Welcome to Container City - How Shipping Containers Are Recycled into Green Dwellings


At any port you can probably see hundreds to thousands of empty shipping containers just sitting around waiting to be loaded. In recent times these containers have not only transported goods across oceans but have also been transformed into energy efficient dwellings with some great design and ingenuity.

In the past decade many habitable container projects have been completed around the world. At fabprefab there is a selection of these projects for shipping container enthusiasts. The picture used here on this article comes from a funky development called Container City I in at Trinity Buoy Wharf in London, England. The Container City site explains that shipping containers can be linked together to create strong steel modules that can be used to create many different types of accomodations. This type of construction takes very little time to build and the cost is low because 80% of the materials used is recycled. The shipping containers can be painted with insulating paint and use energy efficient appliances. Additional earth-friendly features could include water harvesting, solar panels, and green roofs.

In America at least two shipping container complexes recently made the news. One is called the City Center Lofts in Salt Lake City, Utah. The plan is to erect a seven floor residential building that includes an art gallery. Another project is slated in Detroit and the plan is to create a 17 unit condominium project at a cost of 1.8 million dollars. The condos will range from 960 square feet to 1920 square feet and will be priced at $100000 to $190000 each. That might be a little expensive for Detroit since homes were selling for less than cars there .

I think it is awesome that people are creating new homes from recycled industrial products. However, another recent news report states that the United States is having a shortage of shipping containers since the weak dollar is pushing up the demand of exports from the United States. Perhaps the next commodity bubble is in shipping containers?

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Linsey Knerl's picture

Cool!  I saw this in Ready Made's last issue.  Very nice set-ups (if you don't have 4 kids...)  Some of these "dwellings" would make great offices!

Guest's picture

I initally saw this idea about a year ago and thought it was a brilliant idea. My thought was to use these containers as temporary housing for the homeless. Leave it to "entrepeneurs" to profiteer from this relatively cheap, quick form of housing!

Guest's picture

Great idea, Xin! There are folks here in the U.S. experimenting with reusing shipping containers. Check out Mikey Sklar's Ecolodge in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Photos at the bottom show the revamped interior. Great way to reuse and recycle.


Guest's picture

If I lived in one of these, I would pretend I was one of the robots from "I, Robot". I suspect, though, that my husband wouldn't find it as amusing as I would!

Guest's picture

The reason there are surplus shipping containers is because the U.S. doesn't export much of anything anymore. These containers are loaded mainly with Chinese goods coming in to the country. We'd ship them back, but sometimes the cost of shipping empty boxes is prohibitive, so they stack 'em up.

Kind of a sad commentary, don't you think?

Guest's picture

why are these homes going to be so expensive? shipping containers are relatively cheap, you could by a 40' container on ebay for between 1700 and 4000 depending on the specs. anyone have any clues?

Guest's picture

Query, "Pearcesealandhomes"; I started a webpage for my business and it will give you an idea. Generally, It doesn't cost much at all for the container; your right. But what about it's livability. I am right now in the Desert of Iraq. I am right now in a modified Steel Container. Here are a few expenses:
The Primer to prevent corrosion, Plywood/Firing Strips/5/8" Drywall, Air Conditioning/Heating, Electrical, Plumbing, Plasma Cutter, Crane, Concrete, Rafters, etc. The list goes on. Why do it?...

* Lower Cost * Higher Quality
* Quicker Built * Green Friendly
* Pleasant Looking * Better Insulated
* Better Fire Protection
Pearcesealandhomes.com (Our Middle Name is Preparedness)

Guest's picture

you should showcase your container home, decorating tips and style on Radcribs.com http://hometour.radcribs.com

Guest's picture

You may be interested in the Ace modular building units which can be used as a standalone unit or component of a larger structure. It is compact for transportation and storage, easily assembled/dissassembled with hand tools on site, and can be configured (both interior space and exterior windows/doors) for many applications. Go to www.aceamericas.com

Guest's picture

I was wondering if you could come up with an estimate of the speed and cost with which such containers could be shipped to Haiti and fabricated.

As I understand it, large numbers of these crates are sitting around in the US's West Coast lingering in stockpiles. The means of transporting them is also readily available.

What type of effort would be needed to fabricate them once they reach Haiti?

Guest's picture

We have a few container floorplans in stock; and have production slots to manufacture more quickly.


Guest's picture

Elite Buildings has multiple container floorplans on their website along with RFQ for custo modifications.

Guest's picture
john simmis

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...