A stand-alone 20’ container hotel room that can move around

A stand-alone 20’ container hotel room that can move around

When you are in the early stages of a container project, it is important to figure out the general scope of your project. You should have a rough idea of how many containers you think you will need, an idea of how you plan on using them and what general modifications you want. Are you looking to take a container and make a few tweaks to make it your own or are you planning a large, multi-container complex? Obviously, these are two ends of the spectrum, but having a good understanding of where you want to go will help in figuring out what you need to do.

 Please keep in mind the following:

  • If you are looking for just a few minor modifications to a container, you may or may not need to involve anyone else in your project. The real focus is getting the work done the way you want it.

  •  If you are looking for a home or retail space, things will get more complicated more quickly. You will need to look into local zoning issues, more detailed plans and involve more people in creating and following through with those plans.

  • Another thing to keep in mind is that the more you plan on taking away from a container (i.e. Removing full sides of the container, creating large windows, etc.) and/or stacking containers, the more complicated the project will be.

You have a rough idea of what you want, but there are still a ton of unanswered questions. You need experts to help you out in seeing what’s realistic for what you want to do. So, where do you turn next? Usually that is a 3-part answer. There are 3 things that you have to look at almost all at the same time. There are the containers themselves, the project’s design plan, and the feasibility of the project. There are many more issues to consider, but these questions help you figure out the rest of it. 

A recent customer stacked these 9 Super Cubes containers for a new home in St Louis

A recent customer stacked these 9 Super Cubes containers for a new home in St Louis

1.  The Containers

Containers come in three standard sizes and conditions. We also have some specialty containers that can also come in handy. Pricing will vary on the size and condition of the container as well as where you are located. Give us a call to get an idea of how much containers cost and how much they will cost to get to you.

To help with some of this, seeing the below specs on our standard container sizes and conditions of our containers: wind-and water-tight, cargo-worthy and one-trip. Also, viewing our container basics page is a great reference as well.

Max Gross: Weight of Full Container (Container Filled to Rim)    Tare: Weight of Container (Weight of Empty Container)    Net: Weight Capacity (Max Gross minus Tare)

Max Gross: Weight of Full Container (Container Filled to Rim)

Tare: Weight of Container (Weight of Empty Container)

Net: Weight Capacity (Max Gross minus Tare)

2. The Project Design

The most exciting part of the project is the design work. You have an image in your head of what you want to do. It is time to put that down on paper or on a screen to show everyone else your vision (what you want to do). Once you communicate it with someone else, your project will probably fall into one of three categories:

  •  Small, straightforward modifications, no structural elements. This is the most basic project. It’s just one container, you’re adding in a door and/or a window or two and that is about it. Overall, the container stays basically intact.

  • Smaller project, but some structural elements. Your project is still small, but has some part of it that requires a bit of structural work. It might be a large opening between two containers or large doors that reduce the structural integrity of the container.


  • Larger projects with structural elements. This would be any home, multi-container structure, or other projects that have considerable structural elements to it (i.e. stacking, larger cut-out sections, etc).

If you do need some structural help, we strongly recommend working with a structural engineer and/or an architect.  They will create plans that will help in the next few stages of your project. Those designs will be needed for any zoning and building code approvals as well as for pricing the cost of any desired modifications. These professionals will ensure that your design is safe. However if you are doing a smaller project with just a door or window, you can easily draw that up yourself.

A 50-container shrimp farm we helped with in Los Vegas, NV.

A 50-container shrimp farm we helped with in Los Vegas, NV.


Super Cubes does not have a design team. We can help with modifications, but we would either need a design that you draw up, one from your structural engineer or architect.

3.  Feasibility  

Where you are putting your project also is a big part of the equation. If you are building a house, does your project need to meet any building requirements by your city, county or state? Are you zoned for the type of project you have? What about the land itself? What preparations do you need to make to ensure you have the proper foundation for your project?  These are all critical questions that you will need to investigate before you get too far on your project. You may need to work with a variety of different people to get to all of these answers. Often you will need some of the design work done before getting too far into the feasibility work on your project.

Stayed tune for Part 2 in this series when we talk about modifications and other services needed for your project!

Sebastian Irararrazaval Casa Oruga Design

Sebastian Irararrazaval Casa Oruga Design

Container homes are popping up worldwide.  Today we’ll explore homes in Chile, France and Canada.  I have one picture of each house to start and then plenty more below.

First we have the Caterpillar House (“Casa Oruga”) in the mountain outskirts of Santiago de Chile.  Sebastián Irarrázaval Delpiano designed the home out of 5-40’, 6-20’ and 1 40’ open-top containers as well as traditional building materials to create a home that features the containers as a means for

Drouin and Sanchez's Marseille France Container Home

Drouin and Sanchez's Marseille France Container Home

creating air circulation, sunlight and open and private spaces throughout the home.  You really need to click on this link to see a ton of pictures of this beautiful home.  It has a very clean, industrial look that takes advantage of the gorgeous views around it.  The pictures are copyrighted by Sergio Perrione.

Next up is a French home built right on the Mediterranean Sea.  French architects Claire Helene Drouin and Jean Marie Sanchez designed their home out of 15 containers and blogged about every step of the way.  If you can read French, there is plenty of information on every step from preparing the mountain-cliff location to placing the containers onsite.

Victoria, BC container home

Victoria, BC container home

And last but not least, Canadian residential designer Keith Dewey created his own home out of 8-20’ containers.  It has an open main floor and spacious bedrooms.  For more pictures, click here!

While browsing the pictures, if you want to see one larger, just click on it.

If you are considering building a container home, please tell us what other information you would like us to cover in our blog posts so we can make sure we’re being as helpful as possible.

Catepillar Home / Casa Oruga

Sebastian Irararrazaval Casa Oruga

Sebastian Irararrazaval Casa Oruga

Sebastian Irararrazaval Casa Oruga creates unique spaces

Sebastian Irararrazaval Casa Oruga creates unique spaces

Casa Oruga's living room

Casa Oruga's living room

Casa Oruga's open design

Casa Oruga's open design

Casa Oruga's children rooms have huge skylights

Casa Oruga's children rooms have huge skylights

Casa Oruga's as seen from above

Casa Oruga's as seen from above

French Seaside Home

Containers prepped and then set in place with a crane

Containers prepped and then set in place with a crane

Sections of the floor have been cut out before putting the containers in place

Sections of the floor have been cut out before putting the containers in place

Containers in place

Containers in place

Victoria, BC Container Home

Another view of the home

Another view of the home

An open floorplan

An open floorplan

Large master bedroom

Large master bedroom

Recently a new 20-unit condo building made from 93 containers was announced in Detroit.  The plans are chalk full of great green technologies – ductless heating and air system, tankless water heaters, etc.  This project highlights all that can be good about green container architecture.  But is it is really all it is cracked up to be?

In this article about the new development, they highlight other high-profile container projects such as the student dorms in Amsterdam, the Muvbox café in a container, and The Sunset Cargotecture House, Seattle among others.   These projects are fantastic examples of what container architecture is at its finest.

But the article also highlights a few other points about container architecture that go unmentioned in most glowing reports about this building material – that there is not an overabundance of these around, that they are not cheaper than standard architecture/building projects.  While containers still remain relatively cheap, changes in the industry over the past few years have left prices higher than they were 5-10 years ago.  And even after you purchase the container, you will still have all of the same other building costs for all of your other materials and labor.

In response to press about this new project, Nathaniel Hood, a Twin Cities urban planner and blogger (Thoughts on the Urban Environment.), wrote about his experiences with a container apartment building his family owned in the 1980’s and as an urban planner.  He contends that:

“ It’s not that we shouldn’t build affordable housing – it’s that we shouldn’t build experimental affordable housing to fit the needs of a few green, trendy, idealistic populations who won’t be living there. The desire to recycle these unwanted containers is noble, but doesn’t lend itself to being as green as a building that can be built and stand its ground for hundreds of years.”

Shipping Containers to Become Condos in Detroit (ABC News)

Shipping Containers to Become Condos in Detroit (ABC News)

Tempohousing in the Netherlands

Tempohousing in the Netherlands

Mankato Tornado Towers courtesy of Star Tribune

Mankato Tornado Towers courtesy of Star Tribune

His experience with the container building of his youth that it was not energy efficient, nor did it age well.  He goes on to point out:

“Shipping container housing may make some sense in impoverished areas, like the favelas of Rio de Jeneirio, or as shelters after disasters in Haiti. They should not, however, be assembled to meet the needs of the first-world poor. We should view these are nothing more than a passing novelty – especially in areas like the Midwest. Real estate in Detroit is already affordable, and it’s confusing that small, cramped shipping container units would be viewed as a better alternative than just building brick buildings (according to one source, shipping containers save only 5 to 10 percent on construction costs).”

The Sunset Cargotecture House Seattle Home Sweet Container

The Sunset Cargotecture House Seattle Home Sweet Container

This reoccurring theme that container architecture does not save money is a good point.  I get calls frequently from potential customers that they are “going to turn 2 of these into our house really cheaply by doing it all myself”.  At the end of the day, it is a still a home that you want to be safe and sound.  One that you probably want to have electricity, plumbing, insulation, finished floors, walls, etc.  Regardless if you go with traditional building or containers, you will have these expenses and you will want them done correctly.

But if saving money is not your purpose in making a container home, then there are some benefits to be had.  There is a recycled component to building with containers.  They do have an esthetic that many find appealing and they do encourage a certain amount of

Muvbox pork and lobster rolls restaurants made from converted 20' containers

Muvbox pork and lobster rolls restaurants made from converted 20' containers

minimalism to really make the most of the 7’8” interior width that containers provide.  The result is some creative, beautiful buildings.

Is container architecture for everyone?  No.  Does it have its own place as a viable option for a home?  Most definitely.  But the key is to go into a project with your eyes open to both the challenges and the rewards of using containers.