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.