LightHotel - 120 sq ft Shipping Container Tiny Home, Minnesota

About Alchemy
About University of MN School of Architecture Students Site technology: WEDGETechnologies

Project LightHotel
BuildUniversity of MN School of Architecture Students Site technology: WEDGETechnologies
Containers 1 x 20 ft
Area 120 sq ft
Year 2016

The LightHotel, a one room mobile hotel, stands as a beacon for ecotourism and sustainable living in the Twin Cities. It moves as the flow of the city requires, occupying places both celebrated and ignored. The city itself is its lobby.

The interior is efficient and luxe, making the most of limited space within the salvaged 8′ x 20′ shipping container. Just like most hotel rooms, there’s no kitchen, so overnight guests order “room service” from nearby hot spots. Built for the year-round Minnesota climate, it features a spray foam shell, triple-glazed windows and doors, solar powered HVAC, LED lighting and hydronic in-floor heat. The water system is self-contained, with a 250-gallon water tank that supplies an on-demand water heater and a bio-filter producing re-usable grey water. A high-end, roomy shower and separate toilet keep a body happy.

Mechanical detritus and applied typographic overlays entertain and provide functional insight. To be realized: an online public digital dashboard to map guest experiences and the LightHotel’s itinerary, educating guests on conservation and sustainability.

Led by Alchemy and weeHouse® founder Geoffrey Warner, AIA, the LightHotel is part of an ongoing effort to celebrate and create new paradigms for efficient living.

In 2018, the LightHotel was sold to an entrepreneur in north central Minnesota who is forming a ‘circle’ of sustainable structures that will be rented out.

What is needed to use it immediately

Area + access. A solid, approximately level, ideally paved surface that allows for the LightHotel’s 8’ x 24’ footprint, and access to that spot by truck. Height is approximately 13’.

Water. Access to a water source (outdoor spigot) is helpful but may not be needed on a daily basis. The LightHotel accesses the water source with a garden hose. Its 250 gallon tank will last approximately 10-14 days with two guests.

Electrical. The LightHotel is intended to be fully off grid, but until it gets battery packs, it will need to be plugged in. A 100’ extension cord is provided.
240V outlet or site-wiring allows the solar array (3-240W panels) to power the condenser for the mini-split AC/heat.
A 120V power source will allow full use for everything but the condenser.

Gas: two 80# propane tanks are supplied to run the boiler.


LightHotel FAQ

Q What is the lightHotel?
A The lighthotel is a one-room, mobile hotel and postcard for sustainability. Over 18
months it will occupy places both celebrated and ignored in the twin cities. It was
designed by geoffrey warner, aia, principal architect at Alchemy Architects
(St. Paul, MN).

Q Why build the lightHotel?
A Half of the energy use in the twin cities is consumed by buildings. The lightHotel’s
high-end design creates a positive, aspirational experience to inspire an alternate
way of consuming both energy and space.

Q How much did it cost?
A This was built as a one-time public art project by Alchemy + University of Minnesota
students. We’re not exactly sure what it would take to replicate it, but it would be in
the range of an deluxe RV. The break down of this pricing goes as follows:

   Subtotal Fabrication Costs-External: $50,100
   Subtotal Design + Build Costs-Internal: $70,435
   Subtotal Donations: $50,450
Total Expenses To Date: $170,985

Q Can I order one?
A At this time, no, alchemy is not taking orders for lighthotels. We are, however,
planning and designing a new product called the lighthouse that takes some queues
from the lighthotel. The lighthouse is 3x bigger than the lighthotel, has on- or off-grid
potential, and is a fully functioning home that sleeps up to 4 people. We hope to
price it between $75-$125K “all in”. It can be used as an adu, studio, cabin, retreat,
student or assisted living. Stay in touch with us at for updates.

Q What makes the hotel green?
A The most sustainable part about lighthotel is its potential to inform people about the
effcient systems that make it work. A digital dashboard plots water and power
consumption and displays guests’ photos and experiences as the lighthotel travels.

Q What was the concept for the design?
A The lighthotel embraces the luxury of less. It has been crafted within a 120 square
foot, salvaged shipping container. We encourage you to live large and pack light.
The twin cities is your lobby and the lighthotel is your personal retreat.

Q What’s the big deal about energy?
A The average american home utilizes 900kwh each month. By adopting the same
systems that power, heat and cool the lighthotel, most american homes would spend
closer to 100kwh.

Q What is an energy pool?
A Think of the total amount of energy like a pool—it has many sources: coal, gas,
nuclear, wind, solar, and hydro-electric power. It also has many drains: transportation,
industry, buildings, and your laptop and phone. But buildings by far are the largest
consumer of electricity, accounting for half of all energy usage in the state of

Q How about “green” energy?
A Coal and gas each contribute a third to the “pool” of energy sources. Renewable
sources, like wind and solar, are rising in contribution. The us has goals to produce
half the nations’ electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and minnesota has
embraced that endeavor with initiatives like the made in minnesota solar incentive

Q Where does the water come from?
A The water that ows throughout lighthotel comes from a large reservoir underneath
the bed. The reservoir holds approx. 250 Gallons of freshwater at a time. The water
is then pumped through the utility closet and is heated and transferred to both the
shower and sink.

Q What is greywater?
A Greywater is essentially wastewater that has low levels of contaminants and if ltered
can be applied for non-potable uses. In the lighthouse, the greywater comes from
both the shower and faucet. It is then stored in the utility closet in a greywater lter
where any bacteria or contaminants that may be present are removed. Once the
water is ltered it can be used to water plants or reused for non-potable purposes.

Q Why should I care?
A Most water systems in use today combine both the greywater and blackwater further
contaminating the greywater and requiring professional water treatment. If more
homes and businesses adopted greywater systems, they can take advantage of other
ways of reusing greywater for applications such as dishwashers, laundry machines,
and toilet water– minimizing freshwater waste.



Geoffrey C.Warner, AIA, Alchemy LLC


Alchemy LLC + University of MN School of Architecture Students Site technology: WEDGETechnologies


8’ x 20’ steel shipping container from SuperCubes

AddressSuper Cubes LLC, 9240 Hillsboro Way, Savage, MN 55378, USA

Windows & Door

Andersen Windows

AddressAndersen Corporation, 100 4th Ave. N. Bayport, MN 55003, USA

Wood wrap ( Door/wall/ceiling)

WD Flooring

AddressWD Flooring, P.O. Box 368, Laona, WI 54541, USA

Bathroom Tile



Bathroom and Sink Fixtures


AddressDornbracht Americas Inc., 1700 Executive Drive South, Suite 600, Duluth, GA 30096, USA


Separett Villa (waterless)

AddressSeparett-USA/EcoServices, PO Box 226, Barrington NH, 03825, USA


Alape provided by Montaggio


Greywater Filter


AddressLauttakyläntie 570, FI-27510 Eura, FINLAND
P.O. Box 2, FI-27501 Kauttua, FINLAND

Furniture + Bedding

Room & Board

AddressRoom & Board Los Angeles, Helms Bakery Building, 3231 Helms Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034, USA
AddressCherry Creek North, 222 Detroit Street, Denver, CO 80206, USA
AddressWestside Provisions District, 1170 Howell Mill Road NW, Atlanta, GA 30318, USA
AddressDowntown at Rush and Ohio, 55 East Ohio Street, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
AddressLocated at Newbury and Mass Ave., 375 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA
AddressAcross from Galleria Edina, 7010 France Avenue South, Edina, MN 55435, USA
AddressChelsea, 236 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011, USA
AddressPearl District, 380 Northwest 13th Avenue, Portland, OR 97209, USA
AddressKnox-Henderson District, 4524 McKinney Avenue, Dallas, TX 75205, USA
AddressUniversity Village, 2675 NE University Village Street, Seattle, WA 98105, USA


Restwell Mattress Factory

AddressRestwell Mattress Factory, 8229 Highway 7, St. Louis Park, MN 55426, USA
AddressRestwell Mattress Factory, 7835 Southtown Center, Bloomington, MN 55431, USA

Toiletries and Lifestyle products

Intelligent Nutrients

AddressCustomer Service Intelligent Nutrients, 983 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414, USA
Toll Free+18003115635

Shower Door

Minneapolis Glass Company

Address14600 28th Avenue North, Plymouth, MN 55447, USA



Address9611 James Avenue S., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55431, USA

Solar Panels

Itek Energy


Tankless Water Heater (Boiler)


Address20 Goodyear, Irvine, CA 92618, USA


AEI-Applied Energy Innovations

Address4000 Minneahaha Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55406, USA


Juno recessed lighting, Hennepin Made chandelier from JTH Lighting and Room & Board

Light Switches + Outlets


Address60 Woodlawn Street, West Hartford, CT 06110, USA
Address9024 Keele Street, Vaughan, Ontario L4K 2N2, USA

About Alchemy


Our distinct hands-on approach to architecture and design combines a playful design process, collaborative relationships with clients, and partnerships with builders and fabricators, to create a harmonious blend of site, building, and community. With sustainable practices as a mainstay of our daily work, Alchemy utilizes recycling and reuse along with building strategies that reduce waste. Our multidisciplinary team draws inspiration from art, literature, history, and leading creative thinkers to create alternative and atypical project solutions. Alchemy’s innovation on the weeHouse prefab system and “tightwad panache” renovations has gained recognition on an international scale.

Design Services

While Alchemy is known internationally for our design of the weeHouse, a large portion of Alchemy’s business is more traditional architectural design services including new builds, commercial projects, remodels, renovations, and general design consultation. As architects, our job is to solve design problems and help bring your ideas to reality.

Alchemy’s completion of the first weeHouse in 2003, then just an inexpensive prefab cabin, gained international attention as a symbol of architectural optimism. Since then, Alchemy has widened its scope, developing the weeHouse as a prefabricated answer for cabins, houses, offices, rooftop studios, and multi-unit developments, and has completed over 3 dozen prefabricated projects around the United States.

Whether you are looking to build a single site-built 200 square foot studio or a 75 unit prefab condominium, be sure to contact us and we will further evaluate your project needs. We work on both a project fee and hourly basis depending on project specifics.

Address856 Raymond Ave, Suite G, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55114, USA

About University of MN School of Architecture Students Site technology: WEDGETechnologies

We build foundations for marketing, web, and IT services. Clients leverage our integrated approach to meet their strategic goals in a whole new dimension.


“If it ain’t broke: don’t fix it!” We hear this one a lot. Just because something works doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tested, evaluated, and challenged. We’re big into this. To find areas of improvement, we challenge what we should expect from the world around us. Our curiosity and exploratory souls drive the way we work.


When we challenge our worldly expectations, we find patterns of opportunity. Where a tool or solution doesn’t exist or provide the best experience, we take it upon ourselves to build it! We dream-up new ideas, systems, and approaches to solve problems every day. The typical needs the atypical to move forward.


We dabble in it all. We study the intersection of technology and creativity because we believe therein lies an untapped potential for problem solving. It’s challenging to do this because it requires we hold conflicting goals. Technology seeks to optimize and drives structure while creativity seeks emotions and drives humanity.

Wedge’s Vision

We desire to design a world where everyone can realize their happiness. In a world where reliance on technology is only increasing, we seek to abstract technical concepts so that everyone in business can access, understand, and leverage the powerful parts of technology. This is key to build space for creative problem solving.

Address2406 James Ave N, Suite B, Minneapolis, MN 55411, USA

More shipping container homes in Minnesota:

LightHotel - 120 sq ft Shipping Container Tiny Home, Minnesota

LightHotel - 120 sq ft Shipping Container Tiny Home, Minnesota