Frequently Asked Questions
1. What do we offer?
We offer a variety of pre-permitted homes (and other types of buildings) that are prefabricated in a shop setting and made from used shipping containers as the frame. Using our designs provides the quickest and cheapest way to purchase one of our buildings. We make minor modifications to our designs for free.
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. We provide coordination with structural engineering and thermal analysis consultants to complete a building design package.
2. Can I utilize a container home as a primary residence or multi-family home?
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 to a site-built structure. They are legal to use as a home, multi-family structure, ADU, commercial, or institutional building.
All of our units are built in our factory to International Building Code (IBC) standards, and are inspected and permitted by the State of Oregon as residences. In plain language: any lot that is zoned to have a home on it 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 on any building project.
3. Where do you deliver to?
Although we can ship pre-fab ‘shells’ to various states to be finished on site- Oregon, Washington, and Idaho have an inter-agency agreement that allows us to have our buildings inspected in our Fab shop in Oregon City. This allows us to sell 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 sales of finished units.
4. Ideal site to place an ADU?
Ideally, the property will be mostly flat with appropriate space to fit a secondary structure. Requirements vary by jurisdiction but generally there must be enough space for at least a 5 ft. setback from side property lines, a 6 ft. setback between the primary structure and accessory unit, a 10 ft. setback from the rear property line, and a 15 ft. setback from the front property line. It is also important that there is enough space for a crane to access the area in which the structure will be placed.
5. How tall are the containers?
Typically the height of a basic shipping container is 8’-6”, however we use High Cube containers which are 9’-6” tall.
6. Are the containers new or used?
While we prefer upcycling containers that have completed their useful life as hauling vessels, we offer ‘single use’ containers for those that want them. These are sometimes referred to as ‘new’. Market conditions affect availability of both ‘well used’ and ‘single use’ containers.
7. How are the units insulated?
We use a high quality, environmentally friendly, closed cell spray foam to insulate. This provides a very high R-value per inch, while also protecting against the possibility of condensation. This superior insulation exceeds build standards for new homes by more than 10%.
8. Do I need to be concerned with condensation?
Our proprietary framing method and the use of closed cell spray foam in our building envelope is designed to meet code requirements relating to condensation. 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 the metal window frame and the interior wall using pressure treated wood.
9. Is it practical to place a container on a slope?
No different than any building project, flat is best and cheapest. The cost of a foundation and placement on a sloped lot will typically cost more and the steeper it is, the more it will probably cost.
10. Can I buy a partially complete unit and finish it myself?
Yes. Any of the De Lux series of units make a perfect unit for that approach. We can provide water-tight shells for the two container portions so you can finish the interior and lofted ‘bridge’ section between them with a mix of our parts and your local resources. While all our models have been approved by the state, local permitting jurisdictions will need to provide the ‘local’ inspection services. We also sell simple ‘shell’ units for those who want to build them out themselves.
11. How long does the building process take from start to finish?
We estimate 3 months from start to finish for a building to be completed in our shop. We schedule our buildings in the order that deposits or down payments are made. However, depending the on the local jurisdiction of your property, permitting can take anywhere from 8 to 36 weeks for approval before we begin the construction process.
12. Can I use my container home as a rental property?
There is no restriction on that from our side.
13. What is the lifespan of the containers? Are they more durable than contemporary housing?
We believe that if you purchase an optional roof for your project and keep paint on the exterior of the building, the end of useful life is undeterminable.
14. Do the units include heating and air-conditioning?
Yes, all of our units include mini-splits for heating and cooling.
15. What is the overall energy efficiency of our homes?
All of our homes are built to Energy Trust Standards. We can provide certification if arranged before the building is started as 3rd party inspections are required. Energy Trust requires a thermal shell that is 10% higher than code, fresh air to house and other nice energy efficient and healthy standards. We set this as our standard. Get more information about EPS ratings here.
16. Could I choose to install solar panels rather than use standard energy alternatives?
Solar systems are much more efficient and less expensive now than in the past so a net-zero option is available to any building we offer. Grid tied systems and battery storage options vary greatly in price. Off-grid systems steer towards the high side of the two options.
17. What is the set-up process & is it included?
We generally oversee the placement of the containers on your foundation, connect the units, and complete all interior finish work and exterior closure between the house and foundation. We normally also complete the utility connections and the underfloor insulation.
We try to work with others to perform the foundation work and the utility connections as our availability is limited.
For the DIY-ers, we can provide you with the material and instructions to finish the unit on your own if you are outside of our working footprint, saving you some money along the way.
18. How do you get them into place?
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 on in the discussion we assess the placement options and viability. Sometimes it just isn’t practical to use a container based plan.
19. Is permitting included in the price of the unit?
Pricing for homes include State BCD approved permits for our standard models. However, permits for customized homes or for site work such as foundation, utilities, and SDCs are not included. We do offer permitting services at an hourly rate to make modifications, and acquire permits for placement of homes on lots anywhere in Oregon or Washington.
20. Who handles permitting on-site?
RBC offers permitting services in order to secure the site permits. There will be an hourly charge for our time and the permit costs themselves need to be covered by the homeowner.
21. Does RBC build custom designs?
One of the reasons we permit so many options is to save our customers the cost of custom design and permitting. But yes, we do, in fact do custom work as well. We start our custom work by working with you to get an idea of what you want in order to get you a budget. That would normally be something you sketch out on paper and send in an email to our team or speak with us in a meeting to arrive at.
If you are comfortable with the budget, then we take a deposit and work against that design to complete the floorplan to your preferences. Deposits range depending on complexity and our hourly rate for design or permitting is 80/hr.
22. What does the total cost include? (Foundation, shipping, permits, utility hookup?)
It varies 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 and ‘all-in’ number for those services. Decking and porches are normally not considered in this estimate. We can be more specific once a site is determined and reviewed by the RBC team.
The total cost will include the fully finished unit (including all electrical and plumbing, kitchen cabinets, counter tops, appliances, flooring, mini-split heating and A/C, insulation, drywall, and interior paint), the foundation, shipping (dependent on distance), and permits. It will not include ‘site improvements’ such as road work, clearing, SDC fees, septic systems or wells, etc.
23. Why does it cost so much when the container is only $3000-$4000?
This is a common question we get, and a topic you’ll also see discussed in social media circles where most ‘inexpensive’ conversions are not built to code. It’s a little bit like asking, why does a stick built house cost so much when a piece of plywood only costs 50.00.
Ultimately, we provide durable and comfortable buildings that carry the state insignia for prefabricated structures. This allows you to fully permit, finance and insure your investment, giving you peace of mind for years to come.
24. Is financing available?
Yes, we have sold several homes now that have qualified for ‘take out’ or ‘mortgage’ loans typical to those of standard site built homes. Since Relevant buildings are fully permitted homes,most lenders can provide loans. Construction financing is difficult irregardless 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.
25. What are the costs for transportation?
The cost of shipping is quoted based on the location of the property. A rough estimate is $6 per loaded mile. Our price list does not include the price of transport or crane to place since that price varies so much by location and model type.
26. Want to tour one of our models?
If you’re interested in touring our models, please visit our Home page for our Open House dates. The models available for showings during the open houses are the Ramona 40’, Teahouse 20’, SADU 20’. We also typically have ‘guest models’ that we show. These may be models that are exploratory by nature or models built for a customer and waiting for a delivery date.
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. A sales representative will get back to you shortly.
27. Why do we use water heater tanks rather than tankless water heaters?
We are partial to tankless water heaters, but outfit most of our model units with electric because many folks don’t have gas which is the preferred fuel for tankless.
28. How do we prevent rusting and moisture collection between the container and drywall?
Condensation in the wall is eliminated using large quantities of closed cell spray foam insulation. Not only is it waterproof, but it has a very high R value which makes the risk of condensation very limited.
29. How do you offset the energy you use to build your homes?
Our shop is net 0 solar, meaning the solar panels on our shop roof produce enough energy to cover our electric usage in the shop.