Originally Posted by michael b
Is it cheaper to get a few containers or to build a house with wood? The Taiwanese seem to have their hands in everything.
It's been a long time since I logged in, so just saw this. I'm the one who started the thread, so I'll answer...
I've never seen a real mobile home (American style) here. Used shipping containers, on the other hand, are pretty easy to obtain (Taiwan does a lot of foreign trade). We have a subtropical climate, so no need for a lot of insulation (essential in a mobile home in cold climates) - frozen pipes are not a problem.
I do want to point out that you DON'T really see many people living in shipping containers, and almost never in the city (except on a construction site - temp housing for the workers). It's seen mostly in farming areas. Part of the reason is we have strict zoning laws about building on farmland - shipping containers slip through the legal cracks because they are "vehicles," not houses. Even in farming areas, the containers are more often used to store tools, tractors, water pumps, and such - it's less common to actually take up residence in one, due to the small, narrow size which is claustrophobic. Shipping containers are pretty theft-proof too, at least if you put bars on the windows (very common) - if you've got a lot of expensive tools in there, you don't want them stolen.
Shipping containers are very earthquake-proof. We get a lot of those. The big one in 1999 was devastating, and thousands of shipping containers had to be brought in to temporarily house the displaced survivors in the disaster area (central Taiwan). A lot of those containers were later sold at auction, so heaps of them around. New, strict building codes make it less likely (hopefully?) that the next big earthquake will be so disastrous.
Wood is expensive in Taiwan, so not used much in construction. In this warm moist climate, wood doesn't hold up well anyway - we've got termites the size of grasshoppers.
Well this seems to be an old thread but I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on why this seems to be such a common occurrence in places like Taiwan or Vietnam. I mean wouldn't the government want to get involved in helping build safer homes? I'm sure it wouldn't hurt their bottom line, i.e. taxes.
The illegal rooftop houses are indeed not so safe. Part of the reason is that - if constructed from sheet metal - they are quite light in weight and can get torn off by a bad typhoon (another common occurrence here). Since they are add-ons, it's difficult to anchor them well, since they aren't welded to the building's I-beams, but rather just bolted in to holes drilled in the concrete roof. If made from brick and concrete, they'd be typhoon-proof, but that is a lot of extra weight to put on a building's foundation - every now and then one hears of a collapsed building for just this reason.
Another safety problem is that the building's electrical system wasn't designed with the extra floor in mind. Overloading the circuit breakers is a risk, especially since the roof is the hottest part of the building, which means more likely to have heavy air-conditioner use. If circuit breakers keep tripping, some will "fix" this problem by putting in a larger amperage breaker, resulting in a roof-top fire.
People build the rooftop structures in part because the flat roofs (that are so common in the city) leak easily. The illegal sheet metal rooftop structures invariably have a sloped roof.
Property taxes are another reason. You don't get taxed on an illegal structure. Officially, it doesn't exist.
Why does the government tolerate it? Because everybody does it, including our politicians and all their relatives. It's become a tradition.