One of the biggest advantages of building with shipping containers is that they are so flexible and portable.
This means that shipping containers can be used to build homes in some pretty remote areas, including places where typically you just can’t build homes!
It’s been truly incredible to see the growth of container homes over the last decade or so, and some of the innovation and creative ideas we’ve seen continue are remarkable.
In this article, we’ve collected our five favorite off-grid container homes.
Each home has been selected for different reasons. Some are included just for their pure wow factor and others for their creativity and cost savings.
The first in our list is Brenda Kelly’s shipping container home.
For those of you who have been following us for a while now, you will remember Brenda from a previous shipping container home interview we did with her.
Since then Brenda has been very busy and she has decided to upgrade from her existing 20-foot container home. Brenda’s new home is constructed from a larger 40-foot shipping container plus a 20-foot container.
The container home has been built on the side of a steep hill. Due to the container’s structural integrity, cheaper timber pile foundations were used instead of concrete piers.
This new shipping container home provides around 500 square feet of living space.
The larger of the two containers hosts the kitchen and the main bedroom. The smaller container is used as an office, though this could easily be turned into another bedroom.
What’s incredible about this container home is that it is completely off grid and produces all the electricity it needs from the bank of solar panels on the roof. In addition, the roof is used to collect rainwater which is used within the home as a source of fresh water.
Originally, Kam Kasravi and Connie Dewitt were going to build a traditional prefab home on their plot of land in the Santa Cruz mountain area.
However, they soon realized that because of the narrow lanes that led to their land this type of home wouldn’t fit. This is when they turned to shipping containers.
Because shipping containers are only eight feet wide, they could easily fit down the narrow lanes. Kam and Connie’s dream of a cabin in the forest could begin!
One of the great advantages of shipping container homes is how fast they can be stacked. As you can see in the video, Kam and Connie’s containers were delivered and placed on the foundation pads in under eight hours!
Throughout the home, spray foam insulation was used to keep the rooms as wide as possible. They decided to leave the container’s ceiling and floors bare to show off the industrial look of the containers.
Finally, as anyone from that area will know, it is possible to experience earthquakes! This is one reason they decided to build with containers. They knew once secured in place the containers wouldn’t be moving anywhere.
If you want to know even more about this home and others, read interviews with owners.
To our knowledge, the first underground shipping container home belongs to Steve Rees who lives out in California.
The benefit of this design is that because the containers are completely buried underground, the home’s temperature swings are muted from those of the outside environment. On hot days, its relatively cooler, and during the winter, it’s a bit warmer. The benefits of burying or ‘earth berming’ vary quite a bit with the climate, soil type, and burial depth, so it’s not a perfect solution for everyone. However, it’s worked out well for Steve!
Two 40-foot high cube containers were used and provide Steve and his wife with around 640 square feet of living space.
It’s important to note that Steve didn’t just bury the containers and call it a day. He insulated the container with thick polystyrene foam, then placed gravel all around the sides to assist with drainage. He also placed a 6″ thick reinforced concrete slab on top of the containers to support the load of the soil on top. While Steve didn’t do it, we strongly recommend additional horizontal supports to prevent the sides from bowing/caving in as a result of the substantial horizontal pressures that can be exerted by some soils.
To reduce lighting bills and provide more natural sunlight (which is proven to be good for your health), solar tubes have been placed throughout the containers. These tubes harvest the natural sunlight and project it down into the building.
One of the nicest features of the home are the huge oak beams. They are used as supports for where Steve has removed large sections of the container’s walls to connect them together.
The total cost for this build was just under $30,000.
Matt and Ilse moved up throughs several conventionally owned homes over time as their family. But they realized something. After settling into a beautiful five-bedroom home, they were spending more time on yard work and maintenance than they were with their children.
They decided to downsize into a container home build with two 40-ft high cube containers. Thanks to their solar panels and water collection, their unique home is effectively off-grid as well.
One of the cool things about their home is the raised roof section. They made a shed roof on one of the containers (under the solar panels) and used the cut-off sections removed when placing their doors to side the expanded roof section. This makes the taller container look like it was made like this from the factory!
Their child’s bedroom offers a unique loft design that has two levels of beds. It may be a bit cozy for three children, but it is a unique way to give much more space than what traditional bunk beds would provide.
The last home in our list is Lulu’s incredible tiny shipping container home.
Lulu built her home a few years ago and all told it cost about $4,000 to convert the container. This figure includes the insulation, drywall, internal fixtures and plumbing! Not only this, but it only took Lulu one month to convert the container.
She was given the container for free. A similar used 20-foot container would set you back around $2,000.
Watch the video of Lulu and her container home. You will pick up a lot of little tips and tricks. For instance, she used bubble wrap in between the container and the insulation panels. This helps to prevent moisture from spreading into the insulation!
For Lulu, her container home was a lifestyle choice. She didn’t want to be working 40+ hours a week and not see her young daughter. So she decided to leave the nine-to-five and live in a container home thus eliminating her rent costs.
We hope that after seeing what these incredible people have built using shipping containers that you are feeling inspired!
These people have shown that shipping container homes are affordable and can be fun to build. Get your creative juices flowing. You can now see that you too can build and live in your own shipping container home.
Let us know in the comments below if any of these homes inspired you to take the next step.