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. (Updated June 28, 2016)
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.
1) Shipping Container Guest House, San Antonio
Poteet Architects’s 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. poteetarchitects.com
Container house with green roof by Poteet Architects. poteetarchitects.com
2) The Savannah Project
Container Home, “The Savanah Project’, Georgia. Two 40-foot containers, pricestreetprojects.com
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. Brad Tomecek.
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. arcgency.com
Shipping container home, as above. Lots more great photos here (modern, open interior!): arcgency.com
5) 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.
Shipping Container Home Tour: 2 Containers Welded Together
This two-container home still fits on a trailer for easy transport. It is quite narrow, but has a full kitchen with stove, sink, and cabinet space. The living area is a kind-of “half-loft,” up some sort stairs, with room for two built-in couches, a TV, and wood-burning stove. The bedroom is at the back of the house, it has room for a queen-sized bed, plus built in storage. The bathroom is fully-tiled and includes a sink, toilet and shower, plus a large window for ventilation.
The Best Shipping Containers For Sale Right Now
40ft Shipping Storage Container Conex Box: $1,550
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.
53′ High Cube Shipping/Storage Container: $3,950
The container is in Houston. It has light wear but will keep wind and water out, and is structurally sound. Shipping (extra) would be arranged with the seller. Buyers covered by eBay’s money back guarantee.
Custom Container Home: $80,000
Atomic Custom Containers offers engineering and design consulting.
6) Shipping Container Home in Ottawa, Canada
By Idekit Homes: em2espacemobile.com
7) Container Home And Photography Studio, San Jose, Costa Rica
Eight containers surround a double height glass atrium. Maria Jose Trejos.
8) Ancient Foundation, New Container Home
A wooden sided container sits atop an existing stone foundation in Portugal.
9) Swedish Shipping Container Sauna
Sauna with built-in wood storage by WRB, Sweden. wrak.se
10) Quad-Container Home
The Cross Box, France, comprised of 4 x 40′ shipping containers, accommodation totals 1280 sq ft. cgarchitectes.fr
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.
11) New York Container Home
Shipping container home, NY. Tim Steele Design.
Two forty foot long containers sit on a twenty foot container.
12) Container ‘Quik’ House, New Jersey
Two, three-container-wide 2000 sq foot homes.
13) 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. By Benjamin Garcia Saxe.
14) 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. facebook.com
15) Modern Container Home
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.
16) 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. lot-ek.com
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. lot-ek.com
17) 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.
18) 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. nrw-forum.de
19) Unique Dusseldorf Design #2
20) Unique Dusseldorf Design #3
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.”
21) Unique Dusseldorf Design #4
22) Container City, Trinity Buoy Wharf, London.
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. containercity.com
23) Sugoroku Office, Gifu, Japan
Daiken-Met Architects. archisearch.gr
24) 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
25) 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. aucoeurdelileseguin.fr
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.”
26) Tony’s Organic Farm, Shanghai
Container Building. Tony’s Farm is an organic farm packing station, visitor center, hotel and office building in one. playze.com
27) 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
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 Home Plans
containerhome.biz 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.
At offgridworld.com they’ve created six container home design concepts. They are just basic drawings, not full plans that you could build from.
shippingcontainerhousedesign.com has five design concepts to inspire you.
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.
New Generation Builders turn shipping containers into commercial buildings, tradeshow booths, and security booths.
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.