Shipping Container Homes by Steele House and Bigprototype, New York

About Steele House
About Bigprototype

Shipping Container Home in Livingston Manor, New York

Construction process

Containers1 x 20 ft and 2 x 40 ft
Area800 sq ft
LocationLivingston Manor, New York, USA

Two-story container home upstate NY. Features a 20’ container on the first level, used as storage space, and two 8’x40’ containers (640 sq ft) on the top level for the living space, totaling 800 square feet. It has one bedroom and one bathroom.

Tim Steele stood outside a pair of orange shipping containers on a hillside about two hours northwest of New York City. The large metal cargo door swung wide to reveal a small mudroom inside the corrugated walls, and beyond that an expansive living room, kitchen and small bathroom. Several tall windows looked out on the Catskill Mountains, a vista that stretched for miles.

The rooms inside these shipping containers might easily be mistaken for those inside any of the timber-framed homes in the hillside country here. In the kitchen, one wall exposed the bright orange corrugated surface of the Corten steel container, but elsewhere evidence of the structure’s origins was scant.

“You’re constructing something that we associate with the most stable thing in our lives,” said Mr. Steele, founder of Steele House, a firm that designs and builds container structures. “It is why we leave the container exposed — it creates tension between movement and stability.”

This particular container home, in Sullivan County, designed by Bigprototype and Tim Steele Design, belongs to Robyn Volker, 57, and her wife, Anke Irmscher, 54. And the container wasn’t orange when they went with Mr. Steele to pick it out, but as Ms. Volker said, “If you’re going to do this thing, you might as well announce it’s a container.”

Building with shipping containers isn’t exactly new, but until recently it hasn’t been exactly mainstream either. Now, though, it is becoming a lot more popular, as eco-friendly practices begin to influence market trends. Containers are loved by the hip and the practical, artisans and DIY-ers, engineers and construction foremen, as they are both sustainable and affordable. And used 20- or 40-foot containers can be obtained for as little as several hundred dollars apiece, so it’s not surprising that some industry professionals consider them the future of home building.

“More of the population has been educated on sustainability and ecological principles,” said Paul Galvin, the chairman, chief executive and a founder of SG Blocks, a publicly traded company that repurposes maritime-grade cargo shipping containers that can hold as much as 64,000 pounds. Mr. Galvin’s biggest client is the military — which turns those containers into housing, mess halls, computer server storage and commissaries, among other structures — but he believes shipping containers work just as well on a small scale.

“It’s a legitimately green option for the consumer,” he said. “And it’s not going to cost them more; this isn’t a green solution that requires government subsidy.”

In March 2017, his company received commendation from the ICC Evaluation Service, a subsidiary of the international code council that evaluates and certifies building products, for its “quality control process for selecting shipping containers” for use in construction.

Article in NY Times
Article in Upstater

Construction process

2 Bedroom Shipping Container Home in North Branch, NY

Two-story container home featuring a 4’ spread between the containers. The top level has 800 square feet of space, and the lower level has 400 square feet, totaling 1200 square feet of living space. It has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

1 Bedroom 2x40 ft Shipping Container Home in Youngsville, NY

Construction process

Containers2 x 40 ft HC
LocationYoungsville, NY, USA

The shipping container house is made with two 40' High Cubes and the program called for open plan living and dining rooms, which are also open to a linear kitchen. There is one bedroom and bathroom with a utility closet containing a washer and dryer. For heat we incorporated a fireplace and electric wall heaters. Other special features include an outdoor mudroom/storage area that also serves as a small woodshed; a cedar lattice exterior on two exposures; and a six foot sliding glass door that opens to the large deck with 12' wide steps to the cut hay field in front of the home.

Construction process


Shipping Container Home in Callicoon Center, NY

The program called for two bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, dining and living area and a large studio space with an inside entrance and a service entrance from the outside. The 1,760 sf house was positioned at the high point of the site capitalizing on the western views and oriented so that the south facing roof could incorporate future solar panels. Four 40' High Cube containers were separated 2 and 2 with the high space in the middle built of conventional wood framing and a truss-roof supported by the containers.

About Steele House

Steele House is the design/build arm of Tim Steele Design with a focus on container based structures. Since 2009 we have designed and built homes in Upstate New York where the industrial look and feel of the containers are a contrast to the natural landscape while reflecting the vernacular of industrial farm buildings. As early innovators in a trend that is growing worldwide, we are currently exploring residential and commercial structures for urban locations as well as producing prototype modular homes based on 1, 2 and 4 containers.

Address: 40 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

About Bigprototype

Bigprototype is a Brooklyn based design and fabrication firm. We are a tactile practice that operates at the intersection of design and building and we believe that occupying this territory enables us to define a new role in our discipline. We were trained as drummers, teachers, sailors, chefs, painters, woodworkers, survivalists, and architects. All of our training influences our work and approach to design.

We exist in a space of opportunity between the conventions of building and design. We believe that all designs change and adapt as they transition from idea to physical reality. Only by staying engaged in the duration of this process and allowing the design intent to adapt to local labor, material, and economic forces, can an idea be most fully realized. Our practice is a living process of learning, testing, and adapting to life in the 21st century.

Address: 30 Macon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Phone: 7188554455

Shipping Container Homes by Steele House and Bigprototype, New York