Shipping containers are rugged, utilitarian structures built for cargo – not human habitation. With a little bit of love and out-of-the-box thinking, however, they can be transformed into awesome abodes. The following ten container homes are handsome, comfortable and ecologically sound; they also transcend expectations of what a simple metal box can be.
10. Caterpillar House, Chile
Snaking down a hillside in the suburbs of Santiago, Chile’s, capital, the Caterpillar House – or Casa Oruga – was designed by Sebastián Irarrázaval to complement the precipitous terrain of the Andes Mountains. Consisting of 12 containers, including one for a swimming pool, it took eight months to build and cost a third less than a conventional property.
The exterior of the prefab house is clad in steel plates, while its stylish interior has bold industrial undertones. “I want to do buildings that are simple and strong,” Irarrázaval explained to Azure magazine. Designed to allow the free circulation of mountain air, the Caterpillar House doesn’t require additional air conditioning.
9. Crossbox House, France
Suburban housing estates tend to be bastions of conformity and convention, but in Brittany, France, one group of architects flouted tradition by building a brightly hued container home. The unconventional Crossbox House has a two-up, two-down container format in the shape, as its name suggests, of a cross.
The bottom boxes feature verdant roof gardens while the overhang of the top boxes offers shade for the outdoor deck below. The interior is colorful, modern and bright. Built by CG Architectes, the economical Crossbox House is a prefab prototype designed to reduce the cost and energy involved in house building.
8. PV14 House, Texas
They say location is everything. Situated around o.6 miles from White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas, the PV14 House enjoys an enviable locale 100 feet above the fringes of nature. The house integrates several containers and enjoys commanding views over the water, the treetops and the urban skyline.
Built by boutique architectural firm M Gooden Design, the PV14 House boasts a stunning sun deck and pool. Inside there is no attempt to mask the containers’ metal surfaces and exposed structures, which are instead integrated into the seamless interior design.
7. Manifesto House, Chile
Chile’s Manifesto House is a paragon of green design. The structure – which incorporates a range of clever strategies to reduce its dependence on conventional energy sources – was designed by architects Mauricio Galeano and Jaime Gaztelu, the founders of Infiniski, a firm dedicated to sustainable construction.
As much as 85 percent of the structure’s materials have been recycled. Its exterior features two types of “skin.” On one side panels from a sustainable forest integrate the house into its environment; on the other a shell of wooden pallets can be opened and closed to control the container’s temperature.
6. Redondo Beach House, California
“Stacked containers create a powerful imagery on the landscape,” according to DeMaria Design, the architects behind California’s Redondo Beach House. That may be true, but this eight-container construction in Los Angeles County still manages to sit comfortably at its suburban beachside location.
The house combines prefab containers and conventional materials in a home that’s both practical and efficient. Around 70 percent of its construction was completed offsite, with the finished product including a bedroom, an artist’s studio and a 20-foot-high living room.
5. Casa Incubo, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s Casa Incubo, which is described by architect Maria José Trejos as an “icon of sustainability,” is a striking, spacious construction owned by a professional photographer. “The house dresses and undresses according to what you want to use it for,” the architect explained. “Be it a living room, an audiovisual space, [or] a photographic or advertising studio.”
Constructed using eight shipping containers, the house integrates a range of well-lit interconnected terraces, living areas, porches, a gallery space, a sundeck and a rooftop garden. One of its most exciting features is a steel pole that anybody upstairs can slide down.
4. WFH House, China
Built by Arcgency as a test project in 2012, the WFH House in Wuxi, China, embodies Nordic design values like minimalism, playfulness and access to nature. The house features solar cells and a green roof designed to harvest rainwater, and it manages to combine good looks with its ethos of sustainability.
Upcycled shipping containers form the basic structure of the house, but you would never know to look at it: inside and out the metal partitions are carefully concealed behind insulated walls. The architects envisage numerous configurations of their prefab design, including town houses and villas.
3. Nederland House, Colorado
Contractor, climber and traveler Andrew McMullin had the idea for his container home during a road trip in Wyoming. He was listening Jack Kerouac’s On the Road when he saw a train carrying a cargo of containers. Could a house be built from them, he wondered?
It took 18 months and two bitter winters to realize his dream. Designed by Studio HT, McMullin’s container house is powered by solar energy and enjoys stunning views from its ridge position near the town of Nederland, Colorado. He paid $5,000 for the two containers and enjoys pondering where they have traveled to over the years.
2. Tim Palen Studio, California
Designed to withstand fires, earthquakes and the inhospitable Mojave Desert, the extraordinarily robust Tim Palen Studio – a second-generation prefab prototype designed by ecotechdesign – utilizes six shipping containers and a range of pre-engineered components.
The house can be assembled in less than an hour thanks to its modular design. It utilizes a range of sustainable technologies, while the windows and doors, designed with ventilation in mind, let in lots of natural light. The bolt-on green roof, meanwhile, features native desert plants that absorb heat and glare.
1. ZieglerBuild House, Australia
Why settle for a box when you can have a mansion? Constructed from 31 shipping containers, ZieglerBuild’s astonishing container house is the biggest of its type in Australia. The property, which is located five miles from Brisbane, was listed for the equivalent of $1.14 million in 2013.
The house encompasses three floors, four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a study, an office, a workshop, a super-cool saltwater pool and a gym, so there’s certainly plenty of space. It also benefits from lots of natural light.