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Senior Spectrum Newspaper
March 2018
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Senior Spectrum Publications

TerraOne Builds Affordable,
Attractive Shipping Container Homes
by Donna Clontz
Chair, Reno Senior Citizen Advisory Committee
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Donna Clontz
Donna Clontz

One of the bigge st issues facing our region is having enough housing available for everyone who lives here now and for those who continue to move here for jobs, retirement or personal and family choices. And, with a growing shortage of available housing – owner-occupied or rented—demand for more housing increases and prices go up. This puts great pressure on low income and fixed income seniors whose landlords are raising rents and beginning to price them out of their apartments and condos.

It’s also hard for moderate and fixed income residents to afford to buy a house. The January 2018 median Reno-Sparks housing prices are at about $360,000 according to a recent Reno Gazette Journal story. So, the folks that want to add affordable housing in our area – such as local governmental agencies, developers, builders and individuals like you and me – are searching for ways to do just that for a lot less than the current median prices.

Finished container home.
Finished container home.
Photo: Masih Madani

At a recent Reno Operation Downtown meeting, I heard a presentation by Masih Madani, the founder and CEO of a new local nonprofit called TerraOne. He worked with engineers and other experts to create a way to use recycled steel shipping containers to build "innovative, functional, high performance, cost competitive and unmistakably low carbon and affordable housing." His superinsulated steelframed construction system targets projects where speed of construction and ease of assembly by trained workers is important. He can significantly lower labor costs and project cycle times by as much as half traditional construction timetables and prices. By maximizing offsite production and minimizing on-site labor, he reduces production costs and increases employment in Northern Nevada.

His container homes meet international (IBC) construction standards, utilizing recycled steel and EPS foam. They can withstand hurricane force winds and earthquakes. There’s no rot, no mold or mildew and they are insect and fire resistant. Once finished, they look like attractive stick-built houses. The 8-foot by 40-foot containers stack side-by-side or on top of each other like giant Lego blocks and are welded together and reinforced. They can be joined together to form apartment buildings, office buildings or dorms as well as single houses. The cost and time to build them is about half what it takes to build a regular stick-built houseabout $50 per square foot with finished floors, walls, cabinets, plumbing fixtures—the works! For a two-container 640-square foot house, that’s just $32,000 plus the cost of land.

Working in container to convert to livable space.
Working in container to convert to livable space.

Once the foundation is laid, a two-story structure can be constructed in a single day with prefabricated modified containers. At their off-site facility, they cut and strengthen openings for doors and windows, install the doors and windows and add electrical, plumbing, interior insulation, fixtures and cabinetry. Most shipping container homes can be built in as little as a few weeks. Complex container homes take less than 4 months.

Mr. Madani is building some models now through May 2018 in Carson City at the Western Nevada College campus where he learned to weld. He’s approached the City of Reno, Reno Housing Authority and others about creating a public-private partnership to take the models he’s building and install them somewhere on land in Reno after the models are completed.

It’s easy to see why so many people are interested in building their own shipping container home for a fraction of the cost of a traditional house. Container structures are far superior in strength, durability and longevity and thereby reduce the total cost of ownership. If you are interested in more information, please contact Masih Madani at and check out TerraOne at its website at ment in Northern Nevada.