Arts & Crafts: build your next home out of shipping containers

Originally published at:


The intended meaning:

Where my mind went:


Sure that’s where it starts. Then he’ll want to add on additions…


I’m not sure what is “arts & crafts” about this, at all.

Also, this must surely be by far not the first thread on this topic and I again wait for the various opposing arguments about the un/suitability of shipping containers for housing.

Please allow me to prime the discussion with a reference back to this

And previously

Personally, I believe they may have some utility as housing in some limited circumstances but largely, not.


There is a 5 storey hotel next to Waterloo Station

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Very nice! I’d stay there.

A while back, I stopped at a very nice Starbucks somewhere around Salt Lake City, Utah that was made of containers. Perfect choice for a repeatable, transportable design solution.




I think it is on an architecture student’s list of things to see in London, there are always students types taking pictures.

Pop Brixton is based on containers. Little bit hipster for some though.

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Liked - but isn’t that a (what we Brits call) Portakabin, more than a shipping container? This looks like it was purpose-built, not adapted from actual ex-shipping containers.

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These can be picked up for on the cheap in the California High Desert / Low Desert. They need extensive work in the insulation area, very energy hungry, and that’s just the start of the limitations. Container homes are not for temperature extreme climates.


They are shipping containers used by US mil. All sizes are found in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, etc…

Looks like extra sheeting was placed over the corrugated sides in this case. Perhaps an attempt at bullet/shrapnel proofing?

This is more typical:



I think it all comes down to the intended purpose of shipping containers…

  • Shipping containers for portable housing (military, FEMA, UNHCR) = good.
  • Shipping containers for permanent housing = bad.

Having researched this a bit, it’s good idea in theory but bad in practice. Even with the domestic high cube containers (which are larger), they just don’t work as well as a structure made from SIPs or traditional construction. However, when you need to pay more for the portability, they stack well on existing transportation systems and can be moved in bulk more easily that say RV’s or travel trailers.


My across-the-road neighbour is a semi-retired scientific polymath. As well as a dozen greenhouses and tin sheds, he also has several shipping containers in his backyard. He uses them as laboratories; one for chemistry, one for paleontology, one for astronomy, etc.


These things must be noisy as hell when it rains

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The owners of our company just finished building their dream home. It sure was great working and helping them do that. By golly.

Living in a shipping container sounds wonderful, and if we wait a bit longer all of the regulations will collapse and it should be easier to accomplish.


I think what shipping containers have going for them as a construction medium is size, compartmentalization (maybe the wrong word? basically they can be used as repeating units to make something larger) and portability. We already have manufactured housing that meets those design requirements, but carries a lot less cultural cachet - trailer homes. Most middle class folks wouldn’t be caught dead in one, so it’s off to the docks for a shipping container. Just remember that anything can be made to look romantic with decent landscaping and instagram filters.


Yesssssss, encrust yourself in a bejeweled shell of global capitalism! Scrub carefully away all the toxic remains of the former unthinking inhabitants and drill holes for your antennae and effluvia. Dwell within, maggot-like, poking out to tend to a garden or career, at last safe from the great stomping feet of the ever-hungry Moloch!


It’s using the standard dimensions, mounts and frame of a shipping container, but the walls are made from some sort of insulated composite panel. If it’s like the Freezer rooms I’m more familiar with the roof is standard shipping container steel that’s then lined. They are a lot more durable than the portakabin type buildings, which aren’t as suited to regular relocation.

The first video is very well done, and covered all of my basic questions. I’ve been skeptical of the advantages of using these for many of the reasons others have stated here, but now I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the series. He is very thorough and honest about the process, costs, and alternatives he could have used, but decided not to for various reasons. I’m guessing that after watching this series I’ll have a much better idea of whether I would want to consider using these in various scenarios. If nothing else, I think they are entirely appropriate for adapting as storage/workshop spaces.

Edit: I’ve watched/skimmed enough to see that you pretty much end up building a conventional house inside a container, which itself has little to no structural support to add. So what you get is not having to frame or sheath a roof (and end up with a flat steel roof, not ideal for many climates) and you don’t have to buy or install siding (but you end up with corrugated siding, which presents its own problems around openings). After subtracting the inefficiencies of having to jostle things in and out while building, and working around the contingencies of the container, I have to think it’s a net loss, compared to building a conventionally framed house. I would think rammed earth or something along those lines would have been a better fit for that desert location.

Of course, you could always use them to move billions of dollars worth of cocaine to Philly…the possibilities are endless.