Caterpillar House - Shipping Container Home, Santiago, Chile

About Sebastián Irarrázaval Architects

Architect: Sebastián Irarrázaval
Area: 350 sq m
Containers: 12 shipping containers: six 20-foot (6-m) units, five 40-foot (12-m) units and open-top shipping container for swimming pool.
Location: Santiago, Chile
Year: 2012
Photography: Sergio Pirrone

Construction of the 350-square-metre container house took just 8 months compared to a year or more, pointing out one of the many benefits of prefabricated construction. It also cost a 1/3 less. The site was first cleared of loose clay and rocks, and concrete retaining walls were erected to enclose the living areas on the ground level. Outdoor stairs at one end lead up to a side deck, with an open container serving as a cantilevered lap pool. To support the upper level, a massive steel cross­beam and posts anchor the containers that line up in four side-by-side volumes, each with its own viewfinder window at either end. The containers were trucked to the site and then cut and welded before being craned into place. Polyurethane was sprayed on, and the entire structure was clad in steel plates.

Contertainer - Shipping Container Public Facility - Polyclinic and Library, Indonesia

About Dpavilion Architects

Design: Dpavilion Architects
Location: Kota Batu, East Java, Indonesia
Containers: 8
Photography: Ganny Gozaly

Description from architects

"Contertainer, designed by dpavilion architects of Surabaya – Indonesia, is an amalgam of two words: container and entertainer. From its outer look, at a glance one can see an architectural form made of several brightly painted containers—red, yellow, blue and light green—in attractive position and composition, thus forming a contertainer.

Principal architects of dpavilion, Edwin Nafarin, once muttered: “I want to create architecture that would please many”. Contertainer is one of his works that manifests his architectural creed.

Contertainer Is situated in Batu, East Jawa, Indonesia. Batu is a relatively new town which still retains a strong agricultural nuance. Perhaps it is a town with a village-like atmosphere. Contertainer is a public facility, consisting of a polyclinic and a library, where ordinary people can come and use the facilities for free. The appearance of the contertainer in town can be perceived through various angles, for the appearance of an architectural work would be followed by many effects which it produces.

One question to reveal: why dpavilion architects, as a designer of polyclinic and public library, started its idea from container? Perhaps there are several factors. First, a logical one: container is a firm structure with human-scaled spatial aspect (in spite of its real purpose as container of goods), so it is rather practical, quick and cheap to be transformed into architectural work (a 2,4m x12m used container costs only 8 million rps, there are 8 containers). Second, a morphological factor: container has a unique characteristic, a hollow block with standardized sizes, with potentialities to be designed with extreme and provocative manner. Third, symbolical factor: these containers, now utilized as a polyclinic and library, had travelled around the globe. Hence, a container is a true adventurer.

The containers utilized as a polyclinic and library are used container, a true adventurer, is undoubtedly representing the library. Books, “the windows to the world”, are placed inside such container; an appropriate collaboration, is it not? May it stimulate the children reading at the library, fulfilling their curiousities to explore terra incognita.

Also, a container has dynamic nature, it moves and shifts, yet it also transformed into static, unshifting architectural being. To force a container to remain still, is seemingly against its dynamic nature. Yet the designers celebrate its dynamic form through a twisted, non-linear composition. This is enhanced with supporting columns placed uncongruently, making the contertainer enjoys its dynamism.

The contertainer is also a parody, the dichotomy of architecture as a place for activities (which considers human scale) and as expression (expressing emotion and the will of artist), the contertainer exhibits containers of goods as containing human beings. We may ponder upon this: how important is human being for architecture? How un-important is human being for architecture?"

$150,000 Shipping Container House, Springfield, Missouri

About architects

DesignJason Mitchell and Michael Mardis
Total Cost$150,000
LocationSpringfield, Missouri
PhotographyJess Heugel

With a budget of $150,000, Marti Montgomery used four shipping containers to build a home on the land she's dreamed of living on for decades.

Shipping Container House with Dynamic Facade, Chile

Floor plans
About James & Mau

Project: Casa Manifesto
Design: James & Mau, Infiniski
Area: 160 sqm
Year: 2009
Execution Time: 90 days
Total Cost: 79.000 €
Containers: 3
Location: Curacavi, Chile
Photography: Antonio Corcuera

Bioclimatic design, recycling, reuse, reduction of building materials; clean and renewable energy use. All these concepts converge in the Casa Manifesto - recycled shipping container house designed by James & Mau and built by Infiniski.

The structure consists of the three shipping containers, combined with other materials such as wood, recycled aluminum and others. The construction is based on a modular prefabricated design, which allows to limit transport costs and pollution on site. This system suggests the complete realization of the house design, integrating possible extensions - fast and consistent, in case the client's space needs will change over time.

In this case, the result is an inner area 160 m2 divided into two floors. The ground floor is occupied by a large common area, which includes living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and terraces. The master bedroom with bath, living room, two rooms with shared bathrooms and terraces form the area of the second floor.

Its location, on top of a hill dominating the landscape, generating a permeability in its east-west axis. Through a large glass area, the sensation of being in the most social area of the house is to be under a big bridge in the middle of nowhere.

The shipping container house is spread around this great common space with volumes much more closed in the north-south axis. At the same time intentionally, the construction system of the house is covered with skin, playing through its horizontal elements, generates a wealth of light and shade that helps to dematerialize the volumes. The house, with its materials, it becomes a living architectural object.

The shape of the shipping container house with dynamic facade itself responds to a bioclimatic design to suit the climat conditions of the place. So, the house "dresses" in summer and "undressing" winter sun through facades and roof skin. To achieve this architects used two types of skin: one based on fixed horizontal wood slats and other mobile pallet, which can be opened individually to control solar radiation. It also serves as ingenious aesthetic finish to help integrate it into its rural surroundings.

The inner enclosure is formed by recycled cellulose insulation projected onto the sheet inside the container and ecological finished panels of gypsum and cellulose fiber. With these elements of passive thermal insulation, and the incorporation of alternative energy technology (solar thermal panels) the recycled shipping container house achieves 70% energy independence.

Description by the project team.

On the top of a hill as if it were a castle or fortress, strategically located and dominating a wonderful landscape, this shipping container house generates a permeability in its east-west axis fading over the landscape through a large glazed space like who is under a large bridge in the middle of nowhere ... this effect being in the most social area of ​​the house gives a special magic and warmth to this place where watching the sunrise or sunset can be a playful experience.

The shipping container house is distributed around this large space with much more closed volumes in the north-south axis contrasting with the open side and thus generating a volumetric tension towards one of the views, at the same time they are the construction system of the house but that of in an intentional way they are dressed by a skin that, playing through its horizontal elements, generates a wealth of light and shadow that in turn dematerialize the volumes, thus completing, as a whole, a living architectural object and in a “stand by” position.

Concept: Design by James & Mau for Infiniski showing the greatest potential of the Infiniski concept: bioclimatic design, recycling, reuse and reduction of construction materials, non-polluting building materials and systems, use of renewable energy.

Shipping container house of 160 sqm interiors divided into two floors: a living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and terraces on the ground floor; Main room with its bathroom, living room, two rooms with shared bathroom and terraces on the second floor.

The construction system works based on a modular design, prefabricated in the workshop that allows to limit transportation and pollution costs on site. The modular system allows us to think about the complete realization of the shipping container house, integrating possible rapid and coherent extensions in case the client's space needs change over time.

The Structure consists of three reused shipping containers. A container divided into two separate parts serves as a structural support for the two containers on the first floor. This porch-shaped structure creates an “inter-container” space that gives an extra surface, so that with only three containers (90m2) 160m2 are achieved. Thus the use of material is greatly reduced. In turn, the porch moves slightly on one side to create outdoor spaces with a terrace.

Form follows Energy. The shape of the house responds to a bioclimatic design that adapts according to the incidence of the climatic elements of the place. Thus the shipping container house is formed by a bridge beam system (porch) on the first floor that creates a vain on the ground floor. This is glazed on opposite facades so that they receive sun throughout the day and allows maximum ventilation. The house (portico) is deformed in the north-south axis, seeking and protecting itself from solar radiation from the north (southern hemisphere).

The house with dynamic facade "dresses and undresses" in summer and winter by means of a solar skin transventilated both on facades and on roofs (air separation chamber between skin and container facade / cover). It dresses with the skin in summer to protect itself from the sun creating a passive natural cooling effect. It undresses in winter to allow the incidence of the sun either on the sheet of the container or on the windows and create a passive natural heating effect.

Two types of façade skin were used: one based on fixed horizontal wood slats and another of mobile pallets that can be opened individually to control solar radiation. The skin of the cover is a light mesh of quitaipón according to the season of the year. The skin also serves as an aesthetic finish that is integrated into its rural environment.

The pergolas, allow to control the entrance of the direct sun through the windows. In the winter they rise to the maximum to allow the most widespread sun to enter and generate a greenhouse inside. In summer they are lowered more or less depending on the time of day and the outside temperature for a natural ventilation effect.

The interior enclosure is made up of recycled cellulose insulation projected on the inside of the container sheet and finished with ecological panels of cellulose fiber and plaster.

With these passive thermal insulation elements, and the incorporation of alternative energy technology (solar thermal panels) the house achieves an energy autonomy of 70%.

Recycled, reused and non-polluting materials:

- 40 ft High Cube reused shipping container for structure and enclosures
- Reused pallets for outer skin
- Sustainable forest wood for outer skin slats
- Projected cellulose of recycled newspaper for insulation of walls
- Recycled cellulose fiber panels
- Recycled galvanized steel for interior wall structure
- Ecological natural cork for ecological thermal insulation under floors
- Original 30mm plywood of the polished and varnished container for interior floors
- Reused Laurel wood from demolition floors for kitchen furniture and cabinets
- Reused Oregon pinewood with demolition beams for stair steps
- Fallebas (vertical closing bars) of reused container doors such as stair railing
- Ecological paint
- “Eco-label” tiles for bathroom tiles

The house achieves 85% (measured by weight) of recycled, reused and / or non-polluting materials.

Shipping Container Micro-House with Folding Wall, New Zealand

Drawings / Floor plan
About Atelierworkshop

Project: Port-A-Bach
Design: Atelierworkshop
Year: 2001 - 2006
Photography: Paul McCredie

Atelierworkshop believes shipping containers can be an effective answer for various scale architectural projects and if site access, portability, security, robustness are issues. This shipping container micro-house with folding wall was built in Hangzhou, China and transported to New Zealand. The prototype was a part of the exhibition of Puke Ariki Museum in New Plymouth (1/2013).

Description by project team.

The Port-A-Bach project by the architects of the Atelier Workshop is a shipping container micro-house built on the basis of a single transport container that has been set up on wheels for easy transport. The prototype was built in Hangzhou, China but has already been moved to New Zealand, where it is a permanent part of the collection of the Puke Ariki Museum in New Plymouth.

The shipping container micro-house can accommodate two adults and two children, and each inch was carefully designed to provide maximum comfort in the smallest space. Its interior is mostly made of wood - including a bathroom with an open shower, a sink and a composting toilet.

The kitchen has lots of storage furniture (some hidden, some exposed) and natural light filters in between your windows. The shipping container micro-house can be equipped with solar panels and rooftop wind turbines, allowing it to operate completely off-grid.

The flexible structure of the Port-A-Bach is able to unfold to expand connections to the outside and then to be closed again for relocation.


  • fully enclosed exterior steel shell (when folded up)
  • appointed with large internal storage cupboards and shelves / stainless steel kitchen and fittings / bathroom with open shower, sink, composting toilet,
  • interior fabric screen system gives the versatility of creating rooms within the large open living space : includes bunk beds, double bed room, dressing room, kitchen and bathroom
  • exterior canvas screen system allows to shelter the deck area for comfortable indoor/outdoor flow and living
  • 6 concrete footings form a stable, non-invasive 'foundation', allowing you to situate the unit on a wide range of ground conditions

A holiday home:

  • portable
  • secure
  • high-level finish
  • designed to be environmentally clean
  • comparatively inexpensive
  • comfortably sleeps two adults and two children

That allows:

  • transportation
  • immediate, flexible and long-term solution that enables you to use your land without investing in a permanent property commitment
  • for future development, ideal for leased land situations
  • to be power, water and sewer independent, it is well suited to remote or non-service supplied land
  • also be connected to available services
  • quick and easy transportation (via truck or helicopter) and installation to any orientation with minimal impact on site
  • unfolding to create a living space and refolding to create a secure unit for in situ storage or relocation

Shipping containers in loft apartment, San Francisco, California

Two San Francisco travel and art addicts overhauled a loft apartment and customized two shipping containers to reflect their passions and accommodate their collection.

About Lundberg Design

DesignLundberg Design
Year 2008
LocationSan Francisco, California
PhotographyDrew Kelly

When the San Francisco couple says they love to travel, they don't mean trips to Napa. Over the past three summers Wardell put 15,500 miles on a motorcycle he and Sagan keep in Milan on rides from the Arctic Circle to southwestern Portugal. When Wardell began collecting street art in the mid-1990s, he admits, “it quickly became an obsession.” When he began dating Sagan several years ago, “we got serious about buying big.” Starting with local graffiti artist Barry McGee, they bought ever-more ambitious installations by stars like Shepard Fairey, JR, and Os Gemeos until they needed a bigger home to accommodate their approximately 120-piece collection.

In February of 2007 they purchased a 3,200-square- foot former Chinese laundry and tooth-powder factory with column-free interiors and a zigzagging sawtooth roof in lower Pacific Heights. As a former VP of real estate for Williams-Sonoma, “Claudia knew right away it had excellent bones,” says Wardell, a former financial advisor. The travelers also loved how the 127-foot-long loft seemed to stretch out to the horizon. “I walked up those front stairs, and I felt like I was at the edge of a highway, like I could keep going forever,” Sagan says. “I loved that feeling.”

Where some might box the cavernous space into cozier rooms, Wardell and Sagan wanted “to cele- brate that length,” Sagan says. The apartment lies on a north-south axis with large windows at either end. To showcase the art and maximize daylight, they decided to situate the master bedroom at the back, away from the street, but keep everything else open, with a central kitchen and living room and a den facing the street. They hired a local company to sandblast the interior to expose the board-formed concrete walls and replaced the carpeted floors with Georgia hickory pecan planks the longest, knottiest boards they could find to further lengthen the loft and make it look more like a warehouse. The next question was, “how do we make a home office and a guest bedroom happen without cluttering the space?” Sagan says.

For the guest room, “we wanted something our friends would tell everyone they knew about, but not so comfortable they would never leave,” Wardell explains. He wanted it to be a self-contained space with a Murphy bed, an element he remembered fondly from a train ride he took across Europe in his 20s. After considering plunking the interior compartment of a Pullman train car in the middle of the apartment, they landed on shipping containers.

“I contacted Hapag-Lloyd looking for an orange one in newer condition,” Wardell says. “But they?re German. They have rules. They wouldn't sell us one, but they put out a call that these nuts in San Francisco wanted containers for their house. In late 2007, we got word that the Port of Oakland had some used ones.” Sagan examined several before choosing. “A ton are just a mess,” she says. “You'll see a huge dent in the side and go, Wow, a wave did that? It's important to smell them, too, because they pick up odors from their cargo.”

In 2008, while a container reseller prepped the containers (replacing the original pesticide-treated floors, repainting the walls, cutting out holes for windows and plumbing), a structural engineer and builder reinforced the loft's floor with wooden joists to accommodate the nine-ton load. The containers arrived by flatbed truck one morning in late July; by midday, a crane had lowered them in through an opening in the roof, cantilevering the blue one, Wardell?s future home office, atop the orange one, the guest room.

For the container interiors, “the mood we wanted was raw,” Wardell says. There was only one caveat: The guest room “had to pass the Dottie test,” Sagan says. Her mother would be their first visitor that Christmas. “She was mortified by the idea of sleeping in a container,” Sagan says. “She said it sounded like a coffin.”

To customize the apartment and containers, Wardell brought in Pat Carson, a furniture designer and builder who shares the couple's love for travel and industrial design. When asked why his pieces have so many rivets, Carson grins, “I'm that guy on the airplane by the window, staring at the wings.” Over six months Carson designed and constructed 75 custom fixtures for the apartment, many with a kinetic, gadget-like charm. “A lot of the creative ideas I've had in the past 20 years are manifested in this house,” Wardell says.

The carbon fiber dining table, for example, opens on a hinge to form a V, an L or a straight line, with ball casters embedded in the legs so it can glide easily. Woven-leather bar stools swivel between the table and the kitchen island. Surrounded by exposed copper piping, the guest bathroom's teak-and-steel sink evokes the utilitarian atmosphere of a train car or ship cabin; in the master bathroom, tilt-out shelves in the shower hide shampoos. Just about the only convertible fixture Carson didn't build in its entirety is the liquid crystal “privacy wall” in the guest bath, which changes from clear to opaque at the flick of a switch.

Shortly before Dottie arrived, Carson installed the custom Murphy bed, which is clad in aluminum with dozens of rivets and rolls up on a pulley made from a mill wheel. The unconventional guest room passed with flying colors. “She was pleasantly surprised at how spacious and comfortable it was,” Sagan says. It's been a hit with subsequent guests as well. “We've found the container self-selects,” Wardell says. “Our friends who are the most fun choose to stay here.”

Maison Container Lille - 3 Bedroom Shipping Container Home, France

Floor plans / Elevations
About Patrick Partouche

ProjectMaison Container Lille
ArchitectPatrick Partouche
Area240 sq m

Maison Container Lille 3 bedroom shipping container home is composed of 8 standard shipping containers stacked on top of each other in a staggered arrangement. The exterior was painted a vibrant cherry red and the interior features bright white walls accented by red columns and metal finish work. The roof is more of a protective covering than a true water shedding element, and works more like a shade screen to let air flow around the roof and keep it from overheating. The windows have low-e coatings and are filled with argon for greater efficiency.

Inside the 240 sq m 3 bedroom shipping container home, the bottom floor includes a one car garage, storage, kitchen, dining and living area with an open floor layout. Upstairs, part of the floors were cut out to create double height spaces for the ground floor. Metal catwalks cross the area to provide access to the three bedrooms, the bathroom and the office. Metal parts that were cut away from the containers were used to create furniture and decorative elements like artwork, tables and a bed.

Description by architect

Can an old dream come true?

The world is changing: Always faster, always stronger, always more expensive.
Innovation is necessary and of public utility! The new challenges of the planet, financial crises, media campaigns have changed mentalities.
A flaw in a traditional system of thought, in uses, in cultures and in architectural aesthetics.

New technologies and techniques allow the reduction of costs while bringing qualitative improvements. The production of prefabricated housing, more efficient, less expensive, inevitably represents the future of construction.

The modification container process is a first step in this process. The next step will be mass production on industrial assembly lines. In the service of accommodation, comfort, safety, performance.

Computerized design, manufacturing in the workshop under optimum working conditions for the workers. Road, sea and air transport. Assembly on site, in record time. All these criteria are emblematic of the emergence of a new architecture taking into account the constraints of the current world and its sustainability.

The old dream comes true!


The 3 bedroom shipping container home is built from 8 prefabricated units, transported by truck and assembled on site using a crane. 

The assembly lasted 3 days: 

Day 1 - ground floor
Day 2 - second floor
Day 3 - roof

The units were designed from 40' shipping containers, recycled and modified.

The area is 240m2 on 2 levels with a technical crawl space.
The exterior aesthetics are in accordance with local regulations.
The interior aesthetics are in agreement with the customers:
a contemporary industrial style, the choice of noble and authentic materials: painted steel, galvanized, lacquered, varnished, aluminum, wood, polycarbonate, glass and other industrial materials.
Large and numerous windows provide a lot of natural light.
Decorative elements were created with recycled metal container sheets.

On the ground floor: the living room, the kitchen, the garage, the toilet, the laundry room.
Upstairs: 3 bedrooms + 1 office + the bathroom + the shower room + the wv and a fourth bedroom to be finished by the customer.

The courage and intelligence of the customers made it possible to design this house.
The know-how and professionalism of the companies made it possible to achieve it.

THERMAL and ACOUSTIC STUDY OF 06/26/2010 - Approved design office:

The energy and phonic performances are remarkable.
The construction principle allows, depending on future availability, to increase the label High Energy Performance (HPE), Very High Energy Performance (THPE) up to the Low Consumption Building (BBC) label, by simply adding equipment.

Label achieved RT 2005 (Th-Ce):

Cep = 194.8 Kwehep / m2shon / year. Gain (%) / benchmark = + 6.74
Cepmax = 187.4 Kwehep / m2shon / year. Gain (%) / benchmark = + 25.04

With accessories:

possible label HPE 2005 with exterior joinery equipment, Uw = 1.60
Cep = 173.18 Kwehep / m2shon / year. Gain (%) / benchmark = + 21.7
possible label THPE 2005 with equipment of photovoltaic collectors,
Cep = 161.62 Kwehep / m2shon / year. Gain (%) / benchmark = + 33.2
possible label THPE 2005 with thermodynamic water heater equipment,
Cep = 161.03 Kwehep / m2shon / year. Gain (%) / benchmark = + 33.8
possible label THPE 2005 with equipment of an Air / water heat pump,
Cep = 114.32 Kwehep / m2shon / year. Gain (%) / benchmark = + 80.5
possible BBC label with equipment for the 3 equipment,
Cep = 47.3 Kwehep / m2shon / year. Gain (%) / benchmark = + 147.5

Exceptional sound and acoustic performance:

Vertical and horizontal separation of each prefabricated unit.