Want to Live in a ISBU Shipping Container Home?

by heather

Post Publication Addition: Since writing this article, I’ve learned an awful lot about ISBU homes. I’ve even teamed up with an expert on container homes, and together we’ve written a book. If you’re interested in living in an amazing container home yourself, my partner, Alex Klein, and I have written an introductory book on how to do it. Alex has built over 100 ISBU homes around the world, and even consults with Congress on using these containers for housing. The book is called Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings. Want to check it out? Head over here for more information.

If you’re a regular reader of The Greenest Dollar, then you probably already know that I’m enthralled with the idea of living in a micro home. For the uninitiated, a micro home is pretty much the backlash against the McMansion movement of the past twenty years.

The trend now is in the opposite direction. Hallelujah! We’re going Small. Green. Efficient.

That’s micro home living.

So, it is with the utmost excitement that I share this idea with you. And, the idea is constructing a home using old steel shipping containers.

Now, before you throw your mouse at the screen in disgust because those steel shipping containers are just too ugly to even think about being used as a house, just take a look for a moment at what’s possible and then we’ll talk…

Pretty amazing, right? All of those images are from ContainerCity.com, which is the website for Urban Space Management, a group of builders in London who are building entire communities, schools, and farmer’s markets using old freight containers.

These container homes funky, green, amazingly affordable, and comfortable. If you want to see more images (all of which will knock your socks off) they have a really amazing portfolio of past projects on their website. Again, which you can find here.

There’s also this really amazing clip from Modern Marvels that you can watch. It’s all about Container City, how the builders did it, and how much it costs to live there (you’ll be amazed at how cheap it is).

Can You REALLY Live In A Shipping Container?

Well, I’m new to this myself. When I originally discovered micro home living, I stumbled across a few people who had transformed shipping containers into homes, but I was so enthralled with the modernist designs of the pre-fab mini homes that I gave the freight homes a blind eye.

My mistake.

I stumbled across container homes again over the weekend, and this time it was a Eureka! moment. I mean, the idea of living in an recycled shipping container is just brilliant. It’s still a mini home because they’re not that big, and they’re way, WAY cheaper than the weeHouse or miniHome designs I was looking at (which were going to set me back at least $150,000, not including the land. Ouch!)

How much are shipping containers?

Well, after digging around online this weekend, it seems as if the average is $1,500 to $3,000 each. And, that’s for shipping crates that are 40 ft long x 8 ft wide x 8 ft tall.

Important Addition: After this article posted, a fellow blogger/builder by the name of Ronin wrote in about his experiences building shipping container homes. He offered up some fascinating tips on pricing these out, which you can see in the comments below the article.

Another amazing thing about these shipping crates is that they’re made to stack on top of each other. If you watched the YouTube video about Container City then you know that every container is made exactly the same, which means they can easily be stacked. This leads to some funky, Lego-like structures that are fun and very interesting to look at.

So How Green Are Shipping Containers?

Shipping containers can be made as green as you want them to be.

Andrew and I are so enthralled with this idea that I think we’re going to go this route instead of buying a micro home. Our idea is to buy three containers, two of which we’ll combine and renovate into a living space, and one which we’ll leave separate for a home office/exercise space.

My goal is to incorporate wind and hydro power into our design so that we can be off-grid wherever we end up plopping our crates down. We’ve already come up with a really cool design (opening up the roof to allow tons of natural light in, as well as cutting plenty of oval windows like they did with the Container City project, and building a wrap-around deck).

Time for research mode.

Aren’t Shipping Containers Cold and Uncomfortable?

Well, obviously I’ve never been in one. But all the images I’ve seen thus far say the exact opposite. These freight containers are not dark, cold hovels to keep the rain off your head, and you won’t feel like a hobo if you live in one. Once you do some renovations, they can be incredibly inviting, warm spaces that let in far more light than my current home does.

People have cut away entire walls, opened up the roof, and stacked two or three or four willy-nilly to create living spaces that are amazingly inspiring.

You can also buy shipping containers that are already insulated, although I don’t know at this point how well they’re insulated.

And like all mini-homes, they’re also very cost-effective to live in. How much money do you think it takes to heat a 300 square foot living space? What about to cool one in the summer?

Answer: not a lot. Especially if you incorporate a small wood-burning stove.

Photo from Treehugger.com

Photo from Treehugger.com

This young couple (pic on right) in New Zealand transformed a small shipping container into a paradise house. Think they pay a lot of utilities?

No way.

More Shipping Container Resources

So, is your heart pumping with excitement like mine was this weekend? If so, awesome. Here’s a list of more resources you can check out to get you moving…

  • RenaissanceRonin: Ronin’s blog is a must read if you want to learn more about living in a shipping container home. This post, here, would make a great start on his blog. And, he’s completely hilarious, so don’t miss it. Also, check out this post to help Ronin finish his shipping container home: “Interested In Shipping Containers? Then Help A Fellow Blogger”
  • Prefab Modern– This is a wonderful book all about Prefab Modern housing.  It’s got tons of shipping container homes in there, and jaw dropping photographs.  After reading this book, you’ll be on fire to live in one of these small homes.  Highly recommend.
  • Treehugger.com: 12 Shipping Container House Ideas– Lots of nice design ideas and pictures for this article.
  • Container City– I know I’ve posted this link three times by now, but just in case you haven’t clicked on it yet…
  • FabPreFab.com’s Container Bay– This site has an almost inexhaustable list of shipping container projects all around the globe. The rest of their site is also highly useful if you’re interested in seeing more modern, pre-fab mini homes. Highly recommend it!
  • TruckertoTrucker.com– If you’re wanting to buy your own shipping crates, this trucking site has a really comprehensive list.
  • ContainersNow.com– Another site selling shipping containers. This one’s great because they list prices, which is helpful.
  • AccessContainer.com– This site has a ton of different types of shipping containers, and even a model that’s specially cut out to become a home (which would save money from hiring someone to do that). If you click on “Container”, the precut containers are the last link down the page, where it says “45′ Container Home”.
  • ZeroCabin.com– This site is amazing. Seriously. Go here now, and just scroll down. These shipping container homes will blow you away.
  • Hive Modular– This architect was recommended by Ronin, and his shipping crate designs are completely fabulous. Check out it.

More Micro Home Resources

If you’re new to micro home living, then you might want to investigate these resources…

Last Word…

I’m sure I’ll be posting more articles on this topic. ISBU homes are definitely taking off, so stay tuned!

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Sell Trucks February 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm

very nice Heather, consider it stumbled!

John February 16, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Hey thanks for the article. I came across this idea a week ago and have been hunting sources for containers and you provided 2 great ones.

heather February 17, 2009 at 7:08 am


Glad to be of help!

When I was doing research this weekend on houses created from shipping crates, I also came across people who had turned railway cars (like the passenger cars) and cabooses into homes. They were really neat, but I haven’t yet been able to find those sites again. I’ll probably post a new article on those homes, but that’s another idea you can consider.

Good luck, and thanks for writing in!

Stephanie Reiley February 23, 2009 at 9:41 am

A blog I’m really enjoying right now is Renaissance Ronin. He’s in the process of building a shipping container home for his family: http://renaissanceronin.wordpress.com/

heather February 23, 2009 at 9:59 am


Thanks so much for sending that link! I checked it out, and that guy is a riot. I’ll definitely add that to the article for other readers to take a look.

Many thanks!

Jill February 23, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Pardon my enthusiasm, but that is totally cool!! I love the entire idea. And after having lived in a “similar” situation for the past year – I was in a trailer in the rainforest studying and teaching ecology – I can honestly say that if you have a great place to plop down your crate and can open it up to your natural surroundings, it beats any McMansion out there, hands down. Good luck finding your crate!

RenaissanceRonin February 23, 2009 at 3:54 pm


Thanks Stephanie!

Now then… If you’re paying $1500 to $3000 for a container, you’re paying too much.

If you’re looking into architects to help you along the path, you’re gonna have a tough time. Very few actually have any ISBU experience, and most will tell you it’s a waste of time. For a good architect who practices what he preaches, start with Paul Stankey at hivemodular.com.

On my blog, I’m documenting the build of our “Container House.” And, I’ve go a lot of experience using them as building material.

The most important rule s to think things through to a successful completion. It’s just a box. The way you finish it, will define it. And you’re gonna have your hands full, with neighbors, local authorities, and even the State legislature. Trust me, I’ve been to my State’s capital so many times, they granted me a title…

I won’t mention it here, because I know some of you have “delicate sensibilities1”

(Actually, they’ve decided that I’m an esteemed “Affordable Housing Advocate.”) Rubes… 😉

I’ve built them on several continents, in several climates, and in several circumstances. I’ve built them over three decades. In fact, I just talked with a family I built one for, in the 70’s, and they still live there. And, they still work just like they did, on day one.

You can do it, too! Just do your homework, and then… build away!

Good luck!


heather February 23, 2009 at 4:14 pm


Thank you so much for taking the time to write in! I checked out your blog this morning and love it; I’m definitely adding your link to this article for others to check out as well.

Thanks for clarifying that the prices ranges I found online might be too much. Where do you feel is the best place to look for them! What is a reasonable price to expect for, say, a 40 ft. container?

Many thanks!

RenaissanceRonin February 23, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Hi Heather,

I’ve talked about how abundant these babies are on my blog… So, at the risk of repeating myself, here goes;

“And all you really need is to be located near a shipping port or a big rail yard. Why? Because it’s not the cost of the box that kills you, it’s the cost of the “shipping.” These boxes have to be put on trailers and then trucked to your site. With fuel prices going through the roof, THAT “delivery fee” is the big limitation to using Shipping Containers to build your abode.

I was on the phone today (Feb 17th, 2009) talking to some guys I know that run a big “Shipping Container Graveyard.” It’s located about 100 miles from me, here in coastal Mississippi.”

You’re a Louisiana girl, I know you know where I’m talking about… I’ll give you a hint… Mardi Gras… 🙂

“I asked them about 40′ HQ containers, because I want the extra height, to either add ceiling headroom or increase square footage (by laying them on their sides). Buying (1) is gonna cost me about $1,200.00, plus shipping. But, if I buy (10) or more, the price drops dramatically. In fact, it drops below $1000 each. If I bargain like I’m Chinese (because they are great bargainers! I have a “Hong Kong” story I’ll tell ya sometime… on MY blog… 🙂 ) I can probably get the price down to about $850.00 – $900.00 each.

But, it gets better. If I get “creative,” and allow the boxes to be used to actually haul freight to a location near me (after all, that’s what they are designed for), my shipping costs drop dramatically.”

There is NO shortage, regardless of what “the container lackeys” tell you. Nor will there be for any foreseeable future. Now that Containers” are “Green,” everybody is seeing dollar signs, and let the buyer beware. Now, you’re aware! LOL!

Seriously, container prices are negotiable.

Expect to pay about $900 if you buy in multiples, and if you’re a smart guy or gal, you’ll let somebody ship stuff to a place near you in “yours,” before you take delivery. Pulling that puppy home on a flatbed trailer behind a pickup truck is WAY cheaper than rail or tractor trailer delivery.

For more info, see my blog.


heather February 23, 2009 at 7:19 pm


You rock. Seriously. That is goldmine, EUREKA! information I couldn’t have found on my own, at least not without a costly learning curve.

Thanks so much for taking the time to write that out, both for me and other readers in the future.

RenaissanceRonin February 23, 2009 at 9:33 pm


I’ll have you know that I am “not hilarious!”

We’re talking about families and the South, here…

I’m “Seriously funny.” LOL!

Alison Kerr February 23, 2009 at 11:27 pm

I love this idea. I watched a TV program one time about all kinds of alternative homes and there was a home made of a shipping crate on there. While I’m tempted to consider a shipping container home, I’m still in love with the idea of having either an earthship or a straw bale home.

Kaye February 25, 2009 at 9:59 am

What a fascinating and informative article. Thank you for the information. I could see where this could be such a blessing for extended families who want to provide living quarters for an elderly relative, or an older couple whose adult children want to live closer to help them, and to have easy grandkid-sitting. Some great options here!

mzzingu March 8, 2009 at 11:14 am

Living in a shipping container sounds interesting. Unfortunately, I live in a tornado-prone area. I have seen what happens to a tractor trailer during a tornado, and I imagine the same would happen to a shipping container. I also wonder about rust. How badly damaged must a container be for it not to be used for its original purpose?

heather March 10, 2009 at 5:51 am


It’s hard to say about the tornado/weather question. If you check out Ronin’s site (2 comments above yours) he’s building container homes in southern Louisiana/Mississippi. He’d probably know how sturdy they are when confronted with weather like that.

I’d imagine if they were firmly affixed to a foundation (instead of just sitting on the ground like a trailer) they’d be very sturdy. But, I have no evidence on hand to back that up!

As far as the rust goes, most that I saw online were only a bit rusty, or not rusty at all. You can grind the rust off and repaint, and it would be good as new.

RenaissanceRonin March 10, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Hi Heather (and Mzzingu),

Heavy wind, whether it’s measured in Gale Force, Category “OMG”, or even F scales is much easier on a container home than a traditional one. I’ve seen properly affixed (Heather, you’re exactly right)container houses take direct hits in big winds, with little or no damage. And this, on several continents, in several different types of heavy weather. You’re inside a steel box, built to take a beating. And, you’ll be better off than your neighbors in their stick-built houses, I promise you that.

A tractor trailer is an entirely different animal than an Shipping Container. Tractor trailers are built to be lightweight, reasonably durable, and replaceable. Many people confuse the two. Don’t. If it’s not a Shipping Container with those massive locking doors, you don’t want it. (I’ve heard of people buying the “refrigerated” (insulated) ones to use as home fodder, but I wouldn’t do it. Nuh-uh!)

Shipping containers don’t rust. Corten steel doesn’t rust. It just oxidizes. A good clean-up, and a coat of paint is all they need.

And finally, shipping containers aren’t generally “discarded” because they’re damaged, they’re discarded because they’re not re-used. Thank the trade deficit for that. And for some of us, that’s a bonanza, when we’re looking for “building material.”

Sorry for the lengthy comment… 😉


Shaun March 15, 2009 at 11:26 am

Ayess Industries International has been designing container homes since 2003 and have taken the process much further by designing a automotive style factory to produce one continer home every 4 minutes. We are in the process of developing a financing model. Check out the housing section on our site.

RenaissanceRonin March 20, 2009 at 10:25 pm


Lofty goals for the current economy. I looked over your website carefully. I suspect you have miles and miles to go, before you sleep…

But the “fear mongering” was a good touch. 🙁


Sherry Anderson March 23, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Very good research, I am not sure if you ever heard of a company Ayess Industries as I know they were looking at building a factory that mass produces some 100,000 + container homes a year and that would also use some new technology never used before in a factory environment to generate electricity. Something also about the housing units they are to build is suppose to make them the greenest also. If I recall the factory is suppose to use something other then wind or solar to create green energy that will draw world wide attention when they build a factory. Maybe you already know what it is I would love to hear about it if you already are aware of it.

radu April 9, 2009 at 5:48 am

More pictures with container home, illy cafe bar in container http://www.pro-container.com

Rebecca May 1, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Am very much interested in a container home and wondering what research has been done on problems related to metals and toxicity/health concerns. Don´t know what this is called exactly… a friend mentioned to me that I need to look into it.

Robert F Goodrich May 6, 2009 at 8:18 am

I am interested in learning about using shipping containers as a combination retaining wall so that I can build against a large bank on one border of my property. (as compared to a project I have seen locally where they excavated a large area and put up interlocking cement block as a retaining wall, and built their new building a few feet away.) I want to get the benefit of the earths constant tempature that is only a few feet into the ground. As this is a Retail Commercial lot I expect that the ground floor will be retail, possibly a Vermont Maple Gift shop, and/or Creme stand, with my Accounting office and storage above, with some really cool looking porches overlooking the street. I expect to go up to the 40 foot max that the zoning allows for.
As of now I am an accounting student that was lucky to find this affordable awesome property on a paved road in Vermont!!! (I hardly even know what mud season is.. LOL). But as I have much going on in my life as I am going back to school for my accounting degree. I would love to collaborate with green builders that are willing to work together on an ECO friendly project. There should be enough office space to go around for those that do get onboard my dream. I also have a conditional use permit to reside on the property, but the old building that is here, isn’t very effecient. But I would like to save what I can, at least until I have some new space to move into… As I do not have the time to go through my stuff, to see what can be recycled, sold, or trashed(most of it).

Containerist May 6, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Great write-up! Nicely researched and thought out as well. Container home is the direction I am on. I am currently planning out my home and am very focused on using sustainable building practices to achieve my goal of building a container home. containerist.com

heather May 6, 2009 at 1:20 pm


I love your site! Thanks so much for sending it in. It’s really wonderful, and I’m definitely going to keep checking back to see your progress.

Good luck!

Dbox May 14, 2009 at 12:10 am

I run another site you may be interested in – http://www.container-life.com.

P.S. love your blog!

ricky June 9, 2009 at 4:49 pm

i want to make a cheap club house out of one of these mini shipping containers. can any one help?

Stephen September 27, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Wow, those are really cool. I’ve seen a show on containercity on fine living or HGTV, I can’t remember. I wonder if they have trouble with temperature control or something since it seems like it would be hard to do a good job with insulation.

Jeff October 14, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I want to add in some of what I have learned while researching building a shipping container home.

First off, don’t give up, they can easily be transformed into an above housing code home. BUT again, the unknowing will look at you like you are insane. Be persistant, bring a list of links where it has been done, bring pictures printed off the web, bring everything you can find to promote containers as a building material. Or just simply call it a steel structure home, I don’t want to get anyone, namely a county official mad at me for fibbing him, I want a CoO (Certificate of Occupancy). I don’t want to fail that just because I didn’t give all the right details up front. But again, bring everything you possibly can reguarding the building abilities of shipping containers. Everything! You might have to convince them that it is possible to build a nice, safe and up to code home out of these things. Anyone with a half a brain will be able to see the possibilities with a quickness. I called mine and talked about the possibility of getting a permit, and he’d said he had heard of it, and saw some things on TV about it, and if I can bring a good plan up there for him then he didn’t see any problem at all to get the permit, and if everything checks out a CoO will be no issue either. Whew, that was easier than I expected.

Now on to sourcing these things. First off, it’s MUCH easier to get them to your site in reasonable time going through the most local dealer you can find. But a lot of them are going to try and charge out the nose for them. Don’t let them rip you. Search EVERY company you can find within a somewhat reasonable distance, I reached out 500 miles, got an in writing quote from several sellers, and presented that to my local company that is literally a few minutes down the road from my current house. he said he would match their price. So I got priced $1800 each for 6 40′ HQ containers, $1500 each for 2 20′ containers delivered on site. I even called the shipping yards in Mobile Alabama, and around New Orleans, if I wanted to recieve them over time as they can find shippers needing to move cargo to Huntsville, I could get them delivered for a couple hundred dollars less per container, but once I get started I just want to get started. I don’t want to get partly started and have to wait months on the last containers I need to get REALLY started on it. So if I stay locally I can get the entire set of containers for $13,800. Not to bad at all. Lowest straight from the shipping yard would save me about $3000, but like I said, what if I have to wait two years to get all of my containers, I’m sure if I worked with them enough I could manage them faster and cheaper. So the guys I need to satisfy for the permit are receptive, I’ve found out where to source the containers for the best price at the moment. Now to getting the land ready.

For my house I’m wanting a 60×60 pad of concrete. I will tell you folks, you will save an insane amount of money if you level the property and setup the concrete forms yourself. Then you just purchase the concrete, have the mixing truck pour it for you, and you smooth the surface yourself. A couple of pairs of rubber boots for you and a friend or two, some old raggedy clothes, and some long 2x4s to run across the top of it to level it. Mine will be poured in 3 20×60 pours to make the leveling process a lot easier. I will also lay the rebar myself, and source all of that I can from a scrap yard, some rebar and old chain link fencing and I’ll be in business. After calculating the square Yard of concrete I need for that it comes out to about $2400 with rebar.

Now what? You likely need between $300 to $1000 for a crane to come stack them. $300 an hour for my local company, it’ll take about an hour to stack them, and an hour travel time for them, about $600 for me. Not too bad.

Now I want to tie the uncovered areas together at the container seams, I’ve sourced the 2″ wide 16 gauge steel, that’s going to set me back around $1500 after I pay a friend of mine to come weld it all in.

I own an Acetaline Torch I can use to cut the walls out of the interior, likely need new tanks, so $100 or so for that since I am the labor.

For the upper deck that will be left on the top level It’ll cost me about $150 to deck it with plywood and about $300 to cover that with torch down rubber, again I am the labor for that.

Around $500 for 15 gallons of Insulflex paint to cover exterior surfaces both inside and out. Labors is ME.

Instead of paying $6000 for spray in insulation, I will be using the insulflex paints, and fiberglass insulations under my wall and floor coverings. It’ll cost me about $1200 total for that.

I’ll do both my plumbing and electrical for around $1500 materials, labors on me.

Now with that said, that’s the basics, not counting windows, doors, floor and wall coverings. cabinets, toilets, appliances, etc. I will be sourcing those from Habitat for Humanity, salvage companies, used and overstock sotres, etc etc. I’ve seen $1000 windows for $200 because of a single cracked pane when I can get a crappy $20 window and cut a new pane out of it, etc etc. Just shop around, most of those stores that sell that kind of stuff don’t advertise, talk to home remodelers, your local lumber yard, etc. Get it all seriously discounted, install it all yourself and save tons of money.

None of the work is that hard to do, none of it. Get some books, study them, practice one some scrap materials, etc etc.

Essentially for about $25,000 (Leaving $3000 variance in materials pricing) estimated I can have my house, minus windows, cabinets, wall and floor coverings, applicances, and windows and doors. Add in another $15,000 to finish up if we get real fancy with it, and now I have a 1900 sq ft home for about $40k. That’s less than most luxery cars.

You have to be willing to put in most of the labor work on your home to save that kind of money, you have to be willing to spend the phone time getting the best pricing in your area for both containers and all needed materials. But you can do it. When I get everything together and get started on this thing, I’ll be in touch with the owner of this site, and hopefully I can find someone willing to document the build. I know once I get started on it, between work, my child and building that house, I’m not going to have time for it. I’ll keep you guys up to date though.

heather October 18, 2009 at 5:49 am


Thank you so much for taking the time to write out such an informative, useful comment. There is some goldmine information in there, and I know that not only me, but plenty of other readers, have and will learn a lot from your knowledge!

The tip about the concrete is especially useful; my husband and I were really unsure about the cost of having the foundation poured (we knew it’d be a lot) and whether or not we could actually do that part ourselves to save money. It’s given us some hope that perhaps we could just go ahead and do it ourselves once we have a site picked out.

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to pass this amazing information along!

Jeff October 19, 2009 at 10:13 am

Thanks Heather,

I’ve helped do a couple of concrete foundations, and they really are pretty easy. You get the ground level (If needed). Measure out the dimentions of the foundation, pound 1×1 stake in every corner, then take a piece of trot line string (Twine), and stretch it around all 4 corners, then about every 2′ pound in another string along the piece of twine, then take 2×8 boards and form in the area for concrete (With the stakes on the outside of the form. Then lay out rebar in a grid pattern about every 2′, and best if you can get it a couple of inches off the ground (You can use old chain link too if you find a bargain on it, not as strong, but it does work.). Call in the concrete trucks to fill it all in.

Most concrete companies use “cubic yards” to estimate how much concrete you need. a 60×60 8″ foundation is about 89 cubic yards, concrete.com has a calculator so you can get the cubic yard of concrete you need.

Once it is poured you can then get some shovels and push high spots into the low spots. Once it’s pretty close to level, take some really long boards and set them on edge on top of the concrete forms, then you and a partner standing outside of the forms take the board and saw it back and forth while pulling from one end of the form to the other pushing excess concrete out of the back of the form, while doing this watch for low spots and broom higher spots into the lower spots. Do this a couple of times until you no longer see any low spots and get all the excess out of the form. Once you are done as long as you were careful and used a string level to make sure the forms are perfectly level, then the concrete will be level also. Let it dry for a few days and you are set.

It is A LOT easier then the concrete companies and foundation builders would want you to know. You may not make this beautiful smooth concrete surface, but it will be level and strong enough to do its job.

And seriously Home Depot has books you can buy for about $25 each that will teach you step by step how to do Plumbing, Electrical, cabinet building, etc etc. You can save more money than you ever dreamed doing all this stuff yourself. Also installing hardwood floors and carpet is insanely easy too, saving you a few thousand in labor costs.

These are all must haves for the average home owner.
Home Depot books:
Plumbing 1-2-3
Wiring 1-2-3
Home Improvement 1-2-3
Flooring 1-2-3
Tiling 1-2-3

The Complete Kitchen Cabinet Maker
Trim Carpentry Techniques
Windows and Doors

These are all must have books that will help the average person do ANYTHING they will need to do while building one of these homes. Only things I see being a problem with the average builder is cutting the walls of the container to make rooms and doors and windows. Most will need to hire someone to do that for them. But just so you know, acetaline cutting torches are rentable and not hard to use, but in the unsteady hand can make some rough cut surfaces. Pretty much anything you need to do these things is rentable. Do it yourself, save TONs of money to purchase some really nice interior upgrade and appliances.

Jeff October 19, 2009 at 10:42 am

Oh yeah, I just wanted everyone to know that PL400 can be used to bond wood to metal for floors and walls, for ceilings I think it would be best used in conjunction with bolting the wood directly to the metal in order to ensure your ceiling doesn’t fall in over the years.

If you are using no exterior sheathing (I’m certainly not) then the windows will not flush against the inner portions of the metal corrugation, you will have to use a cardboard template and wood to seal the window completely flush with the corrugated metal, once that’s all done correctly, caulk the seams, paint and be proud of your work.

If someone starts building one of these before me, please send me a message or something with any questions you may have, I will answer with the most cost effecting solution to solving most of your issues with building one.

Jeff October 19, 2009 at 10:58 am

Oh yeah, I just wanted everyone to know that PL400 can be used to bond wood to metal for floors and walls, for ceilings I think it would be best used in conjunction with bolting the wood directly to the metal in order to ensure your ceiling doesn’t fall in over the years.

If you are using no exterior sheathing (I’m certainly not) then the windows will not flush against the inner portions of the metal corrugation, you will have to use a cardboard template and wood to seal the window completely flush with the corrugated metal, once that’s all done correctly, caulk the seams, paint and be proud of your work.

If someone starts building one of these before me, please send me a message or something with any questions you may have, I will answer with the most cost effecting solution to solving most of your issues with building one.

Also made a mistake on the concrete tips, it’s not a 1×1 stake, it’s 2×2.

Matt October 24, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Hey all,

I find this topic fascinating, and hope to do this myself one day! Jeff, especially, I want to say thanks for your posts! Every time I read about ISBU home building, I mentally sketch out the way I think it should work, and I generally end up with the same steps and costs you do. I always end up thinking, however, that I must be crazy, because all the people in the articles spent $300,000 for a 1500 square feet house. I think to myself, \how can this be?? Where are they spending all of this money on a house made of shipping containers?\

BUT, all of you have given me hope again! Thanks so much! I’ll keep watching to see how your projects end up.

Jeff October 26, 2009 at 10:32 am

A lot of the people building these things are actually paying huge labor costs to have people do the work for them, and since mixing wood and metal together can be a little bit of a chore they charge out of the butt for labor to work on these things. Electrical and Plumbing has complications as well that likely drag installation costs much higher than normal. Not that the extra complication warrants the rise in labor costs, but all they need is an excuse to jack up labor costs and they will. A person that is willing to take the time and effort to do 90% of the work themselves will save more money than you thought possible. Do it yourselfers will be able to build the same home at less than 1/3 of the costs.

You hire a contractor and you will pay at least tripple for materials just because they had to go through the trouble of making the call rather than you, then there is the labor charges, license charges, design costs (Even if you design it yourself), The crane I paid $600 for will cost you likely $2k just because the contractor made the call and you didn’t, The welder is going to cost you typically $45 an hour, Electrician is going to charge you likely around $45 to $50 an hour, Plumbers are going to cost you about $35 an hour, That concrete pad I built for $2400 is going to cost you likely about $6k. Those containers I got for $1800 each will likely be at least $2500 each if the contracter sources them. Basically if you don’t do the work yourself and you hire a contractor, you can expect to pay at least quadruple the amount that you could have if you had done everything yourself. I’m at an advantage because I know how to do pretty much everything I need done already. That’s why it’ll cost me between $40,000 and $50,000 as opposed to $150k or more. There are always hidden costs, but there is no way building one of these should cost more than $70k to $80k for a reasonably sized family home.

Topher October 27, 2009 at 11:19 am

Regarding the slab foundation, your proposal sounds fine…. if you don’t need any plumbing. How did you solve the water and sewage access. I would think that has to go through the slab and be pretty well planned within your floorplan and precisely located so that the fixtures (at least for the ground floor) can be installed over their respective sewerlines.
I am just wondering how you solved all that? Are you accessing municipal water and sewage or are you tapping a well and running septic field or tank?
Thanks for all the input!

Matt October 27, 2009 at 12:31 pm

I’m curious about that, too. Like I said, I’m so glad to hear someone say it: you CAN do it yourself, if you’re willing and you have the time. However, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m not a contractor, and am worried that I would be SOL on the more precise elements of homebuilding (connections to city sewage being one of them).

Thanks again!

Jeff November 2, 2009 at 9:31 am

I can certainly see where confusion could come in on that one he he. I was planning pretty much my entire design around the plumbing all being on one side of the house. I will be septic tank. The mass majority of my plumbing will be run on one side of the home. I will never EVER run my plumbing in concrete. If something happens under or in that concrete (Very rare, but I did have a friend have it happen) , you will have to get a jackhammer, cut out the bottom of the house to expose the “Suspected” area, and tear all the concrete around exposing more and more pipe until the problem is found. That gets VERY expensive. I was kind of planning to have my kitchen that leads out to a back patio, The bathroom right beside it, and the upstairs bathroom exactly above the downstairs bathroom. I will be running my plumbing on the outside of the container home, insulating it with the best pipe insulation I can get and cover it with a LARGE bench seat in the patio area, then on the side of the house where the bathrooms are it’s a little more complicated but with proper planning you can run all of the bathroom piping along one area of the container home and box it in with sheet metal without making too much of an eye sore. Put as much of the piping in one of the corrugation indentations as possible, and the bigger drain lines will not sink completely in one but you can minimize the amount of material needed to completely cover all of the lines by using the indentations in the corrugation.

It’s mostly in the layout of the interior of the home, I put it all as close as possible. The Downstairs bathroom will be right beside the kitchen, the upstairs bathroom will be directly above the downstairs bathroom, and all of the piping for the bathrooms will be run along the corner of where I am putting the 2 20′ containters I’m using for a garage. The hot water heater will be located in the garage at the inside corner where all of the piping will be coming in and going back out. I’ll have that corner boxed off in a metal box, The piping running to the kitchen will also be on the outside, but will be run under a bay window that will extend into a nice long bench seat for patio seating. I will have two spots where piping will have to be run through concrete, one will be where the city lines will connect to the house, and the waste lines will go into the septic but that is easy enough to plan out so that it can be run on the outside and covered up without it being an eyesore.

It’s really hard to explain, but it’s easy to show someone. I don’t want any piping run where I will have to move any part of my house, or cut out any of the metal flooring to get it exposed. I’ll just have to run a ton of pipe insulation when I run the piping, but that’s not really a big expense when you minimize the piping lengths needed and such.

I manage my bathroom and garage layout around how I wanted to run piping. But you can certainly concrete in the piping and such, it really isn’t a big deal to run the piping before you pour the concrete leaving plenty exposed above the concrete level. It just complicates the leveling process when leveling the concrete, and the placing of the containers, but not so much that it’s going to be a huge expense or anything. But once you get the concrete laid with the piping in it, you are pretty much set in your bathroom and kitchen layout. It’ll leave very little room for adjustment at that point.

Matt November 2, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Let me see what you all think of this.

I’ve come up with a model of how I’d like to build, based off the 12 container house by Adam Kalkin. Picture this: you pour a 40 x 60 concrete slab (yes, that’s BIG), and erect on it a prefabricatetd metal strucutre (basically, a large garage or workshop). I would dub this part the ‘superstructure’. Then, you bring in eight 20×8 containers, and arrange them at the far walls (along nthe 40′ side) and cut doors appropriatly. Spray each container in and out (or just in, if cost gets too high) with ceramic insulation, and now you have a very large home with 8 seperate well insulated rooms. Each room can be climate controlled independantly at very low cost, as 160 square feet (or 320 for two together) is not very much space to heat or cool.

The big concerete space in between can act as living room area, dining room area, and so on. You could even acid stain it for looks. I’d probably arrange the units to provide one master bedroom (2 containers), a kitchen, 2 smaller bedrooms, a bathroom/laundry room, an office, and a storage/utility room (1 container each).

Anyway, that’s my latest thinking. I should mention that I’m looking to build in middle Texas, where I don’t have to worry much about cold weather (or hurricanes).

Thanks again!

macdaddy November 5, 2009 at 12:49 am

Is it possible to build a pool from a container?

I know this sounds kind of silly but the container can handle the weight and pressure if you fill it with water, and I was also thinking that an experienced welder could make the container air-tight. So would this be a plausible project?

The next thing to do is dig a hole and then put the (topless) container in it and fill it with water. Has someone tried this? This would make making a pool very affordable 🙂

Jen November 14, 2009 at 6:22 pm

I’ve been working on my container home along side my boyfriend & his father. Our website is: thearkhaus.com its been a very rewarding process, but I’d love to know counties where there are no building codes so we can move them there. It is currently off grid and we’d like to keep it that way. 🙂

PS: MacDaddy, we’ve considered the same thing about a swimming pool, but from what we’ve read containers are not good to bury. You can design an above ground pool with no problem though. 🙂

This guy uses dumpsters as pools: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=8130958&page=1

RenaissanceRonin November 19, 2009 at 6:55 pm

@MacDaddy – Yes. It’s easy to build a lap pool from a 40′ High Cube container.

I just ran a post about it, just for you. You can read it, tomorrow, November 20th, after 8am Central Time:


It’s the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version. Hope it helps!


Longie November 24, 2009 at 12:17 pm

You would do well looking into a used refrigerated container. They are super insulated. I use one as a store room and the temperature inside never varies, summer or winter it’s always the same and I don’t use heating or air conditioning. I also use non insulated standard shipping containers which I have to air condition to keep cool. You can also use the space that used to house the refrigerator unit for your service hook ups and mechanicals.

Sam November 24, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I think the idea is very excellent and very practical as you can live where ever you want.

Shipping Container

Jeff December 4, 2009 at 11:33 am

Anyone else using Google Sketchup for designing their container home. When you import the continer models there isn’t much you can do with them, but you can easily get a good idea of layouts and other external mods you want to do, and what the finished product will look like. Just wanted to give a heads up on those. I intend to save some of my models as JPG so I can share them. I will likely stand up a website and start posting up Blogs and info, and as a place to document my build when I get started.

Jeff December 4, 2009 at 4:12 pm

I’m currently building a website.


There will also be a Forum (Link at the bottom of the page)

As this is a work in progress it is not fully completed yet. Feel free to help me out here. This is my first attempt at this kind of thing. And I gotta keep it in free versions for the time being. I will build a more robust site and forum in the future.

Jen December 8, 2009 at 12:17 am

Jeff: Good luck with your website. I’ll be sure to keep checking back for updates. Feel free to visit our project at: http://www.TheArkHaus.com

Take care,

Jeff December 11, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I put a link to your site on my site. Thanks!

Gabriel December 21, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Hi Heather,
I like your very comprehensive link system, Zack Smith also covers A LOT! (see http://www.firmitas.org ).
We just had our plans for building a container-house approved in South Africa, a 1st for residential property!
I’ll report back as things progress – at the moment we’ve got summer & Xmas vacation and no-one seems to work.
Keep well and God bless!

Kat December 28, 2009 at 11:20 am

To answer your question on if they have to be built on poured foundation, the answer is yes. It needs stability on the four bottom corners, you could also place it on cinder blocks, but it is more efficient to place it on a poured foundation. This supports it and tends to even the ground and protect the home from uneccessary moisture.
To answer another question: There are many ways to insulate a container home. One of the most common and most efficient methods is by using insulating spray foam or polyurethane foam. This foam sticks to the steal walls and rust proofs it along with sealing the building and eliminating energy robbing cold air infiltration and the related problems of mold, mildew, and condensation. It is also a good idea to give the outside a thin layer to prevent bridging as steel is an excellent conductor.
I hope this helps!

RenaissanceRonin January 3, 2010 at 8:30 pm


You had me up to that “they must be put on a POURED foundation” line.

A lot of us live in flood planes, and in places where a slab just won’t work.

I’ve put DOZENS of Shipping Container Homes on pilings, quite successfully. And some of those homes have seen “above the ground now’ for over twenty years.

While it’s true that the strength of the container IS in the corners, you don’t have to set them on the ground to make them work. There’s more than one way to support those long rails that hold everything together.

The naysayers immediately scream about increased costs, but it’s just not true. Pilings can be poured cost effectively, and some steel added in there supports the boxes with strength to spare.

I talk about this on my blog. all the time.

And anyone who’s built more than one of these homes has already figured out that the “spray on closed cell insulation” goes on the OUTSIDE of the boxes. Why make a small space smaller?

As you probably know, the beauty of closed cell foam is that it’s just that. A vapor barrier, a moisture barrier, and the insulation all in one shot. Literally.

Hope this helps.


Gabriel January 4, 2010 at 5:59 am

I’m VERY interested in Ronin’s above-mentioned e-book on building with containers and will earnestly consider investing in it. It might be a tad late for my 1st home (NB NOT house, as I am going to live in it ;-)… but for the second home, or 2nd story, it might come in handy!
God bless all of you!

heather January 4, 2010 at 9:46 am

Hi Gabriel,

I think it’s going to be a great book! We’ll soon be offering it up for presale. Anyone who buys it before it’s out will get a nice discount, as well as some great bonuse ebooks that regular buyers won’t get. I’ll be sure to let everyone know when the pre-sale takes effect!



Jen January 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Contrary to Kat’s statement spray foam is NOT the most efficient form of insulation. It gets VERY expensive and does not have the R-value of the standard pink stuff. It is not worth the money. Also don’t fret Ronin, containers don’t NEED to be placed on poured concrete they do just fine on block. Also having a steel exterior is beneficial for many reasons and not covering it is actually safer in an electrical storm it creates a direct path to the ground. But to each their own I’m sure every situation is a little different. That is whats so great about container homes, theres a lot of room for experimentation based on specific conditions.

RenaissanceRonin January 4, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Hi Jen,

Ah… the “myths and urban legend” of “ISBU ingenuity…”

Okay, as we’ve demonstrated, there are many ways to “float” a container home.

Each building site and budget will point you at the “right” solution if you pay attention.

The problem with floating a container home on (masonry) blocks is that the block isn’t a permanent part of the structure. Unless you attach it to something permanently… something like…um… a foundation. 🙂

If you’re trying to float a shed or a workshop in your backyard, it’d work, but for a real house, it’s foolhardy and prone to failure at best.

The phrase “Building houses on sand” comes to mind…

And there are as many ways to insulate a box as well. But to say that closed cell foam doesn’t have the r-value of fiberglass batts is just nonsense. An inch of closed cell foam will give me an r-value of 7. Show me a fiberglass batt, one inch thick, that can do that.

Admittedly, closed cell foam is more expensive, especially if you have a contractor apply it. However, there ARE kits available that allow the home builder to apply his own spray on closed cell foam, just like the big boys do, at reasonable rates. And it’s easily workable, as it hardens quickly.

Sometimes… within minutes, actually.

And those achieved closed cell foam r-values exceed similar applications of fiberglass batt by MANY times, and aren’t prone to some of the break-downs of fiberglass over time.

Additionally, it serves several other purposes, including making your home stronger (that stuff sticks to everything like duct tape, and aids in dealing with shear and lateral forces) leak resistant, bug and rodent resistant (they don’t like it), vapor resistant (but don’t feed the dog chili!), and provides all this in an “easily encased and enclosed” package, like stucco, siding, or veneer. 🙂

I don’t recommend that people just “leave the steel exposed” without some kind of lightning protection. The beauty of Container Homes is that you can build them anywhere, and many families build them in “places rather remote and off the beaten track.” That house may be the only steel mass for miles. I’ve gotten several reports from families about container homes that have been struck by lightning.

I personally know of ISBU dwellings in Iraq and Afghanistan that were struck by lighting.

(Although I’ll add the note that luckily, no home that we ever built has been similarly struck, to our knowledge.)

Container home building isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires new skills, and presents new challenges. Just because you own a skillsaw or a hammer, or you’ve built a “wood” home, doesn’t mean that you can just “go build a container home.”

There’s a LOT to learn. In over 30 years of repurposing these boxes (and I’m talking about building over a hundred), we’re still learning new tricks.

Lot’s of people “talk” about building container homes, but few actually HAVE done so. Choose your design and contracting team carefully. Building one or two homes using ISBU’s doesn’t make you anything close to an expert.

Start by asking those guys how many Container Homes they’ve actually built. Then, go talk to the owners. THEN… engage them in serious conversations. You’re investing in something that’s investing in your family. Do your homework.

Man… talking about Container homes is getting to be like talking about religion or politics…

In the end, you do what you do, and your mileage may vary.

Good luck with your projects!


Sully February 5, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Hi, Heather
. I’m blown away about the whole pre fab thing and I’m a raving fan of,
Rocio Romero: (http://www.rocioromero.com/LVSeries/index.htm)
and of course, Michelle Kaufman: ( http://www.mkd-arc.com/homes/ )

Then I stumbled upon…shipping containers? I’ll get right to the point.I am determined to build a modern home out of shipping containers and you will too after you see the designs on this website:


I don’t know if you’ve heard of Logical Homes but from what I understand they might be one of the few compnies in the USA that you might consider when building a home from shipping containers.

Kayla March 8, 2010 at 4:06 pm

So my company and I have begun “piloting” a container home. I’m looking for a company in the US, possibly Michigan that has built a container home, who I would be able to ask questions to. I’m literally starting at square one with land and zoning and am so confused.

heather March 9, 2010 at 9:52 am

Hi Kayla,

You should talk to my friend over at Renaissance Ronin: http://renaissanceronin.wordpress.com/

He’s built over 100 ISBU homes and definitely knows how to do this!

crissy March 14, 2010 at 12:15 am

first I must say thank you for this informative site! I have recently purchased a container to use as storage but I plan to include it in my future home. I would like to receive a notification of the for mentioned book being written on building a container home. I have been on the fence over what direction to go in building a home. I live in an area that has hot summers and cold winters with wind that seems to be on the move about 65% of the time. I look forward to the wealth of information that may be able to help in my decision which appears to be leaning in the cargo way. thank you again

Tom Fagan March 31, 2010 at 12:51 am

Good Afternoon All

I am very interested in building a container home in Queensland (Sunshine Coast)

Has any one done any engeneering culculations on the modifications to help get past the Councils?

Look forward to seeing more affordable green homes and less monuments of ego.

Cheers, Tom

Sandi April 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Is there a do it yourself CD on making a home from a shipping container? Think I saw a CD adv. many months back around $58. can’t find the online ad, now that I want to build a shipping container home, wouldn’t you know-this computer can’t handle online downloads- thanks

Jeffix April 27, 2010 at 7:54 am

What else to say…it’s great! Modern and simple stuff doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive. I am in the process of make-your-own, currently gathering information on shipping container houses and housing (found great ebook http://steelhouseplan.com/) and hopefully will be able to document all on my website. Not sure why so many people have negative opinion, not all of us are rich enough to build mansions.

Ralph Marshall April 29, 2010 at 7:15 pm

ebooks are all well and good but I’m a bit old-school in that I love the feel of paper and the heft of a book. Any chance of hard copies coming out?

heather April 30, 2010 at 7:10 am

@Ralph- We’re still working on the ebook version, but if it does well once its published then we’ll probably self-publish a few thousand copies (if we can find a self-publishing company that will use soy ink and recycled paper!).

Nicole June 5, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I love the idea of re-using something old in an unexpected, creative way. My mother-in-law turned me onto this site, and this article in particular, about two weeks ago and I have to say that you’ve really inspired me to live off the grid in an eco-friendly way. I’ve always wanted to be completely self-sufficient, but thanks to your research, I now know that it can be done fairly afford-ably – suddenly my dreams are within reach! You’ve even inspired me to do my own writing/research into off-the-grid living whereas once it was just on the To-Do list. And I must say you compile the information in a chatty, DIY-for-the-layman, easy-to-read style. Thanks for an informative, fun read!

Heather June 10, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I’m new to the site but saw there was a book underway last year. Did it ever get finished? Is there a link somewhere?


Heather June 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Oops! Just realized you responded to a similar question in April. I’m waiting patiently (sort of). ; )

Oh! And I’m very exited to have found your site!

heather June 28, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Hi Everyone!

Just wanted to let you all know that our first ebook in our series of “How to Build An ISBU Home” is finished!

You can find out more information on it here: http://www.thegreenestdollar.com/2010/06/ok-our-first-isbu-e-book-is-shipping/

This first ebook is almost 100 pages, and it’s an introduction to building with ISBU containers. There are also 20 house plans in here that really show you what you can do with these containers! And at $9.95, it’s a screaming deal.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Daniel July 28, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Wow, this is one of the most informative posts on container houses I’ve seen! Thanks for all of the links to the various blogs and resources – great stuff!

john simmis August 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Building with containers is worth taking a look at if you are contemplating a new home.


Lots of example buildings, details, facts, and links to other articles. They have something new that you can setup your own project wiki to get help with your project if you are the design build sort…


Philadelphia Divorce lawyer September 8, 2010 at 12:33 am

Is there a do it yourself CD on making a home from a shipping container? Think I saw a CD adv. many months back around $58. can’t find the online ad, now that I want to build a shipping container home, wouldn’t you know-this computer can’t handle online downloads- thanks


Peter October 13, 2010 at 10:19 am

@thompmson44 try http://www.containerhome.info I think this is the resource you are talking about but its online delivery as far as I know maybe they sell a CD as well.

melissa Taylor November 12, 2010 at 8:21 am

If like us at Taylored containers you love the concept of what can be created with a shipping container let us create a Taylored container just for you.
Bespoke and commercial units undertaken and we ship Worldwide.
We offer a full service and have an architect service to create your taylored home.

melissa December 1, 2010 at 8:04 am


If like us at Taylored containers you love the concept of what can be created with a shipping container let us create a Taylored container just for you.
Bespoke and commercial units undertaken and we ship Worldwide.
We offer a full service and have an architect service to create your taylored home.

Ashish Bhasin January 13, 2011 at 5:14 am

Wishing this forum a delightful 2011 ahead .

I am an Indian who has been in the shipping industry for last 20 years ,having worked in china / gulf & europe ….moving these colored lego boxes globally …. where some of you shape them to an exquisite marvel of art …
I have always been intrigued by the creativity that some brilliant architects and designers whip up with these soul less steel boxes … some of the designs that i have seen really reflect creativity maxed out ..oh they are mind blowing …

i am now based in india and very recently was discussing with a senior cabinet secretary for town planning and development ….about housing problems for our exploding population ; justifiably he was miffed at the costs of settling the masses who still live on BPL – below the poverty line; as the discussions got more serious my thoughst gravitated to exploring an option with the box(s) i have lived with in these last 20 years…why can we not explore housing options with them …so my quest started to look out for designers / architects who can do some feasibility study and come up with a cost saving hosuing resolution ..but in vain …so i thought my initiative would die in its infancy as for some inexplicable reasons NONE of them sounded gung ho about the concept ..perhaps can be attributed to their minimal exposure in this stream or lesser enterprising streaks …but i am not throwing in my towel as yet …

as luck would have it , while surfing i stumbled upon this blog where i could see an eclectic mix of designers/ first timers / authors and experst on container housing …. bouncing off their ideas and experiences so openly and each one of you is so upbeat about the concept ….this looks like my holy grail ..

if u all would pardon my absolute ignorance on the subject , may i request you to pls accept me in the forum to allow me to pinch u with some basic questions till i get into the flow and match up with your frequencies …

@ renaissance ronin – if i am not mistaking your identity , are u Alex Klein the famous architect ..one of the pioneers in ISBU housing ??

i am especially seeking your help to take this on … i have seen your commitment to the cause.. hope you would not let me down

if possible JEN / Melissa / jeff and heather to please send me your email coordinates …. there is huge potential of this concept in the indian scenario and can be plugged ….wish to start a company hinging on CSR ( corporate social responsibility ) ; and guess would need support from each of you ..to bring housing to the masses in here ….costs of labor here is much cheaper in comparison with USA / Europe and i am sure it will be a win win for all involved in ..
but before i begin to setup my company its impeartive that I showcase the concept to the world …by building something for myself …. to dispel the general apprehensions attached with the concept …i have about 1000 sq yards of land on the main highway which in itself will be a BIG show window …once the house is done …

any suggestions how i get a good design going …if any one could help me with the designs / conceptualising / drawings / do’s and don’ts / pitfalls and challenges it will be much appreciated …. I have to get this going ….n i am sure this forum would contribute to my cause

pls share your details with me at – [email protected]

Ashish Bhasin

Shipping Container Homes March 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Excellent excellent post.

These ‘eco-pods’ can be really environmentally friendly if you install solar panels on the roof, and try to lead a ver low-energy-consuming lifestyle (and yes, it can be done).
I also think they’re beautiful…simply painted green, or covered with wood cladding. They are simply beautiful.


hanna sheperd May 28, 2011 at 9:50 pm

This shipping container is something unique.I was wondering how my life with be different if I’ve lived in that place.Exciting.And the fact that it is environmentally friendly i may also help our environment.

peter hamburg June 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm

There’s a whole world of shipping container modifications out there from more creative housing designs like this to more functional (less attractive) options for low income residents in vancouver, as well as mobile offices. I personally love these kinds of projects because it is nice to know they are not just sending containers out to landfills.

Hello June 11, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Hi Guys,
I love Containerized living. A company which makes Container Park Models just opened in B.C. check out our website. It is truly incredible what can be done with a Container.



Larry July 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm

After reading your shipping container enthusiasm, I thought I would share my project. It is complete now other then a few odds and ends. I did all aspects myself including design. I am a retired automotive machinist, and though you would hardly ever see a service truck at my house, this was something I had never done before. I am pretty proud of it!

MarkusWolf August 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm

here is an other intresting page.
Found this on my Research, and can´t stop watching

Roger August 18, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Hi! Hope that everything is well with everyone. I was thinking of using containers for my home. But, a thought crossed my mind. So, here it is. Do container homes get struck by lightning more often then others…and, how would one keep a container home from frying the family?

tommyttr December 3, 2011 at 6:58 am

Went to buy this book for $9.95, but paypal says $10.95. Read about a How-to book coming out a year ago but no book yet. When is the huge how to book coming out? After much research, I am learning 90% of this stuff is just in theory. Not many people are actually building shipping container homes, just talking about it. Well, I have bought 7 containers and fully intend on making these truly green, inexpensive homes, not stacked, flipped, unrealistic desgined homes that no one could afford anyway. My goal is $5K investment on each container to make it a livable space with a usable bathroom. Can anybody help me or giude me to where I can purchase books or cd’s on this. I don’t want to pay for information that is unrealistic to build and financially unobtainable.

James H. Armistead December 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Cargo Container Cabin Designs
Dec. 13, 2011 (Update III)

Subject: New Ideas for Surplus Aircraft Carriers—-Power Plants & Cruise Ships.

Surplus Aircraft Carriers would make good “Oil Fired Power Plants” if new 7.5 Megawatt Generators were added below deck with the ability to be turned by the main, oil-fired, steam engines, while docked on Oahu or on Kauai, where all new electricity could be sold for about 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. Plus, the Hanger Deck (75,000 sq. ft. by 25 ft. high) could be converted to “1000 Tourist Cabins” by adding about 1000 Surplus Cargo Containers (8 ft. x 20 ft.) stacked 3 high, which would be virtually “fireproof”. Plus, Swimming Pools and Tennis Courts could be added to the Flight Deck.

All Cargo Container Cabins would have 4 twin-size Murphy Bunk Beds that could be folded sideways against the wall, and a Queen-size Murphy Bed option on the end wall.
New Bathrooms (about 4’ x 8’) would be at the back-end of all new Cabins, where all plumbing, water heaters and heat pumps would be installed in a small gap between the rows of new Cabin Units, where all new ductwork would be in the bathroom ceilings.
Insulation between Cabins could be Styrofoam, which would aid soundproofing, too.

Generally speaking, oil-fired power plants are becoming obsolete, due to the increasing cost of oil and oil pollution, but they still make profits, if power can be sold for 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. Plus, Hawaii has very little pollution and good trade winds, which remove all air pollution, and now has the highest cost of electricity (30 cents per KWH).

Or, any Surplus Aircraft Carrier could be converted to a “Traveling Movie Studio”, a “Cruise Ship” or a Cargo Ship. So, below is a list of seven Surplus Aircraft Carriers that may have already been converted to Tourist Museums at questionable profits.

1. CV-59 USS Forrestal, which may now be in Philadelphia, PA.
2. CV-60 USS Saratoga, which may now be about to be scrapped?
3. CV-61 USS Ranger, which may now be in Bremerton, WA.
4. CV-62 USS Independence, which may now be in Bremerton, WA.
5. CV-63 USS Kitty Hawk, which may now be in Bremerton, WA.
6. CV-64 USS Constellation, which may now be in Bremerton, WA.
7. CVA-67 USS JFK, which may now be in Boston, MA.


James H. Armistead, Inventor
Gen. Delivery
Laughlin, NV. 89029
[email protected]

James H. Armistead December 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm

THINK of a Cargo Container, like a RV Motor Home without wheels, where closet space can be added between Containers.

And, bury it in the Sand or Dirt with sliding glass doors at one end facing a good view. Or, add Styrofoam Panels to the outside to make it look like anything you choose. But, they “sweat” in high humidity; so, have a good air flow with air conditioning or circulation fans! Plus, they are “fireproof” and secure (with the outer doors closed), if you are working somewhere else, except on “weekends”.

Bathrooms and Kitchens can be designed in one end, with or without a view, if buried.

brian k. young March 15, 2012 at 4:28 pm

are there occasions where these containers can be given away for free?

CHRIS July 31, 2013 at 12:14 pm


We are the largest FLAT PACKED MANUFACTURERS in the world, using container technology we have engineer our product under a Coccon to Silk Butterfly vision. We can provide the system and architecture (if required). Please contact me, should you be interested in how we can help !!

Best Regards

how to build a shipping container home September 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Shipping container homes are sure taking off and becoming more popular

David July 31, 2014 at 7:11 am

In the UK there’s a lot of about this now – especially after the channel 4 series “George Clarke’s small spaces” which has had some great designs in this area.

E October 25, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Live in Washington State with my wife. We have about 10 acres of raw land. We’re currently researching different types of homes. What are some of the legalities to living off grid? If we were to build with out the blessing of the local nobility, shall we lose our head.. I mean, home? What laws might we be breaking? Thanks.

International shipping containers April 15, 2015 at 4:41 am

Its really good post. the post shared is really interesting and also share the very useful information.

Frank Dapena March 7, 2016 at 2:44 pm

can a container home be set up anywhere or are there restrictions as to where one can be installed

Roger May 8, 2016 at 11:26 pm

I really want to have a shipping container home built in Bradenton Florida asap, but I am have the hardest time finding builder by searching online. Or maybe I’m searching the wrong things?

Dina September 28, 2016 at 4:36 pm

I am very interested in living in a shipping container due to my financial hardship right now but am wondering, do I have to purchase land? And any suggestions how to still stay in city area of L.A. County, CA?

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