Jackson considers allowing shipping containers as building materials

Wednesday, August 23, 2017
A worker with Capital Real Estate Group LLC plasma cuts a doorway on a shipping container April 25 in Cape Girardeau.
Laura Simon

The question of whether Jackson will allow shipping containers as building materials rests with the city’s planning and zoning commission, set to meet Sept. 13.

Cape Girardeau developer Quinn Strong spoke to the board of aldermen at its regular meeting Monday. The board recommended the planning and zoning commission research the question and recommend uses to allow and zoning district restrictions.

Strong spoke of shipping containers as durable, sustainable, cost-effective construction materials that make a lot of sense for developers to explore as a viable alternative to traditional wood-frame houses.

For several months, Strong has been trying to develop shipping-container structures in Cape Girardeau, but the city council has not approved the structures, although discussion is ongoing.

In May, Ward 4 Councilman Robbie Guard said his constituents “don’t want them.”

Guard also cited potential health concerns and said the structures would be aesthetically displeasing.

“The responsibility lies on the developer to make the building look very, very tasteful,” Strong said at Monday’s meeting.

Jackson building superintendent Janet Sanders said the International Code Council, which sets building codes for municipalities to adopt, has recommended language on using shipping containers in construction, “and that’s something we’ll be looking into.”

Those recommendations are in the 2016 code, Sanders said.

“Our next code adoption will be the 2015 international building code, but I will be ordering that one specifically on shipping containers so we can use that in our study.”

Sanders said she thinks it’s important to see what the code requires for shipping containers to be used in construction projects and what concerns should be addressed.

As to why this question should be researched, Sanders said, “It’s important for us in the middle of the country to be educated on shipping containers used in construction.

“It’s one of those new movements, like tiny homes,” Sanders said. “We need to get educated on what are the real facts, so that our P&Z commission and board can make a wise decision.”

Sanders said as of now, nothing in Jackson’s code addresses small living spaces.

The minimum square footage for a dwelling is 120, Sanders said, or roughly the size of a small garden shed, “because we have never specified a minimum square footage. I suspect that will come along with this study,” Sanders said.

Sanders said she was sure the Jackson Board of Aldermen would take into account issuing special-use permits for shipping-container construction projects. But because Jackson’s special-use permits are issued to a property owner rather than assigned to a structure, that isn’t an ideal solution, she said.

“It would be very cumbersome and hard to enforce,” Sanders said. “We’d like to find another way if possible, but we might wind up at same place.”

Sanders added, “I’m sure there will be lots of discussion, lots of brainstorming, and we’ll see where it goes.”


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101 Court St., Jackson, Mo.

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