Been-Seen logo


How to Live in a Shipping Container

How to live in a shipping container.....(allterrainnew.jpg)

Everyone, it seems, wants to convert shipping containers into small homes or travel pods. For good reason. They look really cool. And here are a few we've discovered on our travels.

How to live in a shipping container.....(ecopodnew.jpg)The shipping container has been around for half a century, but it has only recently found favor as an inexpensive cabin. 

If this Ecopod (right) is anything to go by, living in a container seems totally viable. Not to be confused with the ecological coffin of the same name, the Ecopod by Dwight Doerkson has extremely green credentials, but (unless you get ridiculously attached) you're unlikely to be buried in it.

How to live in a shipping container.....(shippingcontainerilly.jpg)We love Adam Kalkin's Push-Button House (right), a shipping container that pops open to form a coffee shop. It's been doing the rounds of exhibitions in the US, but so far we don't know whether it's found a permanent home. 

However, we've just found out that Kalkin has also created the Quik House, a prefab three-bed kit house made out of shipping containers, available for order now – check it out.

We also have a soft spot for the Travelpod, the brainchild of British travel chain Travelodge. How to live in a shipping container.....(shippingcontainerallterraincabin.jpg)It's a box that can be hauled from site to site, providing an instant hotel room wherever it lands. Strictly speaking, it's not a shipping container, but it certainly owes its inspiration to one. And it's perfect for us glampers

The All Terrain Cabin (right, and top) by Canadian team, Bark Design Collective, was created as a showcase for Canadian design. But it's also perfect for a family of four to live comfortably in, off the grid. It can be folded up and packed onto a train or boat, then transported to a site of your choosing and unfolded. Very clever.

AHow to live in a shipping container.....(shippingcontainerport-a-bach.jpg)long the same lines is a design by New Zealand's Atelier Workshop. Called Port-a-Bach (ie a portable bachelor pad, right), it's a mini home that you can (almost) take with you on your travels.

Check out this seriously cool design for a container house by M2ATK (right, below). It was created for an artist, with each floor having a different use – one to live in, one to sleep in, and one in which to let his imagination fly. And should the artist decide to move, he can take his home with him.How to live in a shipping container.....(shippingcontainerm2atk.jpg)

We've just read that Travelodge recently upped the ante, and have produced a hotel created completely from shipping containers

It's made out of 86 containers, which were assembled in China then stacked on top of each other in Uxbridge, West London (below, right). The idea is that it can be taken apart and put back together again at great speed, and at low cost. When you're inside it, it feels like any other budget hotel, and costs next to nothing to stay in. 

CHow to live in a shipping container.....(shippingcontainertravelodge.jpg)ould this be the future of hotel construction? It's been suggested that the company should throw down loads of container hotels for the London Olympics. Temporary and affordable.

According to Container City, who have container projects dotted all over the UK, 'Containers are an extremely flexible method of construction, being both modular in shape, extremely strong structurally and readily available. Container Cities offer an alternative solution to traditional space provision. They are ideal for office and workspace, live-work and key-worker housing.'

How to live in a shipping container.....(shippingcontainerweekendhouse.jpg)

We love their recycled freight container Cubes at the Cove Park retreat in the Trossachs, Scotland.

There are many more container pods of all shapes and sizes in production, for use as hotels, cabins, homes, studios, and offices.

And no doubt we'll see plenty more in the coming years. Keep us posted if you hear of any good ones. RM


Back to articles

  • gaddiel cortez

    December 29, 2014

    Decent looking containers. I like the office concept with additional windows on it.

  • toxowanie usługi

    May 21, 2013

    I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.
    The sketch is attractive, your authored material
    stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an shakiness
    over that you wish be delivering the following.
    unwell unquestionably come further formerly again since exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike.

  • Ahmad

    April 24, 2013

    What’s up, after reading this amazing article i am also happy to share my know-how here with mates.

  • Rachael

    September 18, 2012

    Does anyone have an example of basic container home, plans permitted by local authority in their country. I am in New Zealand and struggling to find examples for our local council.
    Thanks and appreciate any feedback.

  • Joseph Lambert

    May 2, 2012

    Im looking to retire in 10 years to a secret spot in costa rica. We’re looking at three containers laid out in a capital I with the two ends being smaller and serve as bedrooms and full shower. Main part with French doors out to patio to dine out in the year round spring weather. Also full show outdoors like at a beach house . Any insight into container living in cr would be appreciated.

  • matt

    April 5, 2012

    The costs of constructing a container home are often exaggerated on the negative side. But very little gets said about the fact they can be pre-constructed or prefabricated in factories ahead of delivery. The site hours are heavily reduced and that saving in labour alone can be at least 30%. Adding to that many container home owners are more into the environment and building a small functional home compared to a McMansion many people on the negative side lose sight of the fact the people who are for shipping container homes want different things out of life. E.g. a small or non-existant mortgage, Green living, more open spaces than concrete jungle.

  • G

    October 18, 2011

    Your website is great and informative..wether the links work or not. I’ll have to check them out. Thank you! We are considering a home and wonder how to find out if our town will allow this type of building. We are 90 miles of NYC.

  • Maria

    August 16, 2011

    Hi Ali, thanks for leaving us a comment. This article is actually two years old, and while we do our best to keep updating links as we go along, sometimes we miss a few. There were only two broken links in this article anyway, which we’ve now fixed. We appreciate you letting us know, but maybe next time you could cut us a bit of slack before writing off the entire website due to 2 faulty external links. Best – BS.

  • ali.t.

    August 15, 2011

    are you aware of all the bad links in your article? I gave up on bothering to view other pages because it keeps giving 404 errors.

  • tony mckenna

    June 5, 2011

    nice examples of some of the innovative things being done with shipping container modifications these days.

  • Jen

    April 9, 2011


    Honestly, I understand how you see a correlation between a container house to a mobile home considering the modular/prefab aspect of the Quik House (I checked out the website). However, the amenities you are describing are far beyond that of a mobile home. I have never seen a mobile home with the permanence of a radiant floor slab, footings or finishes at that price point for a 20k+/- sf house. What you are describing are the amenities you would have in a single family stand alone house. Not to mention that the container house could be designed to withstand hurricane force winds, a condition that could not be found with a mobile home. Based on the numbers for a 6 container house your cost per SF, your cost is a good bit lower than a traditionally built house.
    I think you should re-evaluate this. Maybe find a local architect that can help you reach your goals.

    I commend you on seriously looking into the shipping container housing option. I hope you find an option that works for you. Good luck.

  • jk

    August 4, 2010

    The 184,000 is for a house created out of 6 containers, with all the amenities of a typical western house, plumbing, electrical s, insulation etc.
    [Quik House]
    includes :
    – 6 modified shipping containers
    – all the glass necessary to enclose the Quik House
    – basic plumbing and electrical
    – standard plumbing fixtures
    – walls ready to receive your local inspection

    [Cost to Finish the Quik House]
    Shipping (based on destination)

    Quik House Assembly $2,500
    Site Preparation
    – excavation $2,000
    – foundation and slab $6,000
    – in slab radiant heat $6,000
    – glass installation $4,000
    – HVAC $7,000
    – plumbing $7,000
    – electrical $7,000
    – insulation $5,500
    – wall finish and painting $6,000
    – flooring $5,000
    – built in shelves and closets $2,000
    – interior doors and hardware $2,000
    – roofing $3,000
    Quik House $119,000
    Cost to Finish the Quik House $65,000
    Total Estimate

    plus shipping

  • jim

    May 21, 2009

    where did you get the cost of $184k?
    a 20×40 delivered is about 5k . you could build a seriously pimp house with these for 184K.

  • Swenson

    May 20, 2009

    $184,000 for the equivalent (or less) of a mobile home???? Don’t see the value, sorry.

  • jim

    May 6, 2009

    I wonder where you could get plans for converting these?

Any comments?