Shipping container homes are one of the latest architectural styles embraced by the tiny home contingent – and no wonder. They are simple to customize, fast to build, and durable. All while looking great. And because you are starting with a blank canvas, the customization is up to you. You can make it ultra-modern or ultra-funky, as you’ll see in some of our examples of this new trend in “cargotechture”.
A 20-foot container provides160 square feet of living space and a 40-foot container is 320 square feet of room. There are also “cube” versions of these containers which have ceilings that are 9′ 6″ tall. It makes a big difference in a small space. It also makes a HUGE difference to the space available over your head for adding insulation. And without insulation, your container will be cold in the winter and hot in the summer.
But, like everything, there are pros and cons with these houses.
Shipping Container Homes: Pros
- Cost-Effective: I have to qualify this with “sometimes’. Like everything, it depends on what you add to the structure. I’ve done a lot of research and I lean to yes, it can be more cost-effective to build. But maintenance savings are something you can also count on (see strength and durability). The one I dream of would not be more cost-effective but it would be stunning. You will see a few of those here.
- Quick to Build: Very rapid build, especially if you have the container modified at the factory – the site prep can be simultaneous to the build.
- Durability & Strength: Providing you don’t cut too much steel away from the sides and replace it with glass, these structures are extremely strong and can stack. If you don’t think so, have a look at the last picture, with the Jenga-like stacked building in Korea. Made of 14-gauge steel, shipping container homes are also hurricane, tornado, and earthquake-proof. Well, almost ‘proof’. Properly anchored, they can withstand winds up to 175mph.
- Creative Freedom: Anything you start from scratch will give you this creative freedom, container homes included.
- Mobility: If you want, you can pick it up and move it (if it’s more than a single container, it’s more complicated).
Shipping Container Homes: Cons
- Possibly Not So Eco-Friendly: In fact, probably not. You will most likely want a new container. You can recycle but it’s very dicey and you’d better be sure of the container you are buying. Many are not in the best shape. Think saltwater + steel. It corrodes. Now, it is fantastic if you can use a recycled shipping container – it is very environmentally friendly, as the alternative is melting the steel and that requires a great deal of energy. It’s just not possible that often.
- Permits and Codes: You may have to jump through a few more hoops to get legal on the lot you want to use for your shipping container home. Or to add a small one to the backyard as a guest house. But it’s worth it, I think.
Single Level Homes
Do you need more than one level? You can still build a big house with multiple containers and keep it to one story and no stairs.
Kubed Living offers many pre-designed shipping container home styles, as well as custom designs. We love the blue on this one and small as it is, adding a deck can make it feel a lot larger. And, you wouldn’t want to try stacking on a container like this, where one wall is almost entirely windows. Losing that much steel would really affect the strength (for that purpose).
A three container home in Australia – this home is spacious and spread out, with the entertaining and sleeping zones separate from each other. Source
You can order this glass container house from China, pre-fabbed. Or order a custom unit.
I just love the way they have stacked the casement windows on this custom-built shipping container home. It makes it look taller immediately. And provides great air circulation. Source
HonoMobo prefabs shipping container homes in Canada and the USA and can ship pretty much anywhere. Lots of styles and sizes to choose from. And the studio or home office (below), at 160 square feet of space, starts at just $54,000. It would make a perfect guest bunkhouse or casita in your backyard!
This side by side shipping container home in Costa Rica has a lot to offer. Source
This is a simply amazing container home in New Zealand and you MUST click on the link! It’s much larger than this. Probably the best looking home & location yet in this genre. Once you see this shipping container home, you will not be able to think of much else, if a container home is in your future.
Shipping Container Homes: Double Deckers
This one looks like a train caboose! From CargoHome in Waco, TX, this style is called The Helm. Check their site for more styles.
This modern shipping container home was designed by MB Architecture for a family of five.
The Kaloorup shipping container house in Australia is made of nine 40-ft containers. That’s a lot of space.
The Mods build some fantastic custom shipping container homes. See their website for more models.
This beautiful, modern shipping container home is available pre-fab from China. Do check shipping and insurance costs before purchasing. The prices are incredible. But the shipping can eat away much of your savings.
Casa Incubo by Maria Jose Trejos is a stunning home that is made of eight shipping containers for a photographer client. The architect estimates that 20% of both costs and construction time were saved by using containers. And it certainly is a spectacular creation. Be sure to click on the link to see some incredible interior shots.
This house in Exshaw, Alberta (about 50 miles west of Calgary) was built using six 40-foot shipping containers. They were modified off-site, which saved a great deal of time and made the build-out much quicker. This is one of the main advantages to building a container home – the time required is far less than a traditional build. To be honest, it doesn’t even look like a container home. Defeats the purpose? I guess not if a nice-looking home, built securely and in short order was your goal. Source
If you want to purchase a container and build your own home, you can purchase containers from a company like Coast Containers. Check out their blog – this piece is about Houses Built from Shipping Containers.
It’s Only at the Design Stage but … wow