All posts by David

Is there something wrong with Shipping Container Housing?

One architect responded “Yes, everything! In Denmark, shipping containers have become such a big thing that they are even placing them in glass cases. Ever since I was ten, I have not the best relationship with shipping containers, this was when my father entered the container business. Back then they were manufactured in Canada and the USA, they were quite expensive, no one ever thought of living in them. However, every once in awhile he would receive a picture if a container in Africa which had fallen off a truck, windows as well as doors had been cut right into the walls”.


My First Year Summer Camp

While in University, I had a bit of fun with them. I designed, for temporary use a summer camp which would fold out of a forty footer. Being as you never would really use a container empty, the dimensions were not really ideal for people to use, insecticides were used to treat the flooring, the paint had been designed to last on high seas for at least ten years, this means that they were highly industrial. Not sticking to containers may have been a very bad career choice, however my attempts at tiny homes and modular construction did not quite pan out either.

The lesson here may very well be that when housing is in question, technology or perhaps the lack thereof is probably not the fundamental issue. After I in a very bemused way watched all the shipping container schemes which were being broadcasted, I wondered if there was any sense to shipping container architecture. This was a few years back, now however and as a response to the same architectural competition which was covered here, OpenScope Studios architect, Mark Hogan made a list with questions of his own.

Having actually built a container as a project, he is able to speak from personal experience, he states: “Sites in which it is not desirable or feasible to have on-site construction, a sensible option may be to fit a container out in the factory.” But what about for housing? Mark makes some very valid points on his personal website, here are a few of the ones I found most interesting:

Generally, Housing Is Not a Technology Issue.

Everywhere in the world you will find vernacular housing, generally, due to the local weather it will work pretty well. There are places that have shortage of material or cases where housing which is factory built may be more appropriate, this is especially true if an area is in recovery from a disaster. This would be a case in which it would make sense to have prefab buildings, having them made in containers however would not make blueprints

Here I may point out that the amazing genius of shipping container does not lie in the box itself but in the handling systems. There are cranes, ships, trains and trucks which are designed around them So if these can be delivered quickly after a disaster, the shipping container is the very best form. A fundamental problem is then addressed by him and that is width, it really is just too narrow. Insulation is another huge issue and at last there is someone who understands structure.


Cantilever proposals can be seen everywhere. Containers which are stacked much like Lego building blocks, perhaps with one layer that is perpendicular to the other. Architects are obsessed with kind of stuff, much like the generally meaningless and misleading phrases they throw around like “kit of parts”. But guess what, the moment the containers are not stacked on their corners, the structure which is built into the containers requires duplication with reinforcements of heavy steel.

The top rails as well as the containers roof are not at all structural, the roof of a container is made of light gauge steel, even if you step on it, it will easily dent. If openings are cut in the container walls, the entire structure will begin to deflect and because the sides, which are corrugated work as the flange of beam, once large pieces have been removed the beam will no longer work, they will need to be reinforced. Steel reinforcing can be quite expensive; however, it is the only way in which a “double-wide” can be built.


I thought I would add to the article becuase Hamed Wardak, see comments below, offered up perhaps a very unusual circumstance, but not in the big picture of home creation or buying.  Noise can be a big factor for almost all of us when if comes to the location and the type of home we live in. For Hamed Wardak, who is a rather versed techno music producer and DJ, he needs more protection from outside noises, but also from his noise getting out of control.

The  short answer is ‘yes’. If Hamed Wardak wants to build a contianer home, he can for a bit more money make cetrtian that noise neither escapes or gets inside his container home unit.

Utilities and Mechanical Systems

Here is a very important one which had never occurred to me. A lot of space to run utilities is required in a large building. Due to the above mentioned insulation issues, a very robust HVAC system must be installed to cool and heat the building. Passive strategies such as thermal mass will be difficult to take advantage of if the container remains aesthetic. You will also be stuck with ceilings that are very low being as even high cube containers are a mere 9-’6” (2.9m) of general height on the exterior, this means that any kind of utilities or ductwork begin to cut off head space.


The issue of recycling is something else that Mark mentions. In the past I too have looked at this, I did a calculation of the Upcycle House which ambitiously was attempting to become the first house ever constructed from environmentally sustainable and upcycled materials. The calculation was to determine if the use off two shipping containers for the house structure was the best and highest use possible:

The weight of a 40’ shipping container is 8,380 pounds; the weight of a galvanized steel stud is one pound per linear foot. Once these two containers had been melted down, rolled and then formed would have been upcycled into steel studs that were 2,095 8’ long. If walls were framed as opposed to using shipping containers, would have required the use of about one hundred and forty-four of them. It is actually downcycling to use shipping containers for structural elements of a building that is one storey, and that is a waste of a resource.

More steel than is needed for a building is found in a shipping container; this is so that they will be able to be stacked nine high, tossed around while out at sea, tossed on trucks and trains without suffering any damage. When it is put into a house, it is a real waste. Mark intelligently points out that it will probably be built for much less and in a shorter amount of time if you do not bring in a welder that will only mess up a shipping container.

Building a room that size can easily be done, even by someone who is relatively untrained, it can even be made of simple wood framing in only a day, you will not have to even rent a crane or take on welding classes, this may even cost around the same if not less than purchasing a used container.

Let me make it clear that I absolutely love shipping container architecture which moves and can plug in, this is really making the most out of an amazing infrastructure. I am in agreeance with Mark, for temporary or emergency use, it is terrific. However is it good for housing?  What are your views on the subject?  Have you built one yourself?  Let us know in the comments.

Does this book make the ‘Affordable’ Dream House Become Reality?

Shipping container home

Build A Container Home – Can it really be as easy as this book makes it seem?

Like many people who are looking at creating a unique and affordable home, you may have found that shipping containers are an unusual yet extremely reliable building block for your project. Many people wonder whether building a home out of shipping containers is a good idea… read what this real estate investor thinks about it.

There are products available to guide you step by step through the process of building your own home out of one (or many!) of these containers, and the e-book “Build A Container Home” is one that I’ve spent time researching.  Does this book give you everything you need to know? All my findings are in the following article.

Continue reading Does this book make the ‘Affordable’ Dream House Become Reality?

London’s Intermodal Container Village


Architects, civil engineers, urban planners, and even interior decorators have been at work in transforming shipping containers into a wide range of structures for the past 20 years. While these shipping container homes, admittedly, are being constructed primarily for economic necessity, most of them have managed to become aesthetic representations of the people who own them.

Trinity Buoy, London – A Solution to Skyrocketing House/Office Prices

container city

Some people live on boats so why not in shipping containers? With prices of homes rising steadily on the upward trend, people are considering other options instead of compromising their hard-earned cash just to get a step on the current property ladder. For the first-time purchaser in the U.K., the average price for a house by 2020 would reach almost a quarter of one million pounds.

For those who want to reside in London with budgets that do not fit the city’s skyrocketing real estate prices, the Container City at the Trinity Buoy Wharf is the perfect solution. Its completion in 2002 added another attraction to the wharf area other than London’s only lighthouse, albeit no longer functional, and shows no sign of a let-up in eager buyers.

These apartment-type containers cost from £600 to £1000 monthly in rental, a comparatively low price to pay to live in London’s central district. All these containers, made from surplus shipping container vans, have been designed to be sustainable using an “Urban Space Management” trademark. This involves utilising the forty-foot standard equivalent of shipping container units to create flexible, comfortable accommodations.


How to Create Prosperity and Wealth


While Urban Space Management’s plans to construct more residential structures from containers, houses such as these have diversified into classrooms, retail and office spaces, and youth centres. This development at the London Docklands has made the Trinity Buoy Wharf a haven for those who desire flexibility, scale, and sustainability in their habitats.


The Trinity Buoy Wharf has work studios as well as work and live lofts that are stacked one on top of the other that are component pieces instead of the conventional units. Urban Space Management founder Eric Reynolds believes that creating prosperity and wealth in any place must start by filling it with people who are, economically, “poor” but equally “artistic.”

interior Container_City


Where Artists Go, People Follow

Container City’s current “artistic” residents include journalist-broadcaster Caroline Barker, Russell Grant of “Strictly Come Dancing,” makeup artist Becky McGahern, and others who work on creative processes such as sculptors, textile designers, painters, and electronic imaging experimentalists, to name a few. Reynolds believes that where artistic people go, others will soon follow.


Trinity Buoy Wharf now has affordable studios and workshops that are placed cozily next to one another, the complete solution to the perpetual demons known as isolation and poverty — that stalk artists everywhere. This isn’t surprising when one discovers that Reynolds transformed the erstwhile derelict Camden Town, then a canal zone that was not only run down and dirty but dangerous, into an artistic enclave in 1974.


A “Far-Sighted Decision” for Creative Purposes

According to Reynolds, Container City homes and work spaces cost only £5 for one square foot yearly, meaning some tenants pay merely £40 weekly. You won’t find corporate bulldozers at Trinity Buoy Wharf because their absence is the “far-sighted decision” of the former LDDC (London Docklands Development Commission) to sell the site to Reynolds for £1 if Reynolds will use it for creative purposes.


Instead of being flogged with commercial and residential residences for urban professionals such as bankers, lawyers, accountants, and other white collar workers. According to Reynolds, the Trinity Buoy Wharf Trust is Urban Space Management’s “landlord,” with a long-term lease of 120 years. Reynolds’ company pays the Trust with a fixed percentage of 25% from whatever Urban Space Management makes annually.

Growing at One’s Own Pace

This arrangement, Reynolds explained, enables Urban Space Management to grow at their own pace instead of having them keep up with commercial land value. Still according to Reynolds, one can buy redundant shipping containers for as low as £600 each, insulate them, cut out holes for windows, and stack them one on top of another. Even with the addition of power and plumbing you can still charge £30 per square foot.


If one uses conventional methods in putting up an industrial building in its simplest structure, Reynolds said, the cost could start at £75 and rise from £120 to £130 if difficult conditions are encountered during construction. For developers to obtain a substantial return on their investment in a considerable period of time, they would have to charge more than £50 for each square foot yearly.


Amazingly Creative

Reynolds has a long waiting list of individuals who are, in his words, “desperate” to reside and do creative work in one of its shipping container home and studio. Urban Space Management is currently constructing Container City 2, proof of the success of its predecessor. The second Container City, still based on shipping container plans, will have five floors with 30 units.


Thirty-three year old video artist Alex Sandover and his two terriers occupy one of the top floor’s studios, one of 55 artists who are currently renting other studio units. The shipping container homes at Container City are not interspersed with feng shui water fountains, landscaping, and other residential development amenities. But, for all intents and purposes, this Trinity Buoy Wharf community looks and feels amazingly creative.

If you’d like to see some ideas on your own smaller scale version of this – check out these plans.



More Free Shipping Container Home Floor Plans

planningAs promised, here’s the next set of shipping container home plans.  If you have any feedback on the types of plans you would like to see in the future, let me know.  The same goes for any other information you’d like to be covered on this site.

If you’d like to see the original set of plans, then follow this link.

If you’re looking through these plans and finding it hard to visual just what the results could look like, then take a look at the following video.  This is an incredible modern design, and uses a split level to get even more usable space out of each container.  I was skeptical as to whether this could work, but this video has changed my mind!


So let’s begin with the designs that you could use to build your own container home.

Plan 4


So here we have another double-container plan.  This is a bright and airy design for both the living space and the bedroom.

Plan 5

This design uses three containers, creating a very spacious living area, a decent sized shower room, and a bedroom that is split into two areas.



Plan 6

OK, so this may be a little ambitious, but isn’t that part of the beauty of this kind of building?  This is a 3 level building, and while the engineers out there might be screaming that this won’t work, there’s always a chance that someone can come up with a way of doing this for real.  OK, the garage might be a push, but using the bottom floor for a motorcycle store, or other kind of practical unit isn’t outside the realms of possibility.  It might be perfect for those of you who drive Smart cars.  Let’s hear your thoughts for improvements!



Well that’s it for this section.  If you’d like to see more designs, then please let us know in the comments, and I’ll create some more.

If you have any of your own designs that you’d like to share then let me know and I’ll be in touch.  If you’d like to practise creating your own shipping container hoime designs, then have a look at this page for more info.



4 questions to ask before building a house from shipping containers

questions to askAs the difficulty of finding affordable housing continues to hound homebuyers, the pursuit of building one’s own house has become increasingly popular not only for those who have a tight budget but also for those who are concerned about the environment as well. A shipping container home may be one of the best options that you can consider.
Here are some things to think about before deciding to build your home out of a shipping container.

Continue reading 4 questions to ask before building a house from shipping containers

How about a swimming pool made from cargo containers?

shipping swimming poSo is this the next big thing for shipping containers?  Having a house made from one, and then with a swimming pool made from the same material outside?

OK, it’s not a huge pool.  But it’s more than enough for the average family home.  I think this has got to be one of the best uses yet for these things.

You end up with a 20 or 40 foot long pool, which is eight feet wide and eight feet deep.

This company in the UK is already supplying containers which are ideal for this purpose.



3 Things To Avoid When Building A Shipping Container Home



Homes built from shipping containers have many benefits – lower cost compared to many other building methods, stronger structures thanks to the steel frame, and the possibility of building your home much faster than traditional methods allow for.

But there are 3  issues that you must bear in mind before embarking on a project of this type.  They can all be overcome quickly and inexpensively, but you must know about them before you can deal with them – something missing from a number of resources on cargo container builds.  Here are the main ones to be aware of. Continue reading 3 Things To Avoid When Building A Shipping Container Home