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Container Permits, Zoning Laws and Building Codes

Jun. 09, 2022

A common question before obtaining a shipping container house is, "Do I need a permit for my shipping container?" The short answer is yes, and most of the time you do. Each state has its own laws, so it's best to consult directly with your local county authorities. This article explores the types of permits and related requirements.

Container Permits, Zoning Laws and Building Codes

Different Laws

Zoning laws

Municipalities usually allocate land based on use. This affects the type of construction you can do in a zone.

Most cities have separate residential, commercial and industrial zones. This is why liquor stores are generally not located in residential areas. Residential areas are also divided into areas that allow row houses and areas that allow high rise buildings. Each zone may have different laws for containers.

Check with your municipal regulatory agency for zoning regulations that apply to shipping containers at your site, business or home.

Building Codes

Building codes vary from state to state and city to city in the United States. Most building codes are derived from the International Residential Code (IRC) and the International Building Code (IBC) of the International Code Consultants.

In most cases, the IRC will apply to container homes built on a permanent foundation. Some locations do not allow shipping container homes unless they are permanent structures.

Although the authorities update the building codes every few years, you only need to find the most recent codes in effect in your area. You can also consult with your local architect or general contractor.

Container Permits, Zoning Laws and Building Codes

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Storage container permits

If you are using containers for storage applications, you will need to follow a different set of rules than those that apply to containerized housing.

Each state's rules are different, but these factors will help you plan your storage container permit.

The location of the container on your property

The rules that apply to your city and state

The physical condition of the container

The duration of the container on your site

The impact of the container on the community (if any)

Container Permits, Zoning Laws and Building Codes

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What aspects are regulated?

Authorities regulate a range of items in containers based on property zoning, building codes, and restrictive covenants. Some of these include

Appearance- This includes any exterior visible aspects such as color, windows, doors, shading, and deck materials.

Accessibility- This applies to people with disabilities.

Size - Measured in square feet based on the number of rooms and overall layout.

Site Offset - The distance from the site liner to the edge of your home and the space between your home and adjacent homes.

Foundation - The type and depth of the foundation and its height above the ground.

Landscaping - The types of plants you can have or the maximum number of trees that can be removed for the structure.

Means of egress- The number of exterior exits and the number of rooms you need to go through before leaving the house.

Fire and Smoke - The number and location of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

Energy efficiency - It usually depends on the doors, windows, insulation, sealing around penetrations and appliances.

Structural Reinforcement - Comply with wind and snow loads.

Electrical, mechanical and plumbing - rules related to the design and installation of these systems.

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