Considering an Accessory Dwelling Unit? Try a Shipping Container

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are rapidly transforming backyards across the world. ADUs can provide affordable housing solutions, growing space for cramped homes and creative building opportunities for homeowners. 

Utilizing shipping containers for ADU construction can simplify the process of planning and building. Shipping containers serve as an excellent foundation to develop in-law suites, granny flats, home offices and whatever else your imagination can cook up.

If you want to learn more about shipping containers and accessory dwelling units, keep reading.

The team at Rent-A-Container provides affordable and high-quality shipping container solutions. Whether you are buying or leasing, we have containers to match any project. Reach out today at 800-880-7061.




What Is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

When it comes to ADUs, there’s a surprising amount of confusion around what exactly they are. Most definitions include a few common factors, though:

  • ADUs are independent residential dwelling units.
  • ADUs are standalone, internal or attached to a larger living space.
  • Some, if not all, will contain facilities like a kitchenette and a bathroom.

You have probably seen an ADU of some sort in your life. City planners often use the term ADU to describe any additional habitable space on a single-family plot. This definition encompasses all kinds of housing you might come across.

Garage apartments, basement apartments, carriage houses and tiny homes on foundations all fall under the ADU umbrella. 

Additionally, formal and informal ADUs exist — with informal meaning that the structure lacks the proper permitting. Most internal ADUs fall into the informal category, making it difficult to pinpoint an accurate estimate of the number of ADUs in the U.S.

Accessory dwelling units are a current rising trend in real estate, but these living spaces carry some cultural and historical significance as well. The idea of ADUs predates our modern perspective on housing and even the definition itself. 

Carriage houses, in particular, have long been a part of our pre-automotive past. Walk the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, or Washington, D.C., and you’ll find antique ADUs still holding strong as living spaces.

ADUs have come a long way since those humble colonial origins. Modern perspectives on the use of accessory dwelling units offer unique solutions for affordable housing, home additions and much more.


Uses for Accessory Dwelling Units

Because ADUs include a broad range of habitable structures, you can do almost anything with them. Essentially, they represent an addition to your home — a fully functioning unit packed with all the comforts of a larger living space.

Air conditioning, water access, plumbing and kitchenettes all make ADUs perfect for many different uses.


Multipurpose Small Outbuildings

A multipurpose small outbuilding is an ADU with a flexible purpose. Outbuildings can be fantastic additions to a home where space is at a premium.

Small outbuildings are useful for both urban and rural environments. Homesteaders, in particular, can find quite a lot of use in ADU outbuildings. When you need a potting shed at the beginning of the growing season, you’ve got the needed space. You can use your outbuilding to store hay, firewood or extra supplies.

Outbuildings are superior to sheds because they can function as a living space. Once you move all those fermenting beer bottles or whatever you have stored in the area out, you can house your in-laws and keep them comfortable.

After they leave, it’s easy to convert the space back into storage or whatever else you need the ADU for.


Granny Flats

Housing an aging population has been challenging. Researchers estimate only 10% of U.S. homes are up to the task of providing the elderly with safe living spaces.

To be ready for seniors, homes need:

  • Step-free entryways
  • Full bedroom and bathroom access on the first floor
  • At least one bathroom accessibility feature

Granny flats have long been a solution to this problem. ADUs provide the long-term solutions families need to house their aging relatives. ADUs have customizable floor plans and open construction options for accessibility, and they can be a few steps away from a larger residence.

Proximity is a key factor, as elderly care is often a stressful topic for families desperately trying to find affordable and humane solutions for their aging relatives. Granny flats allow for families to be close while still offering privacy and dignity. 


Affordable Housing Solutions

In the U.S., we need to find around 7 million homes to house extremely low-income families. ADUs can provide safe, habitable and, most importantly, affordable solutions for lower-income individuals and families.

Not only do they help maximize the usability of urban land plots, but ADUs minimize material use. With the cost of building materials skyrocketing, developers need to utilize low-cost housing solutions like ADUs. 

Additionally, ADUs using shipping containers as their base structure can significantly cut costs for materials, transportation and labor.


ADUs as Additions to Your Home

You might be looking for a simple addition to your home. If this is the case, then ADUs should be on your building radar.

From housing guests to providing much-needed at-home office space, what you decide to do with your ADU is up to you. You can think of some out-of-the-box ideas that are unique to you and your home.

Do you want a space to de-stress and meditate? Are you a musician who needs a recording studio away from the family? An ADU is the answer.


Benefits of Shipping Container ADUs

Shipping containers make the perfect platform for accessory dwelling units. Their open layout, rugged construction and minimal needs for site preparation make them the optimal choice for ADU construction.

With a mixture of sizes and types, shipping containers are the solution to almost any ADU project. Whether you are pining over a granny flat for your in-laws or a small outbuilding for extra space, ModoGo has the container solutions to meet your next project’s needs.


ADUs: A Growing Housing Trend

ADUs can meet the demands of many modern housing problems. With home prices rising faster than wages in most urban areas, finding affordable housing is one challenge. The other thorn in the side of the national housing industry is the cost and availability of skilled workers and materials.

When you use shipping containers as the base for ADU construction, you can help alleviate both the costs and construction limitations. This has led to a sharp rise in the popularity of accessory dwelling units.


Environmentally Friendly Housing

When it comes to tiny living, sustainability matters. A study by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality found that a single 2,300-square-foot home was responsible for 60% more emissions than a home half that size.

The math here is pretty simple. ADUs have a smaller footprint than traditional housing. Therefore, they use less energy for heating, lighting and other utilities.

Adding shipping containers to this equation gives you even more sustainable results. Since revamping a container is itself a form of recycling, it’s a double win for the environmentally conscious. 


Renting Out an Accessory Dwelling Unit

If you are looking for a passive income stream, renting out your ADU should be on the top of your list of ideas. You’ll want to check your local laws to determine the legality, though. Make sure to set some rules for your ADU before renting and have everything locked into a sound rental agreement. 

One area that often causes trouble for ADU rentals is how you decide to handle utilities. Since some cities don’t allow for separate metering units for ADUs, you’ll have to assess how to handle utility payments. You could charge a flat rate or include the price in rent. 

Another aspect of ADU rental that potential landlords overlook is privacy. Having a tenant so close to your home can be less than suitable for some families. Think about how comfortable you’ll be living in close proximity to your new neighbor. 


Legal Considerations for ADUs

Before you start planning your shipping container ADU, you’ll want to consult your city’s zoning laws and ordinances. Because ADUs are habitable living spaces, they are subject to specific laws regulating housing.

Zoning laws can be a particularly thorny issue. City planners use zoning laws to break up parcels of land for commercial and residential use. Within those zones can be sub-zones that further delineate what you can and can’t build in specific areas.

Understanding what zone you’re in is crucial to any ADU project. Some cities might welcome your ADU, while others will have strict laws forbidding them. Additionally, your city may allow ADUs but restrict full-time living in them.

Having a firm grasp of your local laws is the first step to any project. This understanding is especially important when considering building an ADU with shipping containers. 


Shipping Container as an ADU? Rent-A-Container Can Help

Accessory dwelling units serve many purposes. These small spaces can pack in all the necessities for comfortable living. From granny flats to small outbuildings, whatever purpose you want for your ADU, Rent-A-Container has the shipping containers to meet your needs.

We’re on standby to help you find the right container solutions for your next project. Contact us today to learn about your options.

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