Shipping Container Homes

https://www.flickr.com/photos/etslee/34261236903

Shipping container homes seem like a no-brainer. Approximately 30 million steel shipping containers are in existence, filled and floating, or standing empty in a port. 8 feet wide by 8.5 feet high, and either 20 or 40 feet long, the steel shipping container has been the globally standardized transportation module since 1956.

Sending empty containers back to their origin is expensive, so often the containers sit unused in ports. If one lives near a port with abundant containers, then the energy required to transport the steel container to a local building site will be lower than an inland location, far from the port.
But buyer beware, as that used container might have been sprayed with insecticides or fungicides inside, and coated with lead or heavy metal paints on the outside. Here’s a look at some of our favorite shipping container homes across the world.

 

1. Shipping Container Guest House, San Antonio

container home
Poteet Architects’ client lives in a small warehouse on a former industrial site just outside of San Antonio, Texas. The newly installed shipping container guesthouse is fitted with a bathroom and one side is used as a garden shed.
container home
Container house with green roof by Poteet Architects.

2. The Savannah Project

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Container Home, “The Savanah Project’, Georgia. Two 40-foot containers, pricestreetprojects.com

3. Off-The-Grid Shipping Container Home in Nederland, Colorado

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Two shipping containers surround a taller common space in Nederland, Colorado. The containers house sleeping and work areas, while the center space hosts dining, living, and a loft above. The project is off-the-grid using solar orientation, passive cooling, green roofs, pellet stove heating and photovoltaics to create electricity. The house was designed by Brad Tomecek from Tmecek Studio Architecture.

4. Triple Shipping Container Home

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Three shipping containers with a common area between (see below). Note the green roof. Architects: Arcgency. Manufacturer: worldFLEXhome. Area: 180.0 sqm. Year: 2012.
shipping container home
Shipping container home, as above. Lots more great photos here (modern, open interior!)

5. Store Made Of Containers

This container building is used as a shopping center. The black exterior creates a sleek, modernized style.

6. Rustic Minnesota Container Home

container home
Two twenty-foot shipping containers were purchased at $800 each to create a cabin complete with kitchen, dining room, living room with a wood burning stove, laundry room and two queen beds. The two cabins are connected by a middle section loft and roof made out of “(3) 4 1/2″ X 11 1/4″ fir beams made up of (3) 2X12’s thru bolted and glued” and a glass door entrance. The cabin is partially powered by solar power arrays and connected to a rainwater cistern, making this building an ecologically-sustainable vacation home. Hive Modular constructed this cozy cabin.

7. Shipping Container Home in Ottawa, Canada

container home
This building showcased by Idekit Homes was built by EM2ESpaceMobile.

8. Container Home And Photography Studio, San Jose, Costa Rica

container home
Eight containers surround a double height glass atrium. This magnificent structure was built by Maria Jose Trejos.

9. Ancient Foundation, New Container Home

container home
A wooden sided container sits atop an existing stone foundation in Portugal. This wonderful photograph is provided by Arch Daily and provided of a member from Arquitectos Anonimos.

The Boxed Haus Two-Story Shipping Container Home

This 1.5-container home is quite narrow, but has a full kitchen with stove, sink, and cabinet space. The bathroom is fully tiled and includes a sink, toilet, and shower. The bedroom is accessible through a pull down ladder to the second floor, and has room for a queen-sized bed. A sliding glass door in the bedroom leads to a small deck.

10. Swedish Shipping Container Sauna

container home
Sauna with built-in wood storage by WRB, Sweden. This addition to the “H-House” was built by ArkitektStudio Widjedal Racki.

11. Maison Conteneur – Container House

 

Collections Dubreuil did a fantastic job using hemlock on the exterior. The design turns the container house into a modern home.

12. Quad-Container Home

container home
The Cross Box, France, comprised of 4 x 40′ shipping containers, accommodation totals 1280 sq ft. This building was constructed by CG Achitectes.

Inside A $50,000 Container Tiny Home

Walker Wilderness Enterprises in suburban Denver offers this container home for $50K. The video shoes the overall plan plus the interior of the house. It includes a storage nook, a (very, very narrow) shower, along with a sink and composting toilet. The door to the bathroom slides along an iron bar. In the kitchen, a wooden countertop includes a top-mount sink. The kitchen storage is simple shelves on brackets. Other storage is provided by hooks around the house. The home has three narrow window on one side, and a somewhat larger “picture window” on the other. The exterior is painted gray with a red door.

13. New York Container Home

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Shipping container home, in NY, designed by Tim Steele Design. The building is made of two forty foot long containers that sit on a twenty foot container.

14. Container ‘Quik’ House, New Jersey

container home
Two, three-container-wide 2000 sq foot homes. Constructed by the workers at KOOP Architecture + Media

15. Simple Container Home

This home was built in 2016, using greenery to soften the homes appearance.

16. Containers of Hope, Costa Rica

container home
The roof between the two salvaged containers is made from the scrap pieces of metal cut out to make the windows. The central roof creates a feeling of openness and provides cross-ventilation which is surprisingly sufficient enough to never have to turn the air conditioning on. Cost $40,000. The building was created by Benjamin Garcia Saxe.

17. New Jerusalem Orphanage, South Africa

container home
28 donated shipping containers were used to create New Jerusalem Orphanage, a vibrant shipping container home for South African children. Designed by 4D and A Architects, the building will be able to house 80 orphans as discussed by Inhabitat.

18. Modern Container Home

container home
This container home was built in Japan, using plants to soften the harsh exterior of the building. Living In Container explains that the building combines aesthetics with modern style.

Inside A Container Construction Workshop

Visit Container-Topia, in the East Bay Area, where artists and construction experts work 24-7 on different container home ideas. The workshop is about 20,000 square feet. The leader of the workshop points out that when building a tiny house, you can use materials that would be prohibitively expensive in a larger house. For example, the house he is working on has a tin ceiling, bamboo flooring, and wood paneling. The platform for the futon bed also functions as a standing desk—he’s going to build a screen that can be raised or lowered to close off the bedroom area. A projector built into the ceiling will project TV/movies/video games onto the screen. The plumbing will work with a 200-gallon tank, similar to an RV. The house will be heated with electricity, provided by a solar panel on the roof—though it will be a hybrid system that you can plug into the grid. He puts the price at $10K in materials and about 150 hours of labor—he’d sell it for around $28,000.

19. Mobile Dwelling Unit

container homes
This shipping container home incorporates pop-out elements that extend from the 40-foot long, 8-foot wide core of the home, accordion-style. If and when the home is in transit, the elements — kitchen, bathroom, reading nook, bed, desk, sofa and storage space — fold back into their slots. See picture below.
container home
The Mobile Dwelling Unit by LOT-EK. The MDU was originally conceived for people constantly moving around the globe. The MDU travels with its dweller to the next long-term destination, fitted with all live/work equipment and filled with the dweller’s belongings.

20. The Manifesto House

container home
Constructed from 85 percent recycled, reused and nonpolluting materials for $118,000, in fewer than 90 days. Two 40-foot shipping containers and two 20-foot shipping containers sided with painted wooden pallets.
container home
The Manifesto House was designed by architects James & Mau in Curacavi, Chile.

21. Karuna Passive House

This building by Hammer & Hand was created to meet the sustainable needs of the home-owner. Including a design that optimizes solar energy and meets the criteria as a “passive house.”

22. Unique Dusseldorf Design #1

container home
The NRW-Forum Düsseldorf invited renowned architects, designers, and artists from around the world to submit existing and new designs for container architecture.These pictures for the Dusseldorf Designs can be found on DesignBoom or Yatzer.

23. Unique Dusseldorf Design #2

container home
This shipping container bridge showcases one of many uses for containers.

24. Unique Dusseldorf Design #3

container home
The intricacy of this container structure is admirable, even if it isn’t a home.

Tips For Buying A Used Shipping Container

The folks at BigSteelBox offer tips on buying shipping containers for a shipping container home. You want a used shipping container to be, at a minimum, wind, water, and rodent-proof. Their first suggestion is to check the door seals to make sure they are intact, both at the hinges and all along the edge of the door. Next, look for surface rust. Some is okay, but any deep rust can turn into holes and compromise the structural integrity of the container. Make sure that the door handles work, and that the doors open easily. Finally, go inside the box, shut the door, and look for signs of light coming through the walls or ceiling. They point out: “If light can get in, water can get in.”

25. Unique Dusseldorf Design #4

container home
This container building combines the practical use of shipping containers with whimsy.

26. Container City, Trinity Buoy Wharf, London.

container home
Container City did a spectacular job contructing this intricate building.
container homes
container homes
Container City, London. Short-life sites can have Container Cities that simply unbolt and can be relocated or stored when land is required for alternative uses. To date this alternative method of construction has successfully created youth centers, classrooms, office space, artists studios, live / work space and retail space.

27. Container House In Lille

This home was built in Lille, France. The large windows maximize the amount of sunlight the homeowners can use each day.

28. Sugoroku Office, Gifu, Japan

container homes
Daiken-Met Architects constructed this 3-story building as a studio. archisearch.gr

29. Keerwogen—The World’s Largest Container City

container homes
Keetwonen is the largest container city in the world (1000 units) and is the second-most-popular student dormitory offered by the student housing corporation “De Key” in Amsterdam. Each unit is soundproof and has its own bathroom, kitchen and balcony. See more container projects at: tempohousing.com

30. Renault Visitor Center

container building
Renault’s movable welcoming pavilion in France, provides visitors with information about the automotive manufacturer’s history. The structure is made of 15 colorful shipping containers of two different lengths, 12-meter long and 6-meter long units.

The Entire Shipping Container Home Construction Process

Australian Paul Chambers starting building a container home for a weekend retreat in the mountains. Now he and his wife live there full-time, as an ongoing project in sustainable living. This video is the “trailer” for his YouTube channel, which has more than 150 videos showing all parts of the shipping home construction process. Paul, who started the project with no construction experience, poured the foundations, built a shower with no access to the water system, built a solar panel array, raised ducks in a homemade pond, and built a catchment system for a self-sustaining water system. See how to live “off-grid, in sustainable luxury.”

31. Tony’s Organic Farm, Shanghai

container building
Container Building. Tony’s Farm is an organic farm packing station, visitor center, hotel, and office building in one.

container building

The construction was undertaken by Playze Architect.

32. Shipping Container Starbucks

container building
Repurposed shipping container drive-thru for Starbucks in Tukwila, Washington. Although drive-thrus are not green, Anthony Perez, global store design senior manager for Starbucks says the ‘reclamation drive-thru was inspired by a desire to help keep items used throughout our supply chain, like old shipping containers, out of the waste stream.’ Lots more great pics: businessinsider.com

33. Black Shipping Container Office

Giant Container Sales of Canada produced this shipping container office for a Home and Garden TV project. The interior features enough space for a couch and desk, and appears to have additional storage in the back. See more projects at giantcontainersales.com. Photos by Glasshaus Living.

Shipping Containers For Sale

  • EBay: You can usually find shipping containers and prefab shipping container homes for sale on eBay. Arranging shipping will be up to you.
  • Cube Depot sells shipping containers from 10 to 50 feet long. They have locations in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Houston areas, but you can use their site to search for shipping containers anywhere.
  • Meka World, founded by architects and engineers in Toronto, builds custom pre-fabricated homes that are the size of shipping containers, so they can be delivered worldwide.

Shipping Container Resources & Home Plans

  • Using Shipping Containers for Emergency Shelters – Info on using shipping container for emergency shelters.
  • Casa Duro offers 7 shipping container home plans for sale, from a 320-square-foot micro cottage to a three-story condo. These are complete blueprints that you could submit to your local government to get a building permit.
  • Off Grid World have created six container home design concepts. They are just basic drawings, not full plans that you could build from.
  • Shipping Container Homes has five design concepts to inspire you.

Shipping Containers As Emergency Shelters

shipping container bug out shelter
If you aren’t sure about the full shipping container home route, consider a shipping container as the skeleton for an emergency or bug-out shelter. A shipping container is a low-cost start to a functional shelter—one that would give you the peace of mind of a place for your family to go in case of a natural disaster or other emergency.

Other Shipping Container Projects

  • CIMC Modular Building Systems imported shipping containers from China – complete with bathrooms, plastering and air conditioning units – then stacked them into a 300-room Travelodge hotel near Heathrow Airport in just three weeks.
  • SG Blocks creates custom buildings from containers—like the container Starbucks mentioned above. They work with architects and homeowners, they can build on site, or build everything offsite and ship a building to you to put on a foundation.
MSC Oscar container ship
By kees torn – MSC OSCAR & SVITZER NARI, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38718233

The MSC Oscar, christened in January 2015, is the largest container ship in the world. It can carry 19,224 shipping containers. It does not look like containers are going away anytime soon.

Do you have photos of your shipping container house project you’re willing to share? Let us know and we will add them to this page.

Written by Keiren

Keiren is an artist who lives in New York City. A lover of animals, nature, science & green building. Keiren originally founded Inspiration Green in 2007, which merged with Insteading in 2016.

51 Comments

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  1. Funny, not half an hour ago, I read a post that said you should not bury containers as the pressure they are designed to take is only from vertical load. All those containers get stacked one on top the other, but they were not designed to withstand any pressure from the sides. And the earth would press at their sides. So it is not recommended. I do not have the link, but I know the advice was given by Owen Geiger, so I would trust it.

  2. you can build underground but need reinforcement and waterproofing etc etc just like all underground structures plus the further underground brings up more stresses I would go hill top and earth bermed to get rid of drainage problems into ormid hill would constantly hold water longer

  3. A lot of containers are being used in Australia as accommodation and kitchen facilities for mining at various sites the country. The company I work for supplies macerate and grey water pumps to transfer waste to on site holding tanks

    • I’m trying to do the same but the only people I find are in Australia, Is your house in america? what state? and who did you use to build it?

  4. Love these container homes.

    We, in Australia, are having a problem finding suitable housing for our asylum seekers. The use of containers for housing is a win-win.

  5. If you are looking for some insight as to what it will take to build your own home from shipping containers read this.

    The advantages of using shipping containers as your construction building blocks include:

    They are inexpensive. A used container will cost between $800 and $6000 each, depending on size, age, condition and distance from the building site. Each 40 foot container gives you 320 square feet. They generally cut overall construction cost by 20-50%.

    Energy concerns. It takes far less energy to reuse shipping containers in a building than to melt them down and reform then into steel beams. Add solar panels and even the ongoing energy use will be green.

    Examples of plans can be found HERE-

    d3ae4lzb1ldzbt8-vdm9bxuk2f.hop.clickbank.net/?tid=SHIPPING CONTAINER

  6. Portable houses are became a necessity for any onsite office or camp- but especially it is much required on those sites, where production & work life cycles are unknown. Portable containers offices and home making is easy and efficient in affordable price. Modified old shipping containers are an ideal solution for any on field housing and for further portable building – including cafeterias, rooms etc.

  7. What do you think about this project, protected by patent pending, for prefabricated Unfolding Housing Unit building?

    http://www.madihome.com

    What is M.A.Di? Unfolding?

    M.A.Di. is an Unfolding Housing Unit functional, earthquake proof , a facility suitable for several different uses: residential, leisure, community, trade; and useful for rescue operations in case of natural disasters.

    With its technical deployment, M.A.DI. allows anyone to have, in a few hours and in the chosen location, a real home, with the possibility to close and move it to another place and to expand it with the addition of new housing modules, according to the changing needs.

    M.A.Di offers the freedom to have, now,a temporary home in the place where you want, or a permanent one if placed on a building site, customized and scaled to your needs and financial resources.

    M.A.Di. is a dry assembled and easy mounting structure that can be performed using different materials: wood, steel, glass, PVC or composite material (GRP, GRP or other); only the base frame will be necessarily made of steel.

    In the folded condition of the M.A.Di. HOME version, M.A.Di. is presented as a parallelepiped, similar to a container. Once deployed, the box, losing all its forms, it is transformed into a real home (OVER 80 SQM) composed of a ground floor and first floor.

    M.A.Di. is currently a patent protected worldwide, PLACE A for innovation and industrialization by the International Commission judging its patentability, and it having a lot of curiosity and interest.

  8. We are considering using 5 container units to build an underground ‘hobbit house’….with a large space between 2 parallel units for a great room. We will be planting the kitchen herb garden on the roof which will be metal as well. Any suggestions as to foundation material, how to waterproof/floodproof, etc.?

  9. Hi Deborah,

    Such an exciting project!

    Hope it all comes together easily for you…

    I have read that if you bury containers they are going to need a lot of extra support on the sides as they were not meant/built to receive any stress on their sides…you might need to talk to an engineer about this…

    Not an expert so hoping someone else answers the water proofing/foundation questions…!

  10. all the container by far are very attractive but does they work in hot desert climate and what are their life span expectations

  11. WOW….Many wonderful idea recycle/useful used Container –

    They are Not ugly at all…Very Attractive

    THANK YOU.

    Will get back to you….Hendersonville, North Carolina USA

  12. Unfortunately most all containers are painted with toxic marine paint. The only successful way to get all the paint off is sandblasting. Then you have to dispose of the paint mess properly… No easier way…sorry.

    Other question – hot desert location – I think you would need to shelter the metal from direct sun and insulate it well…life expectancy is long…but dependent on finish and location.

  13. Hi, we’re just beginning to design our shipping container house in Israel. We’d love to hear from anyone who has already built a shipping container house. – Experiences, tips, stories… In particular, how did you insulate/ thermamass your container? We’re planning on putting earthbags on the outside, not sure what we’ll use on the inside.

    Our email address is: miridna@gmail.com

  14. Hi Miriam,

    I was reading your comment about your new house, congratulations!!! I am starting with a project my self and I did find a product to insulate the exterior, is a acrylic water base painting, non toxic, it will work as painting, prevent 86.60% solar heat and it has elasticity, let me know if it help.

    Best regards,

    Furtake

  15. hi.. compliements!

    1.how much is a 20sq ft container?

    2.how much is a 40sq ft container?

    3.how much would it cost to ship it to Botswana?

  16. Hello:

    What is the largest container for housing you have, new or used, and what does it cost, per container?

    Also, what are the shipping costs within the continental US?

    Thank you and love, love love the structures.

    G

  17. Hi,

    Prices are dependent on your location. A used container near a large shipping port is going to be a lot cheaper than transporting a new container to a land locked location. After a search on ebay (or try NYcontainer, Shipping Containers 24, Iport and Midwest Storage Containers.) I see a 20 foot container can be had for $1300. and up without shipping. A 40 foot for $1700. and up not including shipping. Shipping is definitely going to add considerably to the cost. I cannot guess as costs will differ by region. Inquire with a local shipping company. The largest shipping container made is 45 feet long by 8 feet wide.

  18. Hi, thanks Furtake for your response, do you have the name of the paint product? Also, are you painting directly onto the container?

  19. i need this this informations as there is a need for cheap homes in namibia. anyone with this informations please contact him. we have a high demand for affordable accomodation in windhoek.

  20. I’ve found quite comprehensive article on container housing over at Julie’s blog juliekinnear.com/blogs/shipping-container-homes with examples of some Canadian companies, which repurpose containers for living. Mentioned costs are similar to what I read here What made my eyebrow raise was the mentioned problems with vertical insulation and reduced living space. I don’t see it as real problem if you’re considering adding the roof or stacking them on top of each other. What do you think?

  21. Hi I am interested in finding people (a small group) of people In forming a Co-Op Housing project. I have 40 Acre’s in Texas and am putting together a proposal for up to possibly 5 partners and no more. The units would be 2 and 4 bedroom completely self contained on 2 acre lots and would be targeted at the incoming biofuel industry in West Texas. For more information please feel free to email me thanks

  22. Hey guys,

    Thanks for the awesome ideas! I am considering making a house for myself out of these containers. I mean who doesn’t want a strong/sturdy house that also helps recycles these things! I have been in touch with http://www.gauthiersrental.com and I’m waiting for a quote on used containers. They sell both new and used containers FYI. Can’t wait to see more pics in the future. Once I get mine built I’ll share my pics 🙂

  23. I live in San Jose Ca. an I have hopes of building my home out of shipping containers someday. San Jose is converted over the years into and eco friendly attitude city and I believe something like this here, would make a bold statement. keep up all the good work. See you in the near future.

  24. Not sure if I talked to you via email about container homes or someone else. Can they be built in every State?

  25. You can download plans to build your own shipping container home here howtobuildashippingcontainerhome.blogspot.co.nz/

  26. I have been following container uses for years however even though you mention the toxic danger of using these containers rarely is it mentioned whether or not any of the above units have been treated correctly i.e. the one that is a school. Many of them that you can still see the lead based paint. Surely a huge consideration; as well as receiving permits etc. In US companies are doing conversions however the price very high or people are importing units which does not help deferring the surplus of the millions of empty cargo boxes around the USA. Great photos, thank you!

  27. Me parece una opción muy interesante e inovadora, en Chile está recien entrando como solución de oficinas y después del terremoto como colegios.

  28. In spite of side vents in container, after we insulated and sheetrocked, we’ve found that the cold metal from the outside to the warmth (even through insulation) has caused tremendous weeping, basically trashing the insulation. WHAT CAN WE DO TO PREVENT the metal from weeping? A plastic coating? What? We are going to have to rip out all the insulation, studs, sheetrock and start over but what do we do to prevent the weeping?

  29. Hi my name is Calvin with PitBull Containers, Atlanta’s largest re-seller of shipping containers.

    If you are looking to buy shipping/storage containers for your projects, call me @ 1-888-443-1523 Ext # 705 I will be glad to help you with a quote and find exactly what you need. We mostly deal with 20′ 40′ 20’HC and 40’HC

    We ship nationwide, I will get you the right price, let me know how I can be of service to you.

    I think these containers make a huge statement… Good Luck on your future projects.

  30. I live in South Africa and have been doing renovations for almost 4 years now.but moving into the Container home business. THEBGUY FROM WINDJOEK can email me do we can talk and maybe come do A project that side

    Email me at chromebase@gmail come

    Let’s build some homes

  31. Iam using a touch screen sorry guys…new to this so spelling n typing fast aint my game on this device.

    If anyone are interested in working with us to come do a project in your country or town let me no..anywhere in the world thou. Chromebase@gmail.com email me and lets discuss possibilities

  32. Hi, I’m Jay The Container Guy with Pitbull Containers, we have containers for all your housing, shipping and storage needs give me a call for a free quote at 888-443-1523 Ext 704

    Direct line 404-201-8542

    WE SHIP ANYWHERE IMMEDIATELY

  33. I am going to be in Los Angeles next week (8/7/14) and I would like to visit some container homes or just drive by. If anyone knows of one under construction to visit would be great.

    Thank you.

  34. I wanteed to get your telephone and call for information, I want a Wonderful-Luxury-Home, I live at the Father Joe village for the homeles, I want out of here as soon as possible, My Income is only $866.00 Monthly, and after all the bill’s are paid nothing is left.

    There must be an answer to getting out of here! Can you , willl you work with me! My Address is: Doris Cintron 72-17th Street.,#(603) San Diego, CA 92101 PH:(619)481-8328.

    Please, call me as immediately as possible.

    Thank you,

    Doris Cintron

    P.S. Retired-Nurse, On Social Security (SSI).

  35. We are the CHS Container group, a global container trader and market leader in our homecountry Germany. We are supplying used shipping containers worldwide or affordable accommodation containers made in China but with international standard.

    We offer a One Stop Solution for supply of containers, transport and assembly. Is this something you could be interested in?

    contact me: frank.mittermueller@melchers.com.tw

  36. I have been selling shipping containers for over ten years. I have the best containers for the best price being I have a long term relationship with my vendors. Please call today. Huge discounts on groups of five or more.770-712-4750 or 404-798-1708

  37. I am a real estate investor wanting to build with containers in Austin, TX. Cubist style architecture is popular and nothing is more cubical than a container. Text or call with any resources. Ray 540-664-6499

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