Two-story 2000 sqft Shipping Container Home, Arizona

3D Rendering
About Marie Jones
About Ecosa Institute

ProjectFlagstaff Container House
DesignEcosa Institute
ArchitectsTony Brown, Tom Hahn
DesignerMarie Jones
BuilderDan Miller
Area2,000 sq ft
LocationSouthside Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

This 2,000 sq ft shipping container home, the first shipping container home in Arizona, is made from six recycled shipping containers. Located in historic Southside Flagstaff, it is a two-story dwelling with a spacious atrium living-dining room, two baths, two bedrooms, two studio/offices, plant solarium, galley kitchen, and five decks with views of the San Francisco Peaks and the lively street life of this outdoor-loving and friendly university town.

Comfortable in wintertime, with passive solar and in-floor radiant heating, and in summertime, with natural mountain breezes, the shipping container house collects solar electric power and harvests rainwater and snowmelt. The insulation is biofoam, recycled denim, and exterior ceramic coating. Aluminum dual-pane aluminum windows and translucent insulated fiberglass fill the house with natural light.

The recipient of a Coconino County Sustainability Award, the shipping container home was designed by communication designer Marie Jones and architects Tony Brown and Tom Hahn of Ecosa Institute, and was built by Dan Miller. Construction was completed in 2011.

Description by Ecosa Institute

This project features recycled ocean-going shipping containers as the main structure; but the home will also include a whole host of other environmental and energy-efficient design ideas and materials. The home is though to be the first shipping-container-based house in Flagstaff, and one of the first multi-story container projects in Arizona.

The containers have been pre-fabricated in Phoenix and trucked to the northern Arizona site for their placement into the project.  With the containers placed and connected together, the home will be completed on-site under the direction of the owners.  The project is planned to be ready to be occupied in late 2010.

This project uses five 40-foot long "high-cube" containers for the main house, in a criss-cross plan that rises into an open, dayligh filled, two-story high atrium space.  This atrium will have operable windows to allow for natural "stack" ventilation, and will be capped off with a pitched roof angled for best performance with solar-electric photovoltaic panels. Across a raised deck from the main house, a detached 20-foor long, standard height container will house an artist studio. The entire project has been designed for rainwater and snowmelt harvesting by Barnabus Kane of TBK Associates in Prescott, Arizona, and the site will also be finished with a permaculture based, minimal water use, native landscaping.

The exterior of the containers will retain their robust steel exterior, and be refurbished and repainted with a super-insulating ceramic based paint, in forest and sunset colors. A "floating" steel interior stair, as well as the entry porch, will be suspended on steel rods from the containers above, accessing the second floor bedrooms and roof decks made from portions of an additional container. Super-insulated windows with recycled content frames will be set back in recycled steel "shade boxes" that will keep the sun and snow at bay.  The project will also include soy=based spray-foam insulation, radiant floor heating, soy-stained concrete floors, photovoltaic panels, recycled metal structure and roofing, translucent super-insulating glazing, graywater recovery, low-water use fixtures and appliances, recycled content and non-toxic finishes and energy efficient lighting.  site fencing and other landscape features will be made from portions of the containers that were cut away in fabrication.

This shipping container home in Arizona has been accepted by the new Coconino County Sustainable Building Program, and will aim to achieve an "Advanced" rating under the program upon completion.

Description by Jetsongreen

This unique, green family residence was constructed in Flagstaff, Arizona in March 2011. The home measures 2,000-square-feet and features 2 loft bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 office rooms, and a storage room, and a green house/solarium. The residence was made from six recycled shipping containers. Apart from that, the home was also designed with long term sustainability and energy efficiency in mind. The concept for the home was developed by Ecosa Institute, while in 2010 the house also received an award from the Coconino County Sustainable Building Program. The home took about two years to build.

The south facing house is built on a narrow urban infill lot, which is designated as a flood plain area. Due to the federal regulation requirements the house is lifted to 3-1/2 feet above ground level. The home rests on a foundation of forty concrete piers. The shipping containers use to build the residence were obtained and partially fabricated in Phoenix, then transported to the building site in Flagstaff on trailers. On site, they were crane-lifted onto the piers and welded into place. The interior was then furred with wood lumber in the ceilings and steel lumber in the walls. The electrical and plumbing systems are located inside the furred walls.

All the electrical needs of the household are provided for by a 3.6 kW on-grid solar system, which was designed and installed by AEA Inc. The water management and harvesting system was designed by TBKA Landscape Architects and installed by Northern Arizona Pump. It consists of gutters in the upper levels, which directs water into 2 large tanks, which can then be pumped to the garden. The water from the lower roofs and the rest of the site is directed to the garden by way of a grading plan. The garden is planted with indigenous, drought adapted plants, while recycled broken concrete and urbanite from the home’s construction site was used to designate the planting areas.

The floor and inside walls are insulated with closed-cell foam, and the ceilings with recycled denim, which provides R values of 20-24. The exterior of the containers was coated with SuperTherm ceramic coating that acts to reflect heat and cold. This provides the home with a long lasting finish, and works to prevent condensation inside the home. Furthermore, the roofs were sprayed with foam and covered with an impermeable membrane and fitted with a sand finish.

The windows and glass doors are thermally broken aluminum dual pane. The Kalwall insulated fiberglass walls allow additional daylight into the main living area space. The windows on the south side of the house let in enough sun heat to warm the concrete floor in the main living area. Apart from that, the main floor of the house is heated by an in-floor radiant heating system, which utilizes a high-efficiency dedicated gas water heater. The large openings from the lower level into the second story loft areas allow the thus produced heat to rise and warm these spaces as well.

Additionally needed warmth in the bathroom and other second story areas is obtained via high-efficiency electric heaters. The home does not have an air conditioning system, so all ventilation and cooling of the house is achieved through a skylight, the windows and several fans installed throughout the house. Special shading systems have also been installed to control the temperature in the home.

6 Containers Shipping Container Home 3D Rendering, Arizona

2000 sqft Shipping Container Home Construction, Arizona

About Marie Jones

Marie Jones's work in design began after graduating from Goucher College, a design studio internship, and a graduate course in integrative studies. She subsequently worked in design studios and corporate communication before starting Ideahouse in 1996.

Her clients have included businesses and nonprofit organizations. Beginning with identity and promotional print work, she has moved increasingly toward projects with environmental-, community- and cultural-awareness missions.

Words and images hold equal importance in her approach to design. She sees her communication design role as a flexible one, adding listening skills and creative problem-solving abilities to any team that she joins.


About Ecosa Institute (Arizona)

Ecosa Design Studio

For the past 18 years, Tom Hahn has been a leader in the movement toward a more responsible environmental approach to architecture. As an assistant professor in the Arizona State University School of Architecture he brought an intellectual rigor to his students pushing them to think in complex way about the meaning of design and its relationship to its impact on resources. As the founding principal of Sol Source Architecture he has produced a strong body of environmentally appropriate building and has, in addition, not only been the designer but also the contractor. Tom’s strong commitment to the creation of environmentally and economically sound design strategies and his expertise in construction method and techniques brings a unique approach to all Ecosa Design Studio projects. One of the leaders in the rediscovery of straw bale building and project architect for one of the first and most technically advanced sustainable projects –the APS showcase home in Phoenix - he has demonstrated a commitment and depth of knowledge far beyond his peers.

Ecosa Design Studio :: Architecture & Planning is led by Tony Brown, founder of the Ecosa Institute of Environmental Design and former head of design and construction at Arcosanti, and Tom Hahn, former head of Sol Source Architecture and Three Rivers EcoBuilders.

Ecosa Design’s singular purpose is the exploration of the potentials of environmentally-responsible high-architecture. Using “systems thinking” design methods, Ecosa Design seeks to develop built environments that synergize the “ecological” and “experiential”, the “designed” and the “constructed”, the “economical” and the “extraordinary”, and the “esoteric” and the “practical”, in every facet and at every scale of our projects, like the shipping container home in Arizona. Toward that end, Tony and Tom lead Ecosa on a continuous mission to be a cutting edge design, research and education endeavor, uniquely focused on the full breadth and depth of ecological design and construction practices, and how to turn those practices into intriguingly engaging environments.

We believe that an integrated, holistic, evolutionary design process is the most effective means to that end – far beyond just picking "eco-correct" materials to score points, or arbitrarily applying 'faux-naturale' styles. In the Ecosa process, we shape a project by responding to, and harmonizing the available natural and human-made energies, resources and capabilities of a particular site, in concert with the context, program and budget; always striving "to make the most with the least" in every design move. In this way we minimize the energy, materials and cost impact – and vastly improve the environmental responsibility of a project – rather than just simply inserting sometimes costly "green" products or hyper-efficient systems into an otherwise typical design to solve its flaws.

At the same time, this process creates a true "architecture of place," consciously but ego-lessly evolved to experientially express the unique qualities of its full "environment." Our goal is to create projects that have an understandable aesthetic, rooted in their ecological soundness; to evoke a rich experience of "rightness" without resorting to the arbitrarily esoteric or stylistic... striving toward how nature has evolved a flower – making it beautiful, timeless and sustainable.

In this way, we not only design with the fullest range of environmentally-responsible ideas, strategies, systems, products and materials, but we also create lasting, elegant, experiential and award-winning architectural design and this shipping/storage container home in Arizona is a beautiful example. Furthermore, we are also committed to awareness of not only the design, but also the actual construction detailing and costs of alternative and environmental building methods, employing this knowledge throughout the design process. And finally, we are strongly committed to the quality and integrity of the process of architecture, seeing it as our professional responsibility to be forthright, prudent and exacting with our clients' resources, as well as those of the planet.

Ecosa Design Studio has a unique capacity to bring together all the best aspects of designing for the built environment. We not only have experience with the fullest range of environmentally-responsible ideas, strategies, systems, products and materials, shipping containers, but we also have experience with rich, experiential award-winning architectural design. Furthermore, with Managing Principal/Architect Tom Hahn also having experience as a Licensed Contractor, we bring unique experience with not only the design, shipping container homes design, but the actual construction and costs of alternative and environmental construction methods. In addition, we bring a strong commitment to the quality and integrity of the process of architecture, seeing it as our professional responsibility to be honest, prudent and exacting with our clients' resources, as well as the planet's.

We call this overall approach "designing with respect to the four E's"... Environment, Experience, Economy, and Ethics.

General concepts, ideas and strategies that we have experience with and bring to all our work:

  • Complex and Living Systems Principles (based on the work of Fritjof Capra and Ian McHarg)
  • Gaia Theory and Principles (based on the work of James Lovelock and Lynn Margulies)
  • Ecological Footprint Concepts and Principles (based on the work of Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees)
  • Life-Cycle Analysis and Embodied Energy Concepts "cradle-to-cradle" (based on the work of Ray Cole)
  • Organic Design, as a process, not just an aesthetic (based on the mid-period work of Frank Lloyd Wright)
  • Biomimicry and Natural Design Principles (based on the work of Janine Benyus and Ian McHarg)
  • Living Machines and Landscapes (based on the work of John Todd, John Tillman Lyle)
  • Integrated Environmental Building Systems (based on the work of Ken Yeang, Richard Rogers, and Renzo Piano)
  • Structural Integration and Efficiency (based on the work of Frei Otto, Santiago Calatrava, Wacslaw Zawlewski, and Eladio Dieste)
  • Efficient Spatial ("not-so-big") Design Principles (based on the work of Sarah Susanka, George Christensen)
  • Humanistic Design Principles (based on the work of Christopher Day, Christopher Alexander, and David Pearson)
  • Anthroposophic Design Principles (based on the work of Rudolf Steiner and Ton Alberts)
  • Environmental Economics and Ethics (based on the work of Paul Hawken, Ray Anderson and Charles Kilbert)

More precisely, with respect to the Environment and passive and active strategies in the areas of Energy-, Water-, and Materials-Efficiency, we have specific knowledge and experience with the following:


Passive Strategies

- Climate-specific orientation, zoning, and landscape design
- Calculated daylight control, including shading device design, and daylighting mechanisms
- Natural ventilation including cross- and stack-ventilation, as well as wing walls
- Heat flow resistance strategies including super-insulation, mass "flywheel" effects, radiant barriers, thermal decoupling and high-performance glazing

Active Strategies

- High-thermal performance natural building systems including straw-bale, and poured and unit earthen systems such as terracrete, adobe, light-clay straw (liechtlehmbau) and cob
- High thermal performance manufactured building systems including ICF's, SIP's, and insulated CMU
- High-performance multi-function cooling and heating systems
- Integrated solar and evaporative mechanical systems
- Zoned HVAC control systems
- Radiant cooling technologies (and radiant heating, where appropriate)
- Engineered integrated HVAC and domestic water heating
- Heat recovery ventilators and exhaust fan systems
- Solar-electric systems including crystalline and amorphic photovoltaic systems
- Solar-thermal systems including domestic water heating and solar chimneys
- Specific and efficient electric lighting design, fixtures and lamps
- Efficient appliances and automobiles

Water Efficiency

Passive Strategies

- Native, naturalized and otherwise low-water-use landscape design
- Non-mechanical rainwater harvesting and reuse systems

Active Strategies

- Low-water use irrigation systems including above- and underground drip
- Graywater harvesting and reuse systems
- Low- and Ultra-Low-water use plumbing fixtures and appliances
- Alternative wastewater treatment systems, including fiber-mounds and wetlands
- Rainwater collection, filtration and reuse systems

Materials Efficiency

Passive Strategies

- "Making the most with the least" design strategies
- Zero- and minimum-finish building systems including sandblasted CMU, finished concrete
- Zero- and low-maintenance finish systems including integral color cementitious stucco, concrete countertops
- Reused and recovered building materials including barnwood, doors, windows, plumbing fixtures
- Recyclable-content materials and products, including metal roofing/siding, metal studs, shipping container homes
- Recycled flyash content cementitious materials, including concrete, CMU, stucco

Active Strategies

- Natural building systems including straw-bale, earth, bamboo
- Natural material finish systems including bamboo, wheatboard
- Recycled-content materials and products, including carpet, siding, tile, plastic composite lumber
- Engineered wood structural systems
- Non-toxic and low-toxicity materials and products
- Zero-VOC paints and other finishes
- Formaldehyde-free interior construction materials
- Non-wood, non-toxic natural materials cabinets and millwork
- Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) building systems
- Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) building systems

Architectural Design

Ecosa Design Studio provides full architectural design services exclusively for projects seeking to be as environmentally-responsible as possible. Particularly, we are specialists in straw-bale, earth, ICF's, SIP's, and insulated CMU, shipping (storage) container homes, and have long experience in passive and active design for energy-, water- and materials efficiency. This work is for both new and remodel projects for both large and small-scale residential, commercial and institutional clients.

All shipping container homes projects include full developed designs and documentation and included full engineering and technical support. We believe that if we are architecturally designing efficient buildings, they need to be supported by equally efficient and professional engineering analyses. This engineering is integrated throughout the design process, not just included at the end, to maximize the potential efficiencies. All of this design effort is documented for construction in very complete and thorough drawings, usually numbering 20-30 sheets for a typical residence or a shipping (storage) container home. These drawings typically include Project Information sheet, Site Plan, Foundation Plan, Floor Plan, Framing Plan, Reflected Ceiling Plan, Roof Plan, Complete Sections, Building Elevations, Interior Elevations (typically of areas with cabinets or detailed finishes), Complete Door/Window Schedules.

Environmental Design & Construction Consulting

Ecosa Design Studio also provides architectural and construction consulting on environmental design and construction. This includes conceptual and systemic design support throughout a shipping (storage) container home project, systems and construction methodology support during Schematic Design and Design Development phases. When more detail is required, we can also provide support for assessment and selection of Products and Materials through both the early phases of a project as well as during the Construction Documents, including specifications and engineering. Finally, we can provide Construction Technology support and observation during all phases of Construction Administration.

General Process & Phases

We usually proceed with architectural shipping (storage) container homes design projects in two phases. First is the Schematic Design phase, which includes Site Visits, Site Analysis, Programming (determining the scope and functional elements of the design) along with the actual Preliminary Design and Presentations. The second phase is the Construction Documents phase, which includes Design Development (DD) and Construction Administration (CA), as well as Submittal to the appropriate agencies and jurisdictions and following through to award of the Building Permit, and also includes CA (observance of the construction for compliance with the design intent).

Typically the first phase, Schematic Design (SD), is done as an "hourly-not-to-exceed" agreement, where maximum hours or fee are stated, and hourly rates outlined. Work is done and billed at the hourly rates up to the maximum stated. If the work goes quickly, the fee in this phase is less, and if it takes longer, the work is duly compensated. In this phase, a 25% retainer on the maximum fee is usually requested, to be applied to the final billing in that phase.

For the second phase, shipping (storage) container home Construction Documents (CD's), a "stipulated sum" agreement is typically used, where a set fee is stated in the agreement and work is billed as a percentage of the work completed on a monthly or milestone basis. This stipulated sum includes full standard engineering services, but does not include surveying, testing or permit fees. Final payment for the CD work (excluding a small portion for CA) is due at time of submission of the completed, stamped drawings for Building Permit review. For this phase, a 10% retainer on the maximum fee is usually requested, of which 2/3 is applied to the final billing before submission of the drawings for building permit, and 1/3 to the fees due during Construction Administration.

Residential Fees

Fees are set as a compilation of hours necessary within the office to accomplish the project, plus direct engineering and consultant fees and estimates of travel expenses. Though our fees are never set simply on a percentage basis, we find that the fees for typical residential design projects or shipping (storage) container home design project fall between 5%-10% of fully contracted construction costs ($300K project would be $15K-$30K). The design fees vary due to difficulty of site (hillside, poor soils, etc.) complexity of program or design, or amount of specialty systems (solar systems, zoned mechanical, lighting design, home automation), and finally scale of project ("economy of scale" means that smaller projects, say $150K, will be a bit higher in percentage than larger projects, say $400K). Finally, as most projects are done in the two phases described above, we find the first phase fees to be the first $5K-$8K of the above fee range, with the balance of the fee range coming in the second phase.

Commercial & Institutional Fees

Fees are set for this work as a compilation of hours necessary within the office to accomplish the project, plus direct engineering and consultant fees and estimates of travel expenses. Fees vary widely based on scale and scope of shipping (storage) container home project, program, specialty consulting and site and design complexity, as well as governmental and organizational submittal requirements. Please call or email Ecosa Design Studio for more clarification and specificity.

Consulting Fees

Consulting is done either by Founding Principal Antony Brown, or Managing Principal Tom Hahn, both of whom have extensive knowledge and expertise in all facets of passive and active environmentally-responsible shipping (storage) container home design concepts and specifics. Fees for consulting are $150/hour in addition to any travel expenses (see below).

Speaking Fees

Lectures or presentations for the general public are our commitment to share the lessons and knowledge we have gained in this work with others. Presentations on our current research work or cutting-edge projects, shipping (storage) container homes projects, or interviews/presentations with the media (newspaper, magazine, television or radio) are done at no cost except travel/lodging expenses. For presentations on past research work or project retrospectives, we are glad to do public presentations for groups under 75 at no cost except reimbursement for actual travel/lodging expenses. For groups over 75, the honorarium is negotiable with respect to topic, audience, and venue, in addition to travel and lodging costs plus a 10% administrative fee.

Travel Expenses

By auto, travel expenses are charged for travel beyond 20 miles from central Prescott (to encourage building within the urban fabric). Auto travel costs are $45/hour plus $0.45/mile (less one hour, and 40 mi. roundtrip from central Prescott). Cost for other modes of travel (air, rail, ship, camel, etc.) is direct cost plus 10% administrative fee, plus $45/hour for actual travel time.

Address224-1/2 S. Montezuma St. Prescott, AZ 86303, United States
Phone+1 928 541 1002
Project Website

Ecosa Institute

Immerse Yourself in an Intensive Semester.  Recognized by American Institute of Architects (AIA) and offered to both matriculating and non-matriculating students. 

Master the Foundations of Regenerative Ecological Design

Students develop and hone their skills in project planning, self-discipline, collaboration, creativity, and the design process as they work individually and in diverse groups on multiple design challenges. 

ECOSA's core curriculum is based on an interwoven tapestry of 7 “Threads” 

  • Ecological Design Disciplines
  • Technical Design Skills and Technologies
  • Ecological Literacy 
  • Sustainable Community Development
  • Communication Design 
  • Whole Systems Design
  • Art and Culture 

Learn from the Ecologies of Arizona

Field trips are considered a core part of the program You can expect 3 or 4 out-of-town field trips during each program. Overnight accommodations include sleeping under the stars and group campground cooking.  

  • 3-Day Aboriginal Living Skills trip with instructor Cody Lundin
  • Sunset Crater, Wupatki, Cameron Trading Post, Hopi Reservation
  • Tucson – Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, Mission San Xavier del Bac, rainwater harvesting and ecological living with Brad Lancaster 
  • Arcosanti, Cosanti and Taliesin West 
  • Arizona’s Central Highlands - the Granite Dells, Prescott National Forest and lakes, Glassford Hill, Prescott Valley, Granite Mountain, Thumb Butte.

Study with Industry Leaders

Your intructors are leaders in the fields of: ecology, open source design, interior design, alternative technologies, urban planning, community design, alternative building systems, biomimicry, sustainability strategies, permaculture, and the patterns of nature, including:   

  • Pliny Fisk III, Center for Maximum Building Potential Systems, Austin, TX
  • Jesse Hernreich, Oakhaven Permaculture Center 
  • Mark Lakeman, Communitecture and City Repair, Portland, OR 
  • Mark Riegner, Professor of Evolutionary Theory (Patterns in Nature) 
  • Brad Lancaster, Rainwater Harvester, Tucson, AZ 
  • Michael Ben-Eli, Sustainability Laboratory, New York, NY 
  • Cynthia Fishman, Biomimicry and Denver Does Design, Denver, CO

Get Experience Working on Real Projects 

One of the unique aspects of the ECOSA Certificate is project work. Check out our Project Page and read more about the varied and interesting projects accomplished by past ECOSA students.

Project work is your chance to operate in the “real world” with actual clients, budgets and demands. Critical thinking, self-motivation and collaboration are the keys to a successful team as you listen to and assess the client’s needs, develop appropriate strategies and plans, and craft a solid visual and oral presentation.
Address 11300 W Gurley St #2, Prescott, AZ 86303, United States
Address 2220 Grove Ave, Prescott, AZ 86301 USA

Two-story 2000 sqft Shipping Container Home, Arizona