Shipping containers

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Some examples of shipping container construction (click here for larger version): (A) Shipping container cottage. (B) Jones-Glotfelty Shipping Container House, Flagstaff AZ. (C) Shipping container house nearby san diego CA. (D) The Viewtube on the Greenway (viewing tower and cafe facility for observing construction of the 2012 Olympic site, London UK). (E) Shipping Container House - Atlanta, GA. (F) Brisk trade in Bishkek's Dordoy Bazaar.
Illustration of the structure of Container City I and Container City II showing how the forty-foot-equivalent-unit shipping containers (each nominally 40'x8'x8') are stacked, based on these plans.
Shipping container containing community-scale pyrolysis reactor in Kenya (the blue shipping container houses the drying unit). Odour control units (filled with biochar) at the top of the container. Climate Foundation, Cornell University, Sanergy, Tide Technocrats, and the Prasino Group.


Shipping containers that were originally and currently used for over-ocean, over-road and over-rail shipment of bulk goods, and are now repurposed for residential occupancy and commercial storefront applications. This is especially useful in urban environments where space is more limited and the price of land is more a barrier to entry for prospective home owners and business developers. Shipping containers can be used as the main structure for efficiency dwellings or alternatively used as a basis of structure for contemporary architectural design.[1]

Other Uses

Uses of shipping containers have extended beyond the typical purpose as freight containers on board ocean-going vessels.


Being an eco-friendly alternative is one of the main reasons why people choose to live in dwellings made of shipping containers. However, past uses of a shipping container may involve toxic chemicals, so proper understanding of its past use is as important as the methods to insulate[2] residents from corrosion, temperature changes and other natural factors.

Portable Factory

Shipping containers can be turned into portable factories. One example if this is one built by Re:Char. It was assenbled in the US and shipped to Kenya. It can produce ~600 Re:Char biochar kilns (cut out of 18ga mild steel) in a month. The design of the factory is open source (CC-BY-SA, specifically).


Portable Power Plant

Here is a quick sketch: Charcoal/Steam Powerplant In Shipping Containers.

Portable Farm

Where to get them


  • In Valencia: [1] New shipping containers (40ft) for around 2000eur.
  • In Zaragoza: [2] , they also offer prefab houses
  • In Barcelona: [3] They offer new and used containers (20ft to 45ft)


  • [4], 40ft container for 400gbp.
  • [5], New and Used Containers for 795 - 1800 gbp.
  • In Liverpool [6]


Free consultation availabe from these companies:

  • Prototype Creation, Wiesbaden / germany [7]

Container Earthship

The famous Earthship concept can be implemented using containers, too. [8]


Containers can be stacked or configured into whatever shape pleases you.

Want a cheap, rough-and-ready shelter on your piece of land? A used 40 foot shipping containers costs about $2000. They measure 8 feet (2.44m) wide, 40 feet (12.19m) long and 8 feet 6 inches (2.59m) tall. That's an area of 320 square feet (29.74m2). Buy three of these, stick them together and you have something the size of a nice one-bedroom apartment that cost you just $6000.

One option is to partially bury the container for an underground house. You may need to put up a pillar or two to support the weight of the roof. Use a metal saw to cut out holes for windows, pipes, or stairs to the second floor.

Putting earthen berms like these around the container and covering them with grass would insulate the house very well and would be a good option if you can take all the hobbit jokes your friends are gonna make. (The house in the picture is not made of shipping containers; it's just there to illustrate the berms)
A shipping container home can be made to look as classy as any other home

Of course, a bare shipping container isn't a nice place to live in, but you can do it up however you want. [3]You need to put up insulation and install electrical fixtures and other fittings. A bare shipping container will also look terrible from the outside, so you will want to cover it in recycled pallets, graffiti, plaster it, cover it with wood panels, or whatever.


See Also