Frequently Asked Questions
Who We Are
Relevant Building Company (RBC) is a sustainable home builder based in Oregon City, Oregon. We specialize in building prefabricated container homes with high quality finishes. Our mission is to provide an alternative, climate conscious housing option. All of our models are built to meet the International Building Code (IBC) as well as Energy Trust standards for energy-efficient homes.
Because our homes are prefabricated in our shop, we are able to offer a variety of state approved models. Using our pre-approved designs is the quickest and most cost-effective way to purchase one of our homes.
We also provide ‘fee-based’ design and permitting services to modify our plans or create new custom buildings. We incorporate engineering intel into our designs to minimize cost and maximize utility. In short, we offer everything you’ll need to build your dream home or ADU, from financing help, design & permitting services, building, and project management.
Yes, RBC homes are built to the same code as any new home or building constructed on site today. Therefore, they are a straight substitute for a site-built structure. They are legal to use as a home, multi-family structure, ADU, commercial, or institutional building.
All our units are built in our factory to International Building Code (IBC) standards and are inspected and approved by the State of Oregon or Washington. In plain language: almost any lot that is zoned for a home can legally have one of our container homes installed. The land use planning, foundation, and utility connections will all need local approvals.
Nearly all jurisdictions have zoning ordinances that impact building placement, use, and sometimes design. These ordinances are administered by respective ‘planning’ or ‘zoning’ departments and should be reviewed prior to committing to any building project.
One of the reasons we permit so many options is to save our customers the cost of custom design and permitting. We encourage customers to choose one of our pre-built home designs, but yes, we do offer custom design work on occasion. We typically start our custom designs by working with you to get an idea of what you want in order to provide you with a ballpark cost for your project. That would normally be something you sketch out on paper and send in an email to our team or speak with us about in a meeting.
If our estimated costs and design meet your needs, then we take a deposit and work against that to complete the floor plan to your preferences. Deposits range depending on complexity and our hourly rate for design or permitting is $80/hr.
We have built several homes and ADUs in the Portland Metro area, as well as to other cities in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. We currently only offer turnkey options in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. However, if your property is not in these three states, we sometimes offer another option called a “shell.” This includes the containers with metal fabrication complete, exterior doors and windows installed, exterior paint, license to permit once, and all the plans.
Tiny homes are generally defined as homes under 400 sq. ft. in size. Many standard single-family homes come in at around 1,500 sq. ft. While we can build both tiny and large homes, most of our homes fall somewhere in the middle at around 800 sq. ft. Therefore, we like to call ourselves a “small home builder.” Our focus is designing and building homes that are the more efficient versions of your average house.
We encourage new customers to tour our homes during our weekly open houses. You can find our open house schedule on the home page of our website. Attending an open house and walking through our homes will give you a good sense of exactly what we offer. Our friendly open house hosts can also answer many of your questions in person. After you have seen our products in person, please reach out on the “Tour/ Contact” page to start the conversation with our team.
If you’re interested in taking a tour of our models, you can visit us during our open house hours listed on our home page. The models available for showing during these hours are the Ramona 40’, Teahouse 20’, and SADU 20’, although we also sometimes have ‘guest models’ that we show. These may be models that are exploratory by nature or models built for a customer and waiting to be delivered.
If you already have land, are ready to buy, or have a specific model you’re interested in viewing that is not listed above, please refer to the “Tour/ Contact” page and fill out an inquiry form to schedule an individual tour. Our team will get back to you shortly.
It sounds like you’re ready to roll! Please reach out to us by filling out the inquiry form on the “Tour/ Contact” page. Be sure to let us know that you’ve already been to an open house, and give us an idea of what model you’re interested in. If you provide us with the address where you’d like to build, we can take a look at your property and make sure we can deliver a container home or ADU to your location.
Once we’ve reached out to you and there aren’t any immediate issues with your lot, we typically start with a service agreement for any design or permitting work that you may need, billed at $80/hr. After you pick which model you want, we will provide you with a proposal to give you a sense of the costs. If the proposed costs fit your budget, then we’ll talk with you about moving forward with local permits and starting your container home in our shop.
Costs and Financing
We break down pricing for our container homes on our Price List page. This gives you a good idea of what each home will cost based on size and level of completion. Aside from the cost of the container home, you will also have costs for permitting, delivery, foundation, and other site work that are specific to your project.
This is a common question we get, and a topic you’ll also see discussed in social media circles. Most ‘inexpensive’ container homes that you see online are not built to code. We’ve had a handful of people reach out to us asking if we can help them legalize a container home that they bought from someone else that does not meet code standards. In those cases, people tend to regret buying these unpermitted, illegal container homes and end up spending a lot of money, time, and headache trying to bring their homes up to code.
Ultimately, our costs go into providing durable and comfortable buildings that carry the State Insignia for safe and legal prefabricated structures. This allows you to fully permit, finance, and insure your investment, giving you peace of mind for years to come.
Yes, we have sold several homes now that have qualified for ‘take out’ or ‘mortgage’ loans like those of standard site-built homes. Since our homes are fully permitted, most lenders can provide loans. Construction financing is difficult regardless of the type of home you plan so it is best to discuss this with us individually. In general, however, if you have 20% of the necessary costs for a building project and good credit, lending is available.
If you don’t have a preferred bank, we can direct you to lenders that we’ve worked with.
The total cost to the buyer as estimated by RBC will typically include the fully finished unit (including all electrical and plumbing, kitchen cabinets, counter tops, appliances, flooring, mini-split heating and A/C, insulation, and drywall), the foundation, and shipping (dependent on distance). The estimate will not include local permit costs or ‘site improvements’ such as road work, clearing, SDC fees, septic systems or wells, etc.
Site costs vary by model, complexity, distance of delivery, and level of finish requested by the customer. In general, we estimate a range of $30-50,000 to provide an ‘all-in’ number for site work services. Decking and porches are normally not considered in this estimate. We can be more specific once we review your site and determine the scope of work involved.
Building Process and DIY options
Yes, we call this our “shell” option, which you can see on our price list. Our container shells include metal fabrication, window installation, and exterior wall framing. You can then finish the interior of the container home yourself.
Any of the models in our De Lux series are a perfect choice for this “DIY” approach. We can provide the shells for the two container portions so you can then finish the interior and wood-framed midspan section between them. Because these container shells would need to be finished and inspected on site rather than in our shop, you would need to get the building permitted by your local jurisdiction.
In a nutshell, the build process involves design, financing, permitting, and building. We estimate it to take 3 months from start to finish for a container home to be completed in our shop. However, permitting & design tends to drive the project timeline, and can take anywhere from 8 to 36 weeks depending on the local jurisdiction. We provide state pre-approved container home designs to help reduce the time it takes to permit and build your ADU. You will still need to get local permits for site work, including zoning, foundation, utilities, and decks. Relevant Buildings offers permit services to assist with local permitting needs and keep your home building process as low-stress as possible.
Yes, we do! We list all of our ready-built container homes on the “For Sale” page on our website. We offer multiple options, from container home “shells” that are perfect for a DIY container home approach to fully finished and state-approved homes. Please visit our “For Sale” page to browse current homes for sale.
If you are interested in a model that isn’t listed on our “For Sale” page, we can also build any of the container homes shown on the “Our Models” page.
Pricing for homes includes Oregon State BCD or Washington State L&I approved plans for our standard models. However, permits for custom homes or for site work such as foundation, utilities, and SDCs are not included. We offer permitting services at an hourly rate to make modifications and acquire permits for placement of homes on lots anywhere in Oregon or Washington.
The buyer is responsible for obtaining permits for site work. However, RBC offers permitting services to secure the site permits upon the buyer’s request. Most of our customers choose to forgo the headache of getting their own permits and ask us to handle local permitting. There will be an hourly charge for our time, and the local jurisdiction’s permit costs must be paid by the homeowner.
Delivery, Site-Prep, and Setup Process
Although we can ship prefabricated ‘shells’ to various states to be finished on site, we currently deliver fully built units to Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. These three states have an inter-agency agreement that authorizes us to have our buildings approved and inspected in our shop in Oregon City. This allows us to sell prefabricated buildings with more complete finishes, including plumbing, electric, HVAC, insulation, drywall, cabinets, etc. Permitting issues, shipping costs, and potential interior damage pose significant hurdles to long distance deliveries of finished units.
We send most of our shipping container homes to Washington and Oregon, especially the Portland Metro area. Please use our “Tour/Contact” page if you want to confirm whether or not we can deliver to your address.
The cost of shipping is quoted based on the location of the property and the size and quantity of the containers that make up your home. A rough estimate is $6 per loaded mile. Our price list does not include the price of transport or crane to place since the cost varies so much by location and model type.
Generally, we oversee the placement of the containers on your foundation, connect the units, and complete all interior finish work (i.e., trim, flooring, etc.) and exterior closure between the house and foundation. If requested and within our range, we can also complete the utility connections and the underfloor insulation. If a buyer requests these services, we provide a separate price for this field work.
If a project is outside of our range, we encourage buyers to work with local contractors to perform the foundation work and the utility connections.
The most common method is via crane assuming no power lines are in the way. In those cases, we normally use dollies and winches to get them into position.
Early in the project discussion, we will assess the placement options and viability. Sometimes lots are too crowded or too steep, and it just isn’t practical to use a container-based plan. In these instances, we’re offering stick-built and pole barn style ADUs. Please reach out to us on our “Tour/ Contact” page if you’d like to learn more.
While we prefer upcycling containers that have completed their useful life as hauling vessels, we also build with ‘single use’ containers. These are commonly referred to as ‘new’ because they arrive in the US after one trip from their original manufacturer.
We believe that if you add a sloped roof to your container home, perform regular maintenance, and keep paint on the exterior of the building, the end of its useful life is undeterminable. We would expect its lifespan to be longer than a standard stick-built home.
The height of a basic shipping container is 8’-6”. However, we use high cube containers which are 9’-6” tall.
ADUs go by many names: guest house, in-law suite, casita, and many more. ADU stands for accessory dwelling unit, which means a smaller home that is “accessory” to your primary residence. Relevant Buildings specializes in building detached ADUs, which are stand-alone homes separate from the main home. Detached ADUs are typically placed in the backyard and are about 800 sq. ft. or less. Specific ADU guidelines and requirements are established by your local planning department.
Yes, we have several models that can be used as an ADU. ADUs are known by many names – guest house, in-law apartments, or granny flats, for example. The full name for an ADU is an Accessory Dwelling Unit. An ADU is a permanent secondary home which provides fully arranged living space in the backyard or on the side of existing homes. ADUs generally have at least one bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen space, and are normally under 800 SF
Recently, there’s been some encouraging zoning law changes throughout Oregon and Washington that make it easier to permit and build ADUs, particularly in Portland. RBC also works with a lender that specializes in financing ADUs in the Portland Metro area. ADUs are a great option for inter-generational living or additional income from renting. If you’re interested in building an ADU, now’s a great time to get started.
Your local planning department will have specific rules about what an ADU can look like and where it can be placed. In general, most lots that allow “single family” or “multi-family” homes also allow ADUs, especially if your property is closer to an urban area. Rural areas tend to have more restrictions regarding ADUs, especially if you are on farm, forest, or agricultural land. Besides local zoning requirements, you’ll also want to be sure your yard has enough space for the size of the ADU that you want to build. If you’re interested in building an ADU on your lot but aren’t sure what your local requirements are, please reach out to us using our “Tour/ Contact” form, and we’ll get back to you right away.
We love ADUs for a number of reasons. They are an excellent option for people looking for private, affordable housing for aging parents, other family members, or guests. ADUs can also be a source of income by renting out the ADU or downsizing to living in an ADU and renting out your main residence. ADUs are a sustainable living option because they are smaller than traditional single-family homes and they share the land and utilities devoted to the primary home, which means they require fewer resources to build and maintain. ADUs also increase the total value of your property.
We break down pricing for our container homes and ADUs on our Price List page. This gives you a good idea of what each home will cost based on size and level of completion. Aside from the cost of the container home, you will also have costs for permitting, delivery, foundation, and other site work that are specific to your project. The good news is that ADU builds often cost less than building a new primary home because you already own the land and can often share utilities that the existing home uses.
While we specialize in container home ADUs, we also offer stick-built and pole barn ADUs. These options are often more cost-effective, especially for lots with space constraints or with steep slopes. You can learn more about these options by submitting an inquiry form on our “Tour/Contact” page.
Insulation, Efficiency, and Solar Options
We primarily use high-quality, environmentally friendly, closed-cell spray foam insulation. This provides a high R-value per square inch, which means excellent temperature regulation as well as protection from condensation. This efficient insulation exceeds building code standards for new homes by at least 10%.
We take several approaches to defend our homes against condensation and rust. We protect the interior container walls from condensation and rust by applying a generous layer of closed-cell spray foam insulation, which is waterproof. We also install energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) in our homes to provide ventilation and help circulate fresh air into the living space. We make certain that only inert materials (such as vinyl or closed-cell insulation) are in contact with the container proper. Window openings are connected to a metal window frame and the interior wall using pressure-treated wood. We cover the exterior walls of the container with marine-grade paint to prevent rust. Dependent on your property’s location, we also recommend building a sloped roof over your container home. This will ensure the tops of the containers are covered and lessens your risk of rust forming.
Yes, all our units include ductless mini splits for energy-efficient heating and cooling.
All our homes are built to Energy Trust Standards. We can provide certification if requested before the building is started, as third-party inspections are required. Energy Trust standards include a thermal shell that is 10% higher than code, fresh air to the house, and other considerations for an energy-efficient and healthy home.
Yes, all of our homes are built to support the weight of solar panels and include the option to install conduit to connect to solar. Solar panels are more efficient and less expensive now than in the past and can be a thoughtful addition to your container home.
We install electric water heater tanks as a standard in all of our homes, although we are partial to tankless water heaters since they are so energy efficient. If you have access to gas on your property, you can opt for a tankless water heater instead.