Shipping containers for homes

When intentful design and sustainability come together, you get the transformation of an entire industry.

In this case, it’s the home building industry.

Companies have taken shipping containers – those traditionally used for transportation and storage – and converted them into living spaces. These beautifully crafted, eco-friendly spaces take minimalist, functional living to a whole new level.


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The longheld association of beautifully designed homes and a hefty price tag is slowly withering away as shipping container homes grow in popularity around the world.

These spaces blend 21st century modern design with the raw feel of shipping containers, creating sustainable and fully customized environments within otherwise blank spaces.


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Many shipping container homes sit unobtrusively within their surrounding natural environment while simultaneously leveraging natural resources for heating, cooling, electricity and water needs.

If we can help creating a cleaner world while keeping the cost down and build faster, we are all better off.


It comes as no surprise that this is quickly gaining popularity as a solution to many of society’s needs.


Think outside the container

Manifesto House

This home, designed by James & Mau, is based on one question: How do you build a house that can adapt to the client’s needs in the future?

The modular build of this home allows for future modifications or enlargements as the client’s tastes and needs evolve over time. It is created from three containers and a combination of wooden pallets and solar panels.


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Acting as a second skin, the pallets are designed to be opened and closed depending on its need for natural solar heating throughout the year.

The home, with its movable ‘second skin’ and adaptability, is truly based on the principle of design and sustainability. It takes advantage of its environment to satisfy the immediate needs of its residents and ensures their future needs are easily met.


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When Gabriela Calvo and Marco Peralta were ready to move, they decided to forego the often lengthy and painful process of house hunting. Instead, like many, they opted to purchase a property close to their horses as well as their city of San Jose, Costa Rica. Unlike many, Gabriela and Marco decided to build a shipping container home.

Working with Benjamin Garcia Saxe Architecture, they designed a home that gave them the sunrise, sunset, spectacular views and price lower than housing provided for the poor by their government.


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Perhaps this project begins to expose the importance of design as a tool to provide beauty and comfort with a very low budget in the 21st century, whilst using creativity to redefine a scrap material such as a disused shipping container
- Benjamin Garcia Saxe Architecture


Standing inside looking out, you’d be none the wiser that you are standing in two upcycled shipping containers. Instead, you’re very aware of the sensation of openness and comfort their home, as well as many of these homes, provide.


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Casa Incubo

Casa incubo has often been referred to as an icon of sustainability. Perhaps you will recognize it by the image below: A large cedar tree enclosed by a structure as if the structure is paying homage to the strength and durability of nature.

The features of the home that make it a pinnacle of sustainability – strategically placed windows that render electricity obsolete in the day, reflective roofing, rainwater harvesting, moveable bamboo panels – are exactly the features that are hidden away.


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Good design is the kind that you do not notice.

Architects designed the home with two goals in mind: to have a large, light-filled open space (that the owner can also use as a studio) and to be the model of sustainable living.

If the rooftop gardens, cross-ventilation and visual continuity of the space is a measure of their goals, it seems they have succeeded.


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Designing with intent

The low cost of these homes may peak the interest of many, but it is not the price tag that makes it a great solution to the needs of our global society. Rather, it’s the unification of design and sustainability. In this case, design and sustainability are not a means to an end. They are the end.

Shipping container homes allow us to live alongside nature while simultaneously leveraging its resources in a responsible and sustainable way. Residents have the freedom to find new ways of designing their environments and redefine the meaning of sustainable living.

The Author

Sarah Eskandarpour
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