Skip to content

Ship Me a Building: Used Shipping Containers as Architecture

February 11, 2011

Shipping Container Home

Shipping Container Home

Tough economic times, and a growing desire to be more “green” has led to a renaissance from creative architects looking to find cheaper, more creative ways to design spaces. Ports around the world are overflowing with used, empty shipping containers, but now they are being repurposed to create funky residential and commercial structures. Shipping containers aren’t for everybody, and their limited width and height do create some limitations, but with a bit of imagination you can do some pretty amazing things with these versatile boxes.

Puma City shipping container architecture

Puma City

Puma City Interior shipping container architecture

Puma City Interior

Nomadic Museum Exterior

Nomadic Museum Exterior

Nomadic Museum Interior shipping container architecture

Nomadic Museum Interior

Shipping Container Office and Home

Shipping Container Office and Home

First, to use these as occupied buildings, you have to insulate them, heat and cool them, add electricity and add plumbing. All of those elements will encroach on the already cramped dimensions if you have to fit these elements within the exterior skin, but it can be done. The walls between units can also come out, and the ceilings and floors can be removed to create multiple volume spaces, but any more extensive demolition of the framing begins to break down the cost effectiveness of the system as well as the “green” benefits of reusing these containers.


Puma City is a traveling store that is touring the world, and will eventually be “parked” somewhere to become a showcase store for Puma. It is made up of 24 containers stacked and offset from each other with strategically removed walls and floors to create amazing interior spaces and cool exterior decks.

Obvious other uses for these containers are for classrooms and small living quarters, like hotels or apartments (see the picture of the infill office/house that is made of 4 stacked shipping containers squeezed between existing buildings on either side). Shipping containers do well in a stacked arrangement because the steel frames were originally designed to be stacked like Legos on board ships.

Due to the limitations mentioned previously regarding insulation, electrical, and mechanical systems, another cost-effective and creative use for these boxes is as an inexpensive “skin” to create a large interior volume like these pictures of the Nomadic Museum. The “walls” are stacked shipping containers that create a large interior gallery, and the whole museum is taken on tour to ports of call around the world. The containers themselves can store all the parts and exhibits during transit.

At Visioneering Studios we’re currently working on a church project incorporating shipping containers as interior spaces inside a pre-engineered metal building to create a funky, cost-conscious, and “green” youth facility. I hope to share pictures of that with you in the near future, once the design develops further.

Would you like to live, work, or worship in a shipping container? Keep your eyes open because they may be coming to a city near you!

219 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2011 6:01 am

    All these designs have perfectly managed to go beyond the normal limit for going green, and yet from the looks of it,the functionality of the buildings hasn’t been hampered or compromised…a great and difficult balance achieved!!!

    • February 11, 2011 7:51 am

      Great point, and that’s really the key…if it doesn’t function for the use needed, then it’s just a gimmick that looks cool.

    • February 12, 2011 2:37 am

      Although these buildings are nice, human will never create as beautiful structures as nature can.

      • February 12, 2011 5:07 pm

        I agree with you that God’s creation can not be trumped by man’s.

      • l00natyk permalink
        March 2, 2011 10:00 am

        What if the nature you know is just an ancient human creation?

  2. February 11, 2011 9:39 am

    Cool post Jody….we are actually in the process of doing the same thing, but with some medical facilities..the idea is great for churches who think outside the box…or inside the box depending on how you look at it.

    Its crazy to think how many containers are just sitting in stock piles. My wife used to coordinate containers for an international company and said it was less expensive for a place like China to build new containers than to have empty ones shipped back. So they just leave them. Hey, more for us creatives to use.

    • February 11, 2011 9:46 am

      Wow, I’m a bit surprised to hear that shipping containers are being used in a medical facility. Most hospital/doctor groups I’ve encountered aren’t typically wired to go that direction in their faciility designs. That’s great to know.

      • Mike L. permalink
        February 11, 2011 12:51 pm

        My hospital, the VA in Cincinnati, treats us Iraqi Vets in a trailer … something like this would defiantly be an upgrade and I’m not too surprised a hospital might use these especially with the limited space one might have for expanding in a bigger city. Thanks for the post man, love the examples you pulled offline too. Cheers.

        • February 11, 2011 1:34 pm

          Thanks for your service to our country! Cost-effective doesn’t have to equal “cheap”, and a trailer brings “cheap” imagery to mind.

  3. February 11, 2011 12:26 pm

    These are crazy cool…not for everyone, as you noted, but such an ingenious use of materials!


    • February 11, 2011 9:55 pm

      Yeah, the uses are only limited by the imagination of the designers.

  4. February 11, 2011 12:39 pm

    That’s pretty cool. How much cheaper are these than more traditional buildings?

    • February 11, 2011 9:59 pm

      It really depends on how they are used. You can buy a used container for $2,000 or less, but how you connect them, and heat, cool, plumb, and insulate them all affects the price. It’s not always cheaper, but by reusing something that is a “leftover” product of international shipping there are some benefits beyond just cost.

      • February 13, 2011 10:18 pm

        I’ll respectfully disagree with the reuse claim. If these containers are usable for a structure, then they’re still in good enough shape to be used as a container.

        Also, if the containers are damaged, then they could be cut up and recycled into new steel.

        So I see the value in using containers for low cost structures, but I think the reuse idea is generally not much of an plus.

        • Matt E. permalink
          July 11, 2011 5:31 am

          No one is questioning that they can be re-used as shipping containers. That’s obvious. That fact is there are a glut of left-overs due to the poor economy, plus the trade in-balance between the U.S. and countries like japan and china. We get most of our imported goods from these countries and we, as a country, rarely ship them back. Therefore, they are piling up everywhere there is a major port or depot and fast becoming a major blight on cities and neighborhoods close these ports and depots. By re-using these as raw material for building structures, its definitely a win-win for all concerned.

  5. ayschia permalink
    February 11, 2011 12:49 pm

    I’ve heard a little about this but would love to see more incorporated in my city!

    • February 11, 2011 9:59 pm

      What city?

    • February 12, 2011 11:49 am

      I agree! These containers turned into completely functional homes is a great idea for those of us wanting to go green! Does anyone know where and how it might be arranged to have such a home built just outside Toronto (Canada)? I’ll admit, I don’t know much about building homes but I’d love to (someday) invest in having one built for my family. Also, does anyone know about if it is possible to install solar panels on these homes? Thanks for the blog! Great to know someone out there actually cares! Keep up the great work!

      • February 12, 2011 5:09 pm

        I don’t have any specific references for you to check out in the Toronto area, but searching on Google will turn up tons of information and links on using these for homes. You absolutely could incorporate solar panels on these homes as well as pretty much any other type of structure.

      • Anonymous permalink
        February 13, 2011 2:30 am

        I have for some time researched these containers costs,actual uses woldwide etc. and offer this to readers.As previously noted, costs for bare container are about $2,000 U.S. Helps on availability if delivered from major shipping ports thru-out the world.(500-1,000 miles) to your site. Bay/Bow pre-hung windows are a snap to install giving “Feel” of larger space. Some are already insulated to a R-30 because of transport of “Perishables” across the oceans in winter. Some have rudimentary 120 volt wiring in them too.(for portable lighting to load @ factory). Solar panels were mentioned. Yes, put on roof or build your ARRAY on ground. Skies the limit W/ these.(And your budget) Only limitation is your imagination and the cash. I’ve seen gorgeous homes,etc. built w/these. Am sure this will take off in popularity in the future. GOOGLE shipping container housing for more info. Saw college dorms built W/these, Big development in England also. Thes are really Cool!!

        • February 13, 2011 9:36 pm

          Thanks for the great information.

  6. February 11, 2011 1:11 pm

    The architecture is beautiful. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • February 11, 2011 10:00 pm

      Your welcome. These aren’t my designs, but they are intriguing, and there are many more out there. Just go to Google Images and search for “shipping container architecture” and you can find many more examples.

  7. February 11, 2011 1:20 pm

    These are great pictures and I wonder what it would be like to actually live in one of those container homes.

    • February 11, 2011 10:03 pm

      Well, you can check out Steve Schneider’s blog that is all about his construction of a shipping container cabin here:

  8. February 11, 2011 1:30 pm

    Very different, yet oddly arresting! Good for people and good old fashioned ingenuity! Cheers!

    • February 11, 2011 10:03 pm

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. February 11, 2011 1:37 pm

    I bought one for a friend, and now it’s his bicycle shop. wish i could send you some pics.

    • February 11, 2011 10:04 pm

      I would love to see the pictures.

  10. J Roycroft permalink
    February 11, 2011 1:37 pm

    Sounds like idea for the homeless to consider. Congrats on FP

    • February 11, 2011 10:05 pm

      I think there are some potential uses for homeless and low income or mission housing for the poor, and I believe there are some groups already doing this in certain places.

  11. chinabystander permalink
    February 11, 2011 1:45 pm

    You might like to see some of the work being done in China with containers to provide dormitory housing for workers and, at the other end of the scale, in London.

    • February 11, 2011 10:07 pm

      Nice article on your blog. Almost daily there are new examples being built around the world.

  12. February 11, 2011 1:46 pm

    I’ve seen some of these converted container projects before, and find them fascinating. There’s something paradoxically simultaneously subversive and honest about using shipping containers as housing. Containerisation revolutionised the way the world works, making it more interconnected than ever before, by reducing surface complexity and internalising interest to beneath an anodyne metal surface. To treat people the same way, by housing them in these boxes, while also enhancing individual expression through unique architecutre has a certain intellectual symmetry/elegance to it.

    Nice article.

    • February 11, 2011 10:08 pm

      Thanks! Very eloquent response 🙂

      • February 13, 2011 2:06 pm

        That’s a very nice way of saying I can waffle a lot when the mood takes me… 😉

        Blame your interesting post! 🙂

  13. February 11, 2011 1:48 pm

    Love it! I’m so inspired by any creative, functional use of space. I know a barber at Ball State University here in Indiana who couldn’t afford to keep leasing space in a strip mall, so he converted an old ice-cream truck into his shop. I was shocked to find that everything is so clean and uncluttered. He left the driver’s seat and gutted pretty much gutted everything else. He’s mounted one new salon chair to the floor and installed oversized windows in the sides and back of the truck. He parks in the lot behind a record shop and is allowed to shower and cook there for free. He even sleeps there in the truck in a hammock he strings up at night.

    It’s such a great gathering spot, particularly in the summer when the windows are open and the reggae is playing.

    If Algir can live and work and gather so many people in an ice cream truck, surely a shipping container or two would be plenty for most of us if we just got a little more creative and a little less materialistic!

    So how can you get ahold of unused shipping containters?

    • February 11, 2011 10:13 pm

      Great story! You can find new and used shipping containers from a variety of sources. Best bet is to Google it!

  14. February 11, 2011 2:27 pm

    An good piece. I often wonder why, in cases like Haiti, emergency agencies don’t give more thought to using things like shipping containers that are larger and more durable than the standard tents supplied to disaster victims. Perhaps it is time for them to ‘think about the box’, to turn the phrase.

    • February 11, 2011 10:18 pm

      Good idea, maybe we could just send a ship full of supplies in the containers to the next international disaster area and once they are unloaded, reuse them in this way.

      • meg permalink
        February 12, 2011 12:30 am

        if china thought it was cheaper to just make a new one rather than ship it home (a previous comment you made) i wonder just how expensive shipping is? kinda strange since there must be ships making trips on a daily basis since so much is shared between the continents

        • February 12, 2011 5:11 pm

          The issue really is how expensive it is to ship an empty container from the US back to China. We still import much more than we export to them, so there are too many empty ones here to send back and take up space on the ship.

      • February 13, 2011 12:23 pm

        actually, after I thought about it a bit more, I came up with a few ideas that would make the containers move-in ready. add a floor high enough to provide space to run utilities (power, water, waste, heating/cooling) and have standard hook-ups at the door end. you just deliver them, open them up, remove the doors, make what connections you need, then put a prefab entry way over the opening. then it’s a matter of installing whatever waste facilities the local culture prefers (think the difference between Chinese and American bathroom fixtures), put up some movable partitions, and you’ve got a space ready move refugees into. if the floor’s made strong enough, packing the containers with supplies would be a good way to get double duty out of them. should not be either hard or expensive to do.

        • February 13, 2011 9:37 pm

          Great ideas. Are you ready to build a prototype? 🙂

  15. February 11, 2011 2:28 pm

    I love the creativity and imagination. (To be honest, I also probably love it just because it reminds me of post-apocalyptic games, like Fallout: Tactics, where shipping containers were used as houses.)

    • February 11, 2011 10:18 pm

      Ha! Cool. Haven’t seen that game.

  16. February 11, 2011 3:10 pm

    WOW! looks amazing, so very artistic. i never knew they did this but thanks for sharing!

    • February 11, 2011 10:19 pm

      Your welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

  17. February 11, 2011 3:20 pm

    I saw alot of shipping container buildings in Afghanistan when convoys of trucks would get robbed and the locals scrapped the shipping containers for buildings. I never thought it would hit the west!


    • February 11, 2011 10:20 pm

      I guess it’s an upgrade from a cave. I hope Osama Bin Laden hasn’t moved into one 🙂

  18. February 11, 2011 3:25 pm

    I LOVE THIS! I saw that some third world countries are actually using these out of necessity too.

    I think we need to start using MORE of what we already have…there are certainly enough creative minds out there to figure out how to do it!

    Great post!

    • February 11, 2011 10:21 pm

      Yeah, let’s use some good old ingenuity to find more ways to reuse what’s already been fabricated.

  19. February 11, 2011 3:30 pm

    A great alternative solution for the third world i always thought. Reminds me of the robot shanty town in i robot. An interesting post.

    • February 11, 2011 10:22 pm

      Yeah, but in that scene didn’t they just use them just as they were, plain old shipping containers? If I was living in one, I’d like a few upgrades.

  20. February 11, 2011 3:35 pm

    Having just taken a cargo ship from London to Buenos Aires, your title naturally caught my eye! Great article, I really enjoyed reading it. I was in Berlin ten years ago and saw a space where several containers were being used for accomadation – very inspiring!

    • February 11, 2011 10:23 pm

      Well maybe you can help some of these people on here who are looking for used containers.

  21. la reine margot permalink
    February 11, 2011 3:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! I had never heard of using shipping containers in this way, but it’s really inspiring. I love seeing resources like this being repurposed in creative and eco-friendly ways. It reminds me to live simply and think outside the box (excuse the pun)…

    • February 11, 2011 10:24 pm

      Good one!

  22. February 11, 2011 3:55 pm

    I saw an new story about this not too long ago about a women who built her home out of these. It was actually pretty cool-looking and very functional. Whatever works!

    • February 11, 2011 10:25 pm

      I think as more people hear about it, it will become a more popular option.

  23. February 11, 2011 4:13 pm

    There is a camping ground at the beach where I used to go on holiday, about 5 years ago they converted a bunch of shipping containers into little units for campers! Was a great idea – they look awesome and are the perfect size for it too.

    • February 11, 2011 10:25 pm

      That was a great idea.

  24. February 11, 2011 4:48 pm

    Oh WOW!!! That’s such a nice idea!
    I currently live in shipping container and found it very cool! But you’ll need a good air conditioning system during Summers 🙂

    • February 11, 2011 10:26 pm

      Good A/C and good insulation for sure!

      • February 12, 2011 12:34 pm

        >>>the Nomadic Museum. The “walls” are stacked shipping containers

        they are just stacked or there are fixing details?
        What about seismic analysis? Do you think it is safe?

        I’m thinking of building a house using 4 containers. So I was thinking to put 2 over the other 2, cut a space for doors and windows and add stairs to the second floor. One container has a limited space indeed. But if connect two with passes, can be very good I think.

        • February 12, 2011 5:19 pm

          I don’t know the specifics of the Nomadic Museum structure but I would guess they have some kind of mechanical fasteners like bolts to lock them together. I also don’t know whether they have done a seismic analysis. Outside of the US, many countries have limited building codes and safety standards.

          You could definitely create bigger spaces by connecting multiple units, similar to the interiors for Puma City.

      • February 12, 2011 5:23 pm

        I see. Thanks! I’ll look for more information! Thank you.

  25. February 11, 2011 5:09 pm

    Very interesting. I’d quite like to have on of these as summer house.

    • February 11, 2011 10:27 pm

      Just make sure you insulate it well or you’ll get very hot in the summer.

  26. February 11, 2011 5:26 pm

    Creativity speaks here. Nice pictures and great post.

    • February 11, 2011 10:27 pm


  27. February 11, 2011 5:35 pm

    This is amazing. I would love to do something like this to create studio, office, or even library space. Thanks for posting this!

    • February 11, 2011 10:28 pm

      Send me some pictures if you ever pursue this.

  28. February 11, 2011 5:35 pm

    Brilliant! Ironically, prisoners were being warehoused in unairconditioned shipping containers in Afghanistan at the beginning of the U.S. war there, and for all I know they still are being housed there. Sad but true, but nice to see a better use for them.

    • February 11, 2011 10:30 pm

      Well I don’t have a lot of pity for people fighting against our troops, but it is definitely good to see containers being put to good use beyond temporary prisons.

  29. thehidalgograincompany permalink
    February 11, 2011 6:47 pm

    I wonder if certain cities would allow these as permanent residential structures…zoning laws, etc. What about homeowners insurance? Would they be insurable? What about inspections & appraisals? How could one determine the actual value of the structure?

    Sure, it’s a cool concept, but, long term I don’t know…

    I could see these being used as additional classrooms for public schools, churches, and the like.

    Good post, by the way – thanks!

    • February 11, 2011 10:31 pm

      All good questions, that probably would have different answers on a case by case basis depending on your location and the authorities who make the rules there.

  30. samalbahaykubo permalink
    February 11, 2011 6:55 pm

    Due to the GFC (global financial crisis), there’s been a downturn in the number of containers moving goods around the world. Consequently, containers are at bargain prices. I bought mine two months ago for just NZ$3k which included a service (to ensure it was fit for shipping for the next 6 months), a new hi-security lock & lock box (to prevent theft) and all taxes.

    • February 11, 2011 10:32 pm

      What will you use your container for? Shipping or architecture?

  31. February 11, 2011 6:59 pm

    These containers are also a good place to trim a beard.

    • February 11, 2011 10:33 pm

      I’ll take your word for it 🙂

  32. February 11, 2011 7:10 pm

    This is cool! Not so sure I’d want to live in one long term, but I’d love to go to a shipping container store or maybe spend the night in a hotel made of them.

    • February 11, 2011 10:33 pm

      Fun place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. That probably would describe most people.

  33. February 11, 2011 7:20 pm

    Really interesting. Thanks!

    • February 11, 2011 10:34 pm

      Your welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

  34. February 11, 2011 8:11 pm


    What a great article. Let us know if we can be of assistance.


    Jonathan Thompson
    Manager, Business Development, Habitable/Disaster Relief
    Allied Container Systems, Inc.

    • February 11, 2011 10:36 pm

      Hey, great website. I’ll let you know if we need any help on any projects using containers. Thanks!

  35. February 11, 2011 9:35 pm

    That is so amazing! A friend told me about it becoming a new trend but I had yet to see it for myself.

    • February 11, 2011 10:37 pm

      You learn something new every day!

  36. Anonymous permalink
    February 11, 2011 9:51 pm

    you cannot use this in hot tropical countries or you’ll be baked. 🙂

    • February 11, 2011 10:38 pm

      You definitely would need to do your homework, and provide ventilation and insulation or you will get quite toasty.

    • Matt E. permalink
      July 12, 2011 9:03 pm

      These work quite nicely in tropical countries. Here’s a video of one being built in Columbia:

      Also, I plan on building one of these in Belize when I retire there from the U.S:

  37. The Compulsive Writer permalink
    February 11, 2011 10:23 pm

    This is really interesting. Congrats on making Freshly Pressed.

    • February 11, 2011 10:42 pm

      Thanks. I don’t know how they make their selections, but this is actually my second time. My post on New Urbanism ( was on Freshly Pressed last August. Thanks WordPress!

  38. astevens2694 permalink
    February 11, 2011 10:32 pm

    Due to the Size limitation, I think that these containers would make perfect concession stands for carnivals and street fairs. These mobile containers would also be effective for traveling circuses.

    Great post, the amount of pictures made it very entertaining

    • February 11, 2011 10:42 pm

      You are right. There are some great examples online of concession stands or street vendors using these very creatively.

  39. Zane S. Spang permalink
    February 11, 2011 11:04 pm

    Hell ya! I love this.

    • February 12, 2011 5:19 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  40. February 11, 2011 11:45 pm

    Fascinating discussion.

    I would like to add a different perspective here.

    I live in SE Asia and feel I have done as much as anyone to further the cause of Shipping Container Homes as affordable housing solutions in developing countries.

    One of the reasons that Shipping Container Homes haven’t gotten the traction many ( including myself ) originally thought they would is they are actually work out to be far more expensive to construct than an equivalent modest, well thought out solid brick and reinforced concrete home in most places in the World.

    I understand these numbers are going to get thrown out of balance if we try transplanting the discussion to the US or but the US is not the World and this is a Global discussion.

    If we put aside all building codes and just work on a common sense basis – ( there are no building codes in most developing countries ) – then this is how we build an affordable safe solid and durable home without containers for $5000 USD in SE Asia ( Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam )

    BTW the Habit for Hummanity Home budget is $4000 per home where I live ( I am not connected its just presented as “high profile” example )

    So the house has

    Reinforced Concrete Slab – No floor finishes required the concrete can be “ ground and polished ”

    Locally produced Soil Cement Stabilized Blocks for both external and internal walls.

    No Insulation – In most developing countries insulation is not used.

    The walls are not dry walled just solid rendered over the block inside and painted

    The blocks can carry conduit for water and power inside the holes provide for vertical and horizontal ( ring beam ) steel reinforcement.

    Doors and Windows and other fit out items are like for like equivalents regardless of construction technique.

    A simple steel framed gable roof and fibre cement roofing sheets – which is also like for like – a shipping container home must have a roof.

    Here is the $5000 house.

    So when you consider

    Local labor forces understand and are currently geared for reinforced concrete slabs
    Local production of soil cement blocks are well under way in most countries and assembly on the house site is “non skilled” labour because it’s a motarless system. You stack the blocks, line them all up and when its perfect you pour concrete down the holes.
    No special equipment is required for modification or transport of containers
    No new skills are required for modification or transport of containers
    Anyone that has ever seen motar less blocks go together as intended would struggle to argue the time advantage.
    No furring out required
    No dry wall or similar is required
    No cladding is required
    No insulation is required – clearly this climate dependant but you must insulate a Container Home in the same location as a non insulated block home.
    Both are super strong – properly constructed stabilized cement soil blocks have a compression capability of 100 tons, they make multistorey high rises out of these.

    And it “looks” like a traditional house so has immediate “acceptance” – ok its humble but anyone that cant see that its $5000 and we can pretty it up with a bigger budget lacks imagination.

    So they are both robust and fast and affordable and one could argue the greenest house of all is the house that doesn’t use green materials, it the one that just uses less materials.

    All this and I teach people to build with ISBU’s ! Strange huh ?

    The challenge is that many people are coming at this from the wrong angle and “price” isn’t the real benefit of Shipping Containers.

    In my opinion the real legacy of container homes will be the ultimate uptake in a % of the market of a simple, easy to understand reconfigurable, expandable, relocatable, heavy gauge steel modular housing solution.

    So if we can do all this for $5000, what could we do in the US with an “open mind” and inspired thinking ?

    • February 12, 2011 9:25 pm

      Thanks for all the great information. I agree that there are cheaper alternatives and better “local” alternatives depending on the culture and the resources available. The green aspect of using something that is essentially a “throw away” is probably the bigger benefit of containers, but I think over time more creative minds will find more and better ways to use them.

  41. February 12, 2011 12:26 am

    Engaging, straight-forward contribution to the green architecture debate. I particularly like the Phooey Architects project – another Australian-based architecture studio. Thank you.

    • February 12, 2011 9:26 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it.

  42. February 12, 2011 12:54 am

    I am so excited about this idea. The buildings are beautiful!

    • February 12, 2011 9:26 pm

      Thanks for stopping by.

  43. February 12, 2011 5:33 am

    The concept of using shipping containers for homes, shelters, temporary housing and student accommodation fascinates me. It is great when logic and creativity come together. I hope to build a holiday house out of shipping containers.

    I am seeing great examples of eco-friendly designs more and more on the web. Love the traveling Puma store.

    • February 12, 2011 9:28 pm

      Good luck with your holiday house.

  44. February 12, 2011 6:34 am

    Maybe putting the utilities on the outside like the Pompidou centre could save a lot of the internal space.

    • February 12, 2011 9:31 pm

      Yes, that’s a great example, and often that is the best way to do it with shipping containers by raising them on a “crawl space” or putting a sloped roof on, allowing a small “attic” space for utilities.

  45. wadingacross permalink
    February 12, 2011 11:01 am

    My father talked about using shipping containers as housing at least twenty years ago. Those pictures however far surpass what I had envisioned as possible.

    An idea that he and I had thought of was burying them to make a “cave” home.

    • February 12, 2011 9:33 pm

      Shipping containers don’t work well underground for several reasons: 1) they aren’t designed to carry the weight of earth on them, and 2) being in contact with the wet soil will quickly erode the metal.

  46. February 12, 2011 12:11 pm

    Nice! After reading through some of the comments I feel a little intimidated. I have nothing intelligent to say, just thought they looked nifty! I’d love to visit one of the homes. Congratulations on being “pressed” twice! Glo

    • February 12, 2011 1:26 pm

      Gloria, please don’t feel intimidated at all. These homes are an excellent idea and will serve to help the environment. If you share these ideals, you have nothing to fear. Everything you say is intelligent. Only stupid people would make comments against you. Keep in touch!

    • February 12, 2011 9:35 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Everyone is welcome here. They do look nifty, and likely you will see more of them around in the future, so you’ll probably get a chance to visit one someday.

  47. February 12, 2011 12:13 pm

    Fascinating article. This is an excellent idea, especially for those who like the industrial look in architecture.

    A house made of shipping containers was featured in the movie Tron: Legacy.

    • February 12, 2011 9:36 pm

      I’ve been wanting to see Tron, so I’ll look for that scene.

  48. February 12, 2011 12:50 pm

    Fantastic pictures and great ways of using the containers. I was in Zurich in the summer and saw them being used for their Freitag store. I wrote about it back in November on my blog.


    • February 12, 2011 9:38 pm

      Great post. I’ve seen some pictures of that store, but only from the outside. I’d be curious to see some interior shots.

      • February 13, 2011 6:37 am

        I should have taken some. I wish I had. There must be some online….. And so begins the search. It is incredible being inside as it feels really unnatural. I’m not sure about living in one.

  49. February 12, 2011 1:34 pm

    Hi Jody, I have seen quite a few shops in containers. Wonderful!
    Thanks for the post!

    • February 12, 2011 9:41 pm

      Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  50. February 12, 2011 3:53 pm

    Hi Jody! Absolutely possible to live in contained quarters! My hubby, daughter(when 2 1/2 years) and I toured Europe in the musical HAIR in the early 90’s in a miniature camper!…Oh my goodness! I would cook food sometimes for half of the cast(bus and truck), cook food for my family, reserve a dressing room at the theater for our daughter, her portable bed and toys, hubby would work the lights, I would perform, and then after the show, we would return with our daughter to sleep in the camper at night. Challenging times. But it was our home on wheels and we covered a huge portion of Europe in one year. Would I do it again? DEFINITELY!!!
    Now, my hubbie has a vision to transfer a train to a location in Apulia, Italy and make it residential. Why not?
    By the way…in the village here in Kembs, France, a patron has transformed a boat at a Fisherman’s Wharf into a fabulous restaurant with fab food. I will take photos and send a few.
    Thank you for this article. I could definitely envision living in a container…with lots of windows and earth on top for my garden:-) Congrats on being FP’d!

    • February 12, 2011 9:42 pm

      Great story! Good luck with the train car. I think there could be some very cool things you could do with that.

  51. Dutch-builder permalink
    February 12, 2011 4:41 pm

    Looks really great. I study architecture at school right now.. actually construction i’m doing 1st year.

    In all lessons we talk about the inviroment and recycling but this has never been an subject…. I Love It! never tought about it. So simple and so brilliant. And it can be beautifull as well.


    • February 12, 2011 9:44 pm

      Good luck in architecture school. I remember my long days (and nights) in studio!

  52. dahveed permalink
    February 12, 2011 5:51 pm

    I see shipping containers being useful in combating the affordable housing crisis found in some areas of the world. While your photos illustrate some wonderful designs, I sure most of those are actually more expensive than the typical structures. Its always fun to look at great design, but its even better if great design can solve a world-wide problem.

    I know as Architects you grow tired of constantly balancing design with cost, but cost control is an unfortunate reality for most of us.

    Do you think containers can be used as affordable buildings?

    • February 12, 2011 9:47 pm

      I agree with you, and yes, I know some of these buildings are expensive, but I do believe that the shipping containers can be used as affordable buildings, mostly as single bay small structures, and even if they are not always cheaper, there are still the “reuse” benefits of taking a “throw away” item and giving it a new life.

  53. dahveed permalink
    February 12, 2011 5:53 pm

    Oh, Did you take those photos? Very nice work if you did. I think architectural photography is very challenging. Its tough to get a fresh perspective on a frequently photographed building.

    • February 12, 2011 9:49 pm

      I wish I had taken those great photos! I agree that good architectural photography can produce stunning results. These pictures were all found online through Google Images searches.

  54. February 12, 2011 8:24 pm

    Excellent ideas like this bring hope to the world.

    • February 12, 2011 9:50 pm

      The power of a great idea is an amazing thing.

  55. February 12, 2011 8:50 pm

    This is such an interesting post! I had no idea.

    • February 12, 2011 9:53 pm

      Thanks! Glad you stopped by.

  56. February 12, 2011 9:53 pm

    Seriously I am Inspired by your Post.

    Wht a Creativity 🙂

    • February 12, 2011 9:57 pm

      Thanks. Creativity is often inspirational.

  57. Dan permalink
    February 12, 2011 10:04 pm

    Thanks for bringing this to our/my attention. Many years ago I saw an article in an architectural magazine about a designer using old railroad cars (without the wheels) as the basis for some very unique living spaces. Although similar, I think the shipping container idea is even better because of the greater versatility of use. BTW, I really like your blog.

    • February 12, 2011 11:31 pm

      All it takes is some imagination. Who knows what the next big idea might be or where it might come from. Thanks.

  58. February 12, 2011 10:20 pm

    I’m an architecture student, so, this one is very interesting to me.

    • February 12, 2011 11:52 pm

      Good luck in your studies.

  59. February 13, 2011 12:56 am

    here’s a more traditional one to the list:


    • February 13, 2011 9:43 pm

      Great link to a “traditional” looking house made from containers. Did this actually get built?

  60. el wehbi permalink
    February 13, 2011 2:23 am

    I love the concepts! We need more of this around the world for sure.

    We actually threw an expo in January of this year, called REUSE 4.0 (4th installation), in Kuwait which promotes the concept of sustainability through mediums such as art, fashion, music (Jose Gonzales flew in and gave a one-night performance) and more. We used containers to house all the art galleries, the boutiques, etc. We even used them to seal off the empty lot where the event was hosted.

    You can check out the pics at Don’t mean to post a link here, but thought you might find it interesting.

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    • February 13, 2011 9:41 pm

      Thanks for the information. Always interested in links to good resources.

  61. February 13, 2011 5:12 am

    I had no idea that people did this! Great pictures and it’ll certainly make me see piled up containers at docks and railway stations in a new way.

    • February 13, 2011 9:47 pm

      One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

  62. bzephyr permalink
    February 13, 2011 7:08 am

    I work in Papua New Guinea, and there’s a fairly new motel and restaurant on the coast across from the Wewak airstrip that is completely made up of containers. Each one has a different color of the Sepik design scheme to tell them apart. And the bar at the outdoor patio restaurant is another container. It’s a great idea.

    • February 13, 2011 9:48 pm

      Sounds like some cool designs!

  63. Beach Girl permalink
    February 13, 2011 9:03 am

    Great idea; just not something I would want to live it.

    • February 13, 2011 9:49 pm

      Not sure I’d want to either, but you never know.

  64. February 13, 2011 9:11 am

    I´m builting my shipping container house in Brazil. See more:

    • February 13, 2011 9:50 pm

      Good luck with your house project!

  65. February 13, 2011 10:03 am

    If i was a single guy again I’d happily live in the house made of 4 stacked shipping containers, they’d make a great talking point and I’d feel very modern and contemporary living in something like that.
    The green aspect of the idea is admirable, but only time will tell if this is just a novelty or a viable solution for Eco friendly building…

    • February 13, 2011 9:52 pm

      Yes, there are many green options and this is just one of the latest. If it catches on these might get more expensive if used shipping containers become scarce.

  66. lui permalink
    February 13, 2011 10:20 am

    I want one or two. Do they rust?

    • February 13, 2011 9:53 pm

      They are steel so they will rust if not properly maintained and painted.

  67. February 13, 2011 10:25 am

    That’s a great concept. Would be good for storage warehouses too.

    • February 13, 2011 9:54 pm

      Wouldn’t take much modification to use these for storage 🙂

  68. February 13, 2011 4:39 pm

    very cool post and pictures! what great ideas!


    • February 13, 2011 9:55 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  69. February 13, 2011 4:40 pm

    I love it. Here at Mountford parts of our winery are shipping containers that have been half buried into the hillside for temperate control. I love how amazing something repurposed can be. A very inspiring post.

    • February 13, 2011 9:56 pm

      Thanks. How have you modified the containers to work half-buried? How do they support the weight of the soil and keep from corroding from being in constant contact with the wet soil?

  70. February 13, 2011 7:55 pm

    Really nice idea – very impressed by the possibilities!

    • February 13, 2011 9:57 pm

      The possibilities are endless.

  71. February 14, 2011 1:00 am

    No matter what you do with these things the final result always looks like a junk yard.

    Give me some nice cedar planks and then…….

    • February 14, 2011 9:42 pm

      Haha! Well the look isn’t for everybody. I’m sure some nice cedar planks would look great.

  72. chocolatespacemonkey permalink
    February 14, 2011 2:24 am

    Thats just rad!

    • February 14, 2011 9:43 pm

      Just rad or Totally Rad! 🙂

  73. bwidiarti permalink
    February 14, 2011 4:07 am

    These designs from shipping container are great! Too bad this won’t work for tropical islands.

    • February 14, 2011 9:44 pm

      Well they probably aren’t ideal for such a hot humid climate, but with the right preparation and modifications I bet somebody creative could make them work.

  74. February 14, 2011 4:49 am

    we already have so much stuff deemed as ‘junk’ and ‘rubbish’ in the world why can’t we just reuse and recycle just like this? it’s an awesome idea 😀

    • February 14, 2011 9:52 pm

      For some “rubbish” architecture, take some inspiration from Samuel Mockbee and the Yancey Chapel designed by some of his students in the Rural Studio in Alabama using tires reclaimed from a landfill and old roof beams from a church.

  75. Peggy permalink
    February 14, 2011 4:59 am

    This is so RAD.

    • February 14, 2011 9:53 pm

      That seems to be a popular description of these buildings.

  76. February 14, 2011 5:36 am

    Good tips – thanks for sharing!

    • February 14, 2011 9:55 pm

      No problem. Glad you stopped by.

  77. February 14, 2011 5:46 am

    this is brilliant !

    • February 14, 2011 9:58 pm

      There are some brilliant, creative minds in architecture, and most are under-appreciated and unknown to most of the public.

  78. February 14, 2011 7:17 am

    A great post on a fantastic and ‘green’ dea!

    • February 14, 2011 9:59 pm

      Thanks. Always on the lookout for great things to share.

  79. February 14, 2011 9:40 am

    That is so cool. I would love to work or live in those places. I love it. -Thank you Great site!

    • February 14, 2011 10:02 pm

      It just seems logical that fun and creative buildings would make being at work or at home more enjoyable.

  80. February 14, 2011 10:24 am

    nice post man, good topic. although this theme is not so fresh, been around for a while.
    great review and pics!!!
    congrats on FP too 🙂

    • February 14, 2011 10:04 pm

      Yeah, people have been using shipping containers as residential and commercial structures for a while, but outside of a small circle of “green” types and some architects, it is still relatively unknown and “new” to most people. Just helping to spread the word. Thanks for stopping by.

  81. February 18, 2011 9:47 am

    Thanks for sharing this! Totally inspiring!

    • February 19, 2011 3:43 pm

      Glad you found it inspiring and glad you stopped by.

  82. February 19, 2011 6:37 am

    Container architecture is taking the world by storm. Recycled freight containers bring efficiency, flexibility & affordability to innovative green buildings.

    • February 19, 2011 3:45 pm

      Well, I don’t know if they are that popular yet, but they are getting more publicity, and that should lead to more people using them.

  83. February 19, 2011 11:37 am

    Some very nice ideas here, nice post.

    • February 19, 2011 3:46 pm

      Thanks, glad you stopped by.

  84. k.vick permalink
    February 20, 2011 11:25 am

    I love this idea, especially for hospitals. but prefab shipping container homes are also great as well. I love how this is a way to reduce waste and live more sustainably by reusing materials that would otherwise end up in junk yards. its so practical and cheap!

    • February 25, 2011 6:07 pm

      Good ideas don’t always have to be the most expensive!

  85. February 22, 2011 3:54 pm

    Oh Wow, this is so inventive and creative. I never knew this could look so amazing. Very nice

    • February 25, 2011 6:09 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and checking out this post.

  86. February 25, 2011 4:55 pm

    Shipping containers used as buildings may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as someone who lives in a port town (Norfolk), I think it’s a fantastic use. These containers get dropped off and stacked up, seemingly never to be used again, except possibly as artificial reef starters. In the meantime, they make for colorful photo ops, but precious little else. I hope that these uses of the containers will inspire more people to follow suit. Great post! -MM
    PS: A well-known Halloween exhibit where I live sends people through mazes created by shipping containers. It’s astounding how many twists and turns can fit inside one of those things – complete with ghouls around every corner. 🙂

    • February 25, 2011 6:11 pm

      I grew up in Tidewater and still have family in the area, so I know all about the piles of shipping containers in the port areas. Thanks for the comments.

  87. 2010businessblogger permalink
    March 1, 2011 3:43 pm

    These photos are amazing! I think its so creative to do things like this with something that seems so ordinary.

  88. thefengshuidiva permalink
    March 1, 2011 9:51 pm

    Could they be reused and stacked and connected like legos to build communal living, retirement homes, quarters in places that are warm?

    • March 1, 2011 10:58 pm

      You can absolutely stack large numbers of these containers together and create some amazing spaces and various uses. For a new article highlighting some fantastic large scale container projects see this post from

  89. March 2, 2011 3:47 am

    Nice design. Perfect for packed urban area. But I do think that the containers need extra ventilation and insulation to keep it cool.

    • March 2, 2011 9:50 am

      There are definitely needs for insulation and HVAC, especially in hot climates, and that either encroaches on the space within the container or takes the addition of some kind of mechanical chase/structure outside of the container.

  90. March 19, 2011 1:52 pm

    Wow, these are amazing. Because we living in California, an area of the world that values efficiency and new ideas, we are always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effect change in the design world. Being able to accomplish both with one idea is great. Thanks for the post. The pictures are great.

    I own a shipping company in California, so if you ever need help shipping containers to new job sites we can help – from anywhere to anywhere in the world!

    Thanks again!

  91. April 7, 2011 5:07 am

    I’ve heard a little about this but would love to see more incorporated in my city!

  92. April 13, 2011 8:11 am

    I have a couple of questions. My family and I are intrigued by the ideas of these homes. We love the idea of going green and recycling as is aptly demonstrated by these containers. However we are curious. How do you prevent rust from settling in over the long term of 20 years or longer? Also, is it possible (using concrete for foundation purposes) to put them a couple of feet in the ground for better stability? My parents are elderly and disabled as are some of our friends. Have you got any floor plans that use a bungalow model or allow for mobility access? Thank you for any help and assistance you may be able to provide. We wish you continued success always!

    • April 14, 2011 10:09 am

      Like anything metal the best way to prevent rust is to keep it protected, which means keeping it painted and keeping it out of direct contact with constant moisture. These shipping containers aren’t really designed to withstand the weight of earth pressing in on the sides or top, plus putting them even partially below ground will make it much more likely to have rust problems, so I personally wouldn’t put them below ground at all. Structurally you should be able to make them plenty stable by proper attachments to the concrete foundation. I don’t have any floor plans, but there are plenty out there. Some of the comments above include some links to sites where people are doing small residences with these, and many more are available if you search on Google. Good luck.

  93. August 18, 2011 10:55 pm

    I would really like to see how they do the interiors/connections, like how do they insulate them specifically? and how do they connect multiple together. kinda nerdy, but i’m in the architecture field so i want more details! lol

  94. September 8, 2011 12:16 pm

    Great post, I particularly like the house on top of the post. I came here looking for inspiration for a post I am writing and would love to know where found that house, or who designed it. BTW I don’t know if you have checked out this resource:

  95. October 25, 2011 10:34 am

    What are heating costs in shipping container houses in winter against concrete houses ?


  1. one man’s trash is another man’s treasure « 3rd Circle
  2. Ship Me a Building: Used Shipping Containers as Architecture « Reckless Abandon « Modern Heartland
  3. Ship Me a Building: Used Shipping Containers as Architecture (via Reckless Abandon) « crta / tocka • com
  4. Ship Me a Building: Used Shipping Containers as Architecture (via Reckless Abandon) « Finland on 3 Pix a Day
  5. SomePeopleThink Outside the Box So Some People Can Live Inside a Box « Some People Think
  6. Ship Me a Building: Used Shipping Containers as Architecture (via Reckless Abandon) « Charmaine Collins
  7. Ship Me a Building: Used Shipping Containers as Architecture (via Reckless Abandon) « Charmaine Collins
  8. Ship Me a Building: Used Shipping Containers as Architecture (via Reckless Abandon) | Car Info Weekly
  9. 11 February 2011 – Linkdump « Breads of Berlin
  10. Shipping Containers – Efficient Art? | sarahyannetta
  11. More innovative ideas using shipping containers « shipping in south africa
  12. How To Build Shipping Container Home
  13. Modular, Modern, and Container Homes « Casey Martner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: