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7 Key Advantages of Container Fabrication in Kenya & Eastern Africa

Proper and efficient construction is an art that requires foresight, clarity, and the ability to envision the end result from the beginning. It involves optimizing the use of space, adhering to timelines, and managing finances effectively.

In Kenya, the fabrication of shipping containers is revolutionizing the construction industry by promoting proper and efficient building practices.

Clients are now achieving high-quality structures within minimal budgets, including container houses, offices, schools, classrooms, clinics, ablution blocks, storage units, and Airbnb accommodations.

The results are nothing short of remarkable, often realized in a matter of weeks.

Today, we will delve into the various benefits of container fabrication in Kenya and East and Central Africa in order to broaden your understanding, pique your interest, and facilitate informed decision-making.

1. Net-Zero Additional Costs in Container Building

Fabricated container house
A manager sits in front of a fabricated container retirement home in Nakuru, 2018.

Once you’ve established a budget with your contractor, you can rest assured that there won’t be any unforeseen additional expenses.

Container fabrication is a standardized process, characterized by minimal disruptions and emergencies. The detailed quotations encompass costs for containers, interior insulation, electrical wiring, fittings, doors, windows, spray painting, and more.

The same applies to external structures, including washrooms, tanks, tank stands, foundation building, septic tanks, bio-digesters, fences, walls, delivery expenses, and landscaping.

Standard budgets and timelines make it easy to monitor the construction process, material usage, savings, storage systems, labor, and utility systems. Contractors save you from the hassles of constant supervision, unexpected costs, emergencies, and contingencies.

Additionally, having a comprehensive understanding of pricing offers a sense of comfort, allowing you to compare budgets and avoid overspending and waste.

2. Speed and Efficiency

Container structures are incredibly fast to construct, often taking just a matter of weeks.

A one-bedroom container house can be ready in as little as 10 days, while a two-bedroom one typically takes 14 days, and a three-bedroom house can be completed in 21 days.

Water usage is limited to the flooring and paintwork stages, both of which dry within approximately 6 hours. In contrast, conventional concrete construction involves lengthy drying and curing processes, resulting in much longer completion times.

Furthermore, most fabrication operations, such as door and window installation, electrical work, cutting, measuring, interior insulation, framework assembly, soldering, welding, screwing, and wire brushing, do not require water.

The minimal water usage translates to reduced drying and curing times, and the use of flexible and readily accessible components ensures quick completion.

3. Cost-Effectiveness of Container Fabrication

Container fabrication in progress
Premium Container boys at work on a clinic

Used shipping containers, constructed of robust steel, are among the most cost-effective building materials globally.

When you consider the low costs of ceramic tiles and gypsum, commonly used in container construction, it becomes evident why the entire operation is significantly more budget-friendly than traditional concrete and mortar construction.

In our internal research comparing container fabrication to concrete buildings with similar designs and specifications, we found that containers are, on average, 33% cheaper.

The key factors contributing to this cost-effectiveness include:

  • The cost-friendly nature of shipping containers.
  • The minimal requirement for fabrication materials and processes. Gypsum, polystyrene, screws, cutting and grinding discs are cost-effective and readily available, with lower consumption per square surface area. In partitioning and framing, a small quantity of steel bars covers large surface areas on walls, ceilings, and partitions.
  • The technical aspects of fabrication are efficiently conducted due to the standardized and simplified nature of containers, resulting in lower labor costs.

4. Customizability and Customer-Specific Design

The essence of construction is to provide customers with precisely what they desire, adhering to measurements, designs, and materials as specified in the contract without compromising quality or minimum standards.

For interior insulation, clients have the flexibility to choose from a range of materials, such as gypsum, softboards, chipboards, wood, ISO panels, and EPS panels.

Similarly, options for flooring vary from vinyl to ceramic tiles, wood, epoxy spray, cement, and marble. Various roofing designs, including gable, hip, flat roof, saltbox, mansard, bonnet, and pyramid, can be incorporated into container structures.

The exterior surfaces of containers can be clad with wood, cement boards, ceramic tiles, steel sheets, or vinyl. The versatility of container refurbishment makes it easier to meet these specifications, offering a wide range of economic possibilities for investors.

Clients can envision and acquire models that align with specific concepts, budgets, and timelines.

Container Interior
3D Floorplan for a customizable 3-bedrooms container house

5. Exceptional Flexibility Offered By Container Fabrication

When building houses, rental units, commercial spaces, or offices, you can start with a single container unit and expand by adding more units laterally or spatially.

What initially begins as a single establishment can quickly evolve into a complex comprising several compartments.

Additionally, cuttings from containers can be joined to create extensions like verandas, car parks, storage spaces, and attics.

The process of joining and separating containers is straightforward, allowing previously joined units to be moved to new locations and reassembled to match the original design.

This level of flexibility is unparalleled in comparison to other building materials. Container flexibility has even enabled clients to lease land for temporary container structures that can be easily relocated between sites.

Moreover, branded containers can be mounted on trucks for the purpose of brand recognition and advertising, which is particularly valuable in Kenya’s nomadic culture.

Finished Container Structure
Aerial View of Containers joined together to form an L-shaped staff quarters complex, Nanyuki.

6. High Aesthetic Value On the Final Product

Gypsum is widely regarded as one of the most aesthetically pleasing interior materials due to its malleability.

It’s extensively used in interior finishes on container walls and ceilings, as it can be molded into various patterns, including triangles, flower patterns, letters, numbers, and logos.

This material complements all types of paintwork and harmonizes with different flooring materials. Gypsum is particularly compatible with wooden cabinets in kitchens and bedrooms, as well as shelving for stores and shops.

Moreover, containers, often sourced by organizations, can be easily branded with logos, paint patterns, and images for recognition and advertising.

These branded containers can be mounted on trucks or strategically placed both inside and outside organizational premises.

In Kenya, various entities, including corporations, politicians, celebrities, and investors, have effectively utilized beautifully branded and colorful containers as a means of mass communication.

Container Gypsum interior
The beauty of the interior of a container campaign truck, 2018.

7. Durability, Environmental Friendliness, and Ease of Maintenance of Container Fabricated Structures

Shipping containers are known for their robustness and weight, with empty 20-foot containers weighing 2,000 kilograms and 40-foot containers weighing 4,000 kilograms.

Their steel corner beams and rigid walls enhance their strength and stability, allowing them to withstand extreme weather conditions, including storms, salinity, rainfall, sun, and floods.

Fabricating structures with shipping containers ensures a solid, reliable shelter that can endure for centuries, providing protection for occupants.

Container fabrication employs biodegradable materials and consumes minimal energy, resulting in zero carbon emissions into the atmosphere. This is particularly crucial in a time when global greenhouse gas emissions are alarmingly high, according to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

Notably, cement production is a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions, and concrete construction poses threats to the world’s topsoil.

Additionally, maintaining container surfaces is straightforward, involving cleaning and repainting processes similar to those for conventional buildings. A well-painted container structure can last up to five years before requiring repainting.

Read Also: Container Fabrication and the Housing Crisis in Kenya: Time to Seek Alternative Solutions

Any rare repairs that may be necessary can be conducted quickly and affordably, thanks to the thin walls of container structures, which are easily maneuvered, cut, and replaced by technicians.

Container Structure
A custom container office designed for exhibition

In A Nutshell

When considering container fabrication as a building alternative in Kenya, rest assured that you have a wealth of advantages at your disposal.

With this comprehensive information, the next step is to find a competent and experienced contractor who can turn your dreams into reality.

As the English saying goes, “a good contract yields good results.” In Kenya, we say, “chanda chema huvishwa pete” (a beautiful finger gets the ring).

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