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The Future of Housing: from Shipping Containers to Eco Homes

Shelter is one of the basic human needs (along with essentials like food and water), but an increasing population and rising house prices have put a strain on the UK housing market. It’s not all bad news however, and architects and city planners are finding creative ways to address society’s evolving housing needs.

With more people renting and buying property later in life, many types of housing need to be flexible and able to adapt to shifts in generational living behaviours. There’s an increasing focus on sustainability too, with moves towards eco-friendly, sustainable homes and cleaner energy. The future of housing also includes many exciting innovations, from robot builders to houses built entirely using 3D printing. People are also making shifts to more unusual forms of housing too, including shipping containers, log cabins and bamboo homes. There’s a lot to be excited about, so if you’re thinking of swapping a traditional house or flat for something more unusual, or want to know more about what we can expect from the future of housing, read on to find out more.

Shipping containers

It’s estimated that there are 24 million empty shipping containers around the world that won’t be used for cargo again - so what can be done with them? Converted shipping containers make great homes; they’re affordable, easy to adapt and fire and flood proof. They also give a unique modern, industrial look that’s very popular amongst fans of that style.

These container homes are also much more environmentally friendly, due to their smaller size and the fact that they’re already constructed (meaning they’re effectively being recycled). The construction of new homes has a negative impact on the environment (due to the mining of new materials and the construction process itself), so why not try a unique, fully formed container home?

Shipping containers can also be stacked on top of one another, so it’s an easy and convenient way to add an extension or additional space to your property. Many homes combine two or more containers to create multi story, open plan homes that are as stylish as they are innovative and eco-friendly.

Robot builders

SAM (short for semi-automated mason) is the first commercially available robot for onsite masonry construction. Designed and engineered by the US company Construction Robotics, SAM can work six times faster than a human, and lay roughly 3,000 bricks a day. Before you start to worry that robots are completely taking over, SAM is designed to work collaboratively with a human mason, although who knows how sophisticated this technology will be in the future.

SAM has been trialled extensively across the US and it’s hoped that this technology will reach the UK within the next few years. Drones are also being used across building sites, with the Japanese construction company Komatsu paving the way. They’ve begun using drones to scan a building site and gather information to plot a course, which is then fed into an automated bulldozer.

3D printing

The American firm Apis Cor was the first to build a complete house using mobile 3D printing technology. The structure took just 28 hours to complete (including the interior) and the open plan studio home is just over 450 square feet. In the near future, Apis Cor hopes to be able to offer homes built within 48 to 72 hours, at a cost of just £12,000.

3D printing technology allows firms to build houses far more quickly and for a much more affordable price, that simply isn’t possible when using traditional construction methods. The specially designed 3D printers use a custom mix of cement, sand, geopolymers and fibres to construct the buildings.


The construction industry has a significant impact on the environment, and is responsible for up to 50% of climate change and 50% of the total waste sent to landfill. As a response to this, many construction companies are making conscious efforts to use more sustainable building materials and methods when building new homes.

Eco-homes are houses that are built to be as self-sustaining as possible, using technology like solar panels, built in water collection and filtration systems and natural insulation materials. Many people are gravitating towards housing that’s more environmentally friendly, or adapting their existing homes to include things like solar panels or a green roof.

Eco-homes might also feature additions like natural ventilation or even a greenhouse for onsite food production. They’re also likely to be built using sustainable or recycled materials, such as reclaimed timber, bamboo or recycled steel.

Log cabins

In some ways, you could argue that a log cabin is another type of eco-home, especially if it’s made from recycled or reclaimed timber. Log cabins have become increasingly popular over recent years, as people look for more affordable and sustainable ways of living.

Log cabins are also a comfortable way to live off-grid (a self sufficient way of living where you aren’t connected to a national power grid). Many people are reconsidering city life in the aftermath of the pandemic and it’s likely that we’ll see a significant shift as people move out of cities towards the countryside.

Bamboo houses

Housing shortages are a global issue, but affordable homes made of bamboo could be one way to tackle the lack of affordable housing across the world. This innovative housing has already been recognised in the Philippines, when Earl Forlales won the first prize from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in its Cities for our Future competition in 2018. His design for a low-cost house made from bamboo also included elements like a tilted roof to capture rainwater and stilts to keep floodwaters at bay.

Bamboo grows incredibly quickly, making it more sustainable than timber as you don’t have to wait decades for reforestation to occur. It’s also incredibly strong, with a higher compressive strength than brick, wood or concrete. A well constructed bamboo home is even said to be able to withstand hurricanes or earthquakes.

Smart homes

Smart home technology is already relatively widespread, but we can expect it to grow and become even more sophisticated in the near future. Apps to control our lighting, heating and smart devices are likely to become more accessible to every home, as well as devices like smart fridges, wireless security cameras and wi-fi smart locks.

Innovations in artificial intelligence are set to drive smart home technology in the next 10 years according to some researchers, with AI robots and devices serving as ‘brains’ for entire homes. This means that they would gather data specific to the resident’s habits and adjust gadgets accordingly, for example automatically changing your alarm time based on your weekend routine, or dimming the lights before bed.

Portable buildings and storage container solutions - From the experts at Manchester Cabins

If you’re looking for reliable storage or temporary accommodation, get in touch with the experts at Manchester Cabins. We’re proud to supply a range of versatile portable buildings and storage solutions, including anti-vandal units, jackleg cabins, steel storage containers and cabins for sale, as well as hire.

Our shipping containers are suitable for a wide range of applications, from storage to temporary accommodation, offices, canteens and much more. We can also customise our units to suit your requirements, with additions including hot water, cooking facilities, lighting, electrical outlets and any other practical considerations you might need. If you’re arranging an outdoor event, we’ve got that covered too, with a range of hygienic serviced toilets and toilet blocks for hire.

We pride ourselves on affordable rates and convenient delivery straight to your door, so give us a call today for a free quote or visit our website to find out more.

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