washroom fixtures are different in Asia then they are in North America and Canada. One overlook on say the size of your washroom or the position of the door, and your door might be opening right into the toilet or sink, (literally, we have seen this happen in the past).

Still not convinced that a locally designed and modified container structure is right for you? Feel free to pass by our office to talk with one of our modification experts on why your next project should be built right here in Toronto, Canada.

 

china factory

Shipping Container…Think Again.

China Prefab Factory

Prefab containers inside one of the largest prefab companies in China