Newcastle designer Sean McGilvray unveils rapid-build shipping container conversion

STEADY HAND: Sean McGilvray demonstrating how to modify a used shipping container.

STEADY HAND: Sean McGilvray demonstrating how to modify a used shipping container.

NEWCASTLE designer Sean McGilvray insists he is not mad.

The savvy innovator declares he knows a way to simultaneously convert a big steel box into a house within weeks, cut down on dreadful waste, improve housing affordability and – the clincher – he can teach the masses to do it too.

“I believe in what I’ve done,” Mr McGilvray said after a building demonstration in Carrington on Friday. 

“I truly believe this is going to help a lot of people.”

Mr McGilvray set about the “extremely difficult” task of converting used shipping containers into homes about two years ago.

While admitting shipping container conversion was not a new concept, Mr McGilvray said he had reinvented the construction process, making it more practical, even to the point where the rapid-build design could be rolled out in natural disasters. 

The trick, he said, was “thinking outside the box”.

“There’s a lot of companies around Australia that do container modification, but they only use brand new containers,” Mr McGilvray said.

“It was hard work, but I can use any container – that’s because it’s only used as a bracing. We’ve finally come up with a system that is one-third of the cost, one-third of the labour and one that meets building standards.”

Mr McGilvray’s construction differs in that it is built with a frame on the outside of the container.

He said the design process also eliminated the need for welding.

And, critically, he believes the finished product does not look like a shipping container, which allows for council approval.

“Let’s be honest: you cannot live in a shipping container. It’s too hot – you can’t do it,” Mr McGilvray said.

“This design has a structural frame, it’s insulated, there’s conduit pipes for electricity and the steel is away from the sunshine.”

The Contain Yourself owner wants to share the do-it-yourself design through a series of video tutorials, and hopes to soon kick off a crowd-funding campaign.

RIGHT SIDE UP: Sean McGilvray wants to publicly release his shipping container conversion process.

RIGHT SIDE UP: Sean McGilvray wants to publicly release his shipping container conversion process.

“People think I’m mad for doing that, giving it away, but I’m not,” Mr McGilvray said.

“There is something like 27 million unused shipping containers world-wide. It is actually cheaper for China to make another shipping container from scratch than return ship them.

“Housing affordability is a crisis in this country … and that’s a terrible thing in a country of our wealth, so I really think this can help.”

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