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Container homes are becoming increasingly popular in different states and counties across the U.S.
Around 30 million ISO standard intermodal shipping containers are used worldwide today. These containers are generally repurposed and converted for occupancy as per the design recommendations and specifications provided by the International Residential Code (IRC) and the International Building Code (IBC).
In addition to these codes, each state has its local permits and regulations.
Due to the increasing demand for shipping container homes and the need for considering container construction in applicable codes and regulations, the International Code Council (ICC) released the G5-2019 Guideline for the Safe Use of ISO Intermodal Shipping Containers Repurposed as Buildings and Building Components, followed by a new section for container construction in IBC 2021, in Chapter 31-Special Construction.
This article briefs the guidelines and regulations specified by IBC 2021 to use intermodal shipping containers as buildings or as a part of the structure.
IBC 2021 for Intermodal Shipping Container Buildings
The latest International Building Code (IBC 2021) has included section 3115 in chapter 31, exclusively for intermodal shipping container building construction.
Note: Section 3115.1 of chapter 31 provides certain exceptions that mention the details of containers that require other code references and standards for their construction.
Construction Documents for Container Home Construction
In addition to normal building construction documents prepared for building permits, container home construction requires a few additional documents, as mentioned in Chapter 31 of IBC 2021. The construction documents necessary for shipping container building construction require the following information:
- Information to verify the dimensions of the containers
- Information to establish the physical properties of the intermodal shipping container's steel components and its wood floor components.
- All the submittal documents as per Section 107 of IBC. This consists of construction documents which include the statement of inspections, geotechnical reports, and structural information.
In addition, as per Section 1603 of IBC, construction documents must include information for the structural design of shipping container home construction. These include the design loads on the container, the structural design of foundations, the walls, etc. as per Section 3115 of IBC 2021.
Requirements of Intermodal Shipping Containers
The intermodal shipping containers used for construction should designate the below-mentioned information as required by ISO 6346, verified by an approved agency.
A complete report is made on the verification process and the findings. The details of intermodal shipping containers must include the following information:
- Manufacturer's name or identification number
- Date of manufacture
- Safety approval number
- Identification number
- Maximum operating gross mass or weight in kg or lbs
- Allowable stacking load for 1.8G in kg or lbs
- Traverse racking test force in Newtons
- Valid maintenance examination date
All the above details of the intermodal shipping container are examined and approved by the building official. After which, the markings and the existing data plate on the container are removed before they are taken for repurposing.
Zoning Laws for Container Homes
The above code requirements ensure the structural integrity of container homes for the safety of the inhabitants and the surrounding occupants. In addition, there are zoning laws, where zoning refers to the segmenting of land into sections that specify the type of construction that can be performed.
Zoning laws vary for each state, and hence before planning for container home construction, it is necessary to check whether container homes are permitted in the proposed site. Zoning restrictions are categorized based on the type of construction and the location of the proposed site.
The majority of the U.S. states do have container home ordinances. However, in addition to the IBC code rules, different countries or cities have different rules and regulations for constructing shipping containers. So along with IBC codes, the local and state building codes must be checked to obtain container building permits.
International Building Code (IBC) 2021 edition gives the standard rules and regulations for intermodal shipping container building construction. The details are provided in Chapter 31, Section 3115 of IBC 2021. In addition, based on the type and location of the project, the International Residential Code (IRC) and the state and local rules and regulations are applicable.
As per IBC 2021, the details of intermodal shipping containers required to get a container building permit are:
1. Manufacturer's name or identification number
2. Date of manufacture
3. Safety approval number
4. Identification number
5. Maximum operating gross mass or weight in kg or lbs
6. Allowable stacking load for 1.8G in kg or lbs
7. Traverse racking test force in Newtons
8. Valid maintenance examination date