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?

 

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.