LightHotel all lit up at night

LightHotel all lit up at night

The view from the doorway

The view from the doorway

What happens when your brilliant customer makes a hotel room out of one of your containers? Answer: You stay in it!!
Geoffrey Warner, AIA, the founder of Alchemy and weeHouse created LightHotel as an ecotourism alternative. They started with a 20' container from Super Cubes. We added in the windows and door for the utilities. The LightHotel team created a solar-powered, self-sufficient, stand-alone hotel room.  Naturally, we were excited to get to stay there.

The LightHotel has been traveling around Minneapolis, St Paul and the surrounding area to various events and festivals, including being stationed outside the Eco Experience building at the Minnesota State Fair. Recently, the LightHotel officially became an approved for rental as an RV hotel. You can reserve it through AirBnB by clicking here. As soon as LightHouse announced the approval, we rushed to get our reservation!

We decided to reserve it for a Saturday night. We arrived around 4:00pm. I took this video before we moved in. They had left us some bubbles since they knew we were coming with our son and meeting up with a couple of other families.  Our son was totally enthralled with the container and checking it all out. It is currently parked in the parking lot for a community garden in St Paul. We saw trains coming by and people gardening.  When our friends arrived, we showed off our home for the night. The adults love the nice finishes and space-saving measures taken to make the container feel really nice. The kids all thought it was very fun.  From there, we set off to one of the neighborhood tap rooms that has food trucks and entertainment for kids.

The hotel is currently next to a community garden.

The hotel is currently next to a community garden.

When we came back from dinner, we did some more bubbles and sidewalk chalk art and enjoyed checking out the container by night. We happened to reserve it on one of the hottest nights we've had so far this summer. The windows did provide some cross-breeze and there was a fan in the container. The container has a heater, this is Minnesota after all!  But does not have air condition because the amperage is too high with the current set up. We turned on the fan, created a little nest area with a sleeping bag for a son, and settled in for the night.

The container does have its own water system that gets refilled and emptied, so showering is an option. We skipped showering in the morning since we were heading right home and had packed light. It also has a composting toilet.

Watching trains from the patio of the hotel room.

Watching trains from the patio of the hotel room.

The container was a fun night's stay. The hotel room felt like it put the glam in glamping for us. Since we work with so many people interested in tiny homes and making homes from containers, it was a thrill to get to stay in one for the night. We do not have a cabin, like so many Minnesotans, but a 40' container with a kitchen added on would definitely be a fun option. LightHotel really took the decor in a different direction than many of the tiny homes that you see on TV. It had a very sleek, yet fun feel to it. We also thought it would be fun to stay in it in the winter. I would think it would be so snug and cozy. It had such a warm, welcoming feeling at night. The walls glowed in the light.

While we know a tiny home would not fit with our current situation, there is something so appealing about the compactness of tiny living. Hotels offer that great middle ground where you can try it out without committing your whole family to a huge change. Urban areas are often so densely populated and space is so expensive, tiny hotels seem like a great alternative for tourists. They also lend themselves to leaving small footprints both in terms of water and energy.

Would you want to stay in a tiny hotel? What appeals to you most about it?  What appeals to you least about it? Would you consider having one moved around to different locations like an RV or are you more tempted to have one already set up and ready for you in a place you want to visit?

The cozy hotel room at night.

The cozy hotel room at night.

LIGHTHOUSE (a 20's container hotel room) was featured at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' Third Thursday series on sustainability.

LIGHTHOUSE (a 20's container hotel room) was featured at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' Third Thursday series on sustainability.

LIGHTHOUSE premiered their 20' container hotel room yesterday at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' Third Thursday.  LIGHTHOUSE, in their own words is "an urban ecotourism beacon and postcard for sustainability."  For a full description and drawings of the container, click here or here for info from the MIA. Alchemy Architects, the builders of WeeHouse, led the project.  The added bonus - the container came from Super Cubes!!

Super Cubes and Alchemy worked together to find the right container for their needs.  We added in two openings for them for the windows.  We then brought the container over to the U of MN for students from the College of Design and various other partners to insulate the container and finish it with incredible high-end materials to create a self-sustained container.  It is powered by solar power on the roof.  It has a closed water system so it does not need to be connected to water and sewer, allowing the container to go to all sorts of different places.

The layout of the container makes the most of every cubic inch of the container.  The container doors open to a wall of glass including the entry to the container.  There is a small seating area by the big windows.  There is a small step up (to provide room for the plumbing below) to a smaller area with the sink and the door to the bathroom.  The small bathroom has both the toilet and shower in one.  Beyond the sink and door to the bathroom is the bed with a large window.  The bedroom area is narrower than the front front of the container because the mechanical room takes up a small area next to the bedroom.  That area is only accessible from the outside of the container which makes servicing the container easier without disturbing guests.

Naturally, Super Cubes went to the big reveal at the MIA event. I took pictures and videos of the container.  I was accompanied by my associate who thought the whole thing was fascinating. Apologies in advance for the less-than-steady video, but the container was attracting a TON of excitement so there were lots of people in a small area.

I also took some videos.  Apologies that they are not that great.

Here is a video of #5.

Today we're going to look at container homes.  I get a lot of calls about these and I realized it is time for more inspirational ideas!  Today we're going to look at 5 different container home projects that couldn't be more different!  There aren't any pictures on this page, but if you click on the red links, you will get a TON of pictures.

1) A high-end container home for sale in DenverThis container home is up for sale, according to cubed.com. This 3-bedroom, open-floor plan container home shows off what can be with a container home.  It also shows that you really do get what you pay for.  With an asking price of $749,000, clearly containers did not make this high-end home cheap.

2) 2 Private residences built from containers on top of a gallery and garageInhabitat.com reported on this 14-container duplex.  The top level resident has a rooftop patio and the other one that is directly over the gallery has a walk-out patio.  The open floor plan lets in tons of light and has an overall open feel to it.  One question I have is if that ceramic insulation paint is working. I get a lot of interest in it, but I have yet to have a project where we use it or hear if anyone else has had any luck with it.  If you have, please comment below!

3) A new container development in Detroit7 years in the making, containerized apartments in Detroit are a reality, according to mlive.com. The first building has two condos in it - am 1800sq ft 2 bed/2 bath and a 1000 sq ft 1 bed/1 bath.  However there are plans for more sizes and configurations.  Pricing will vary from $150,000-350,000, again showing that containers do not mean that the house is being built for free. It is just a different building material.

4) YMCA-sponsored studio suites for weekly rental in the UK. The Guardian report on a 10-unit structure built to address the need for affordable housing in Walthamstow. The first units rented for about $110/week to help lower income residents live in the high-rent area and also secure employment.  The Guardian report, "Each unit has a bed, storage space, cooking  and ensuite facilities."

5) Miniature apartments made from containers inside a warehouse in San Francisco Bay Area.  Bloomberg News reports that one man is converting warehouse space into smaller apartments by outfitting containers placed inside the warehouse. Luke Iseman is trying to create a business out of this idea, which he is calling cargotopia.  The containers have a shower, a bed and the most rudimentary kitchen and residents share bathrooms.  While this may not sound ideal to many, the Bay Area's median rent is $4,272, according to the linked article. All the suddent that camp stove doesn't sound quite so bad.

These examples show how containers are flexible from high-end architecture to repeatable designs for lower-cost housing.  What I like about all of these examples are that the designers worked with the containers. They didn't make them into something they are not, but worked to make the most of the containers. 

Please note we do not do any design work, but we have these posts to help people interested in container houses to get ideas to bring to their architects and structural engineers. 

Do you have an example of a container house to share?