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
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 house with green roof by Poteet Architects.
2) The Savannah Project
3) Off-The-Grid Shipping Container Home in Nederland, Colorado
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
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, as above. Lots more great photos here (modern, open interior!)
5) Store Made Of Containers
Stopped by to get some day photos and do a little more shopping. Love this little establishment. #ciscocontainers #roadtrip #topodesigns #portside #cirro #cartdriver #sprung #denvercolorado #denver #shippingcontainer #shippingcontainerstore #containerstructure #containermodifications #containerliving #containerhouse #shopping #eat #rinodistrict
This container building is used as a shopping center. The black exterior creates a sleek, modernized style.
6) Rustic Minnesota 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.
The Best Shipping Containers For Sale Right Now
40ft Shipping Storage Container Conex Box: $1,650
The container is in California but can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. If you buy this you’re covered by eBay’s money-back guarantee.
Custom Container Home: $80,000
Achi Modular also offers a free quote for your own house design.
7) Shipping Container Home in Ottawa, Canada
This building showcased by Idekit Homes was built by EM2ESpaceMobile.
8) Container Home And Photography Studio, San Jose, Costa Rica
Eight containers surround a double height glass atrium. This magnificent structure was built by Maria Jose Trejos.
9) Ancient Foundation, New Container Home
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
This shipping container bridge showcases one of many uses for containers.
24) Unique Dusseldorf Design #3
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
This container building combines the practical use of shipping containers with whimsy.
26) Container City, Trinity Buoy Wharf, London.
Container City did a spectacular job contructing this intricate building.
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
29) Keerwogen—The World’s Largest Container City
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
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. Tony’s Farm is an organic farm packing station, visitor center, hotel, and office building in one.
The construction was undertaken by Playze Architect.
32) Shipping Container Starbucks
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
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.
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.