Modular homes have been around for a long time. After the second World War the need for housing that was quick and cheap to build, gave rise to a whole new movement in architecture. Ever since, architects and designers have been fascinated with the idea of modular homes that are cheap to build, yet have a lot of flexibility to design beautiful spaces.
The rising costs of real estate in recent years has made it virtually impossible for young people to break into the property market. Owning your own home has become an unreachable goal for many – even those who went to collage and who has a “good job”. This has lead to many innovate design ideas to help built more affordable homes.
The problem with many modular homes is that they look cheap. Because repetition is cheap to build, they often lack a sense of identity and character that makes a house a home. Because of this, prefabricated homes and modular homes often get a bad wrap. The truth is that there are many truly amazing designs that are based on modular concepts.
Shipping containers have been used in building for a long time but mostly its used as site offices or as storage units. These containers are incredibly robust and in many ways make the perfect module to be use for building. In recent years, the high costs of building has forced many designers to use shipping containers to construct homes…and many of them are absolutely amazing!
Shipping containers are cheap, very durable, easily available and can make it very quick to construct a house. Here are a few great examples of what can be achieved with shipping containers to build a beautiful house.
1. Six Oaks – Santa Cruz, California
This house is located in a very serene setting in the lavish forest outside Santa Cruz. Its definitely one of the more ambitious container homes and sits on a steep site. The entrance is via a bridge on the second level with a clever arrangement of different containers to accommodate the constraints of the site. Its 1,200 square feet with mostly big open spaces. The outside of the house looks quite modest with the containers painted to reflect the original rust brown colour. Its a cost effective design that leaves a minimal impact on the landscape and the interior is on par with almost any modern home of double the budget. (Architect: David Fenster of Modulus)
2. The Savannah Project – Savannah, Georgia
Designed by artist Julio Garcia, this container house is both his home and studio. It uses 2 containers separated by a central corridor to provide enough width in the house to create large flowing spaces. What’s very interesting is that he chose to leave the external finish of the containers unchanged so that you can clearly see the original containers. Even the container doors are left in tact. The inside is very minimalistic with a polished floor and all white interior. Thanks to the skylight the entire home is flooded with natural light and looks and feels like any modern home.
3. Private Home – El Tiemblo, Spain
There are four 40-foot shipping containers that make up this home located in El Tiemblo, Spain. It was designed by James & Mau Arquitectura and built by Infinski.
4. Private Home – Mojave Desert, California
Designed by one of the pioneers in container housing, EcoTech opted for containers to construct this house in the Mojave Desert. With a harsh climate, the house needed to have a very good thermal response which drove a lot of the design decisions. Its one of the more ambitions container projects with multiple container stacked and modified to suit. The container where not really chose for aesthetic but more for the ease of construction. The house has a large covered space outside with solar panels and roof planting.
5. Guest House – San Antonio, Texas
This project exemplifies what can be done with just a single container. While its not a full house in the full sense of the word, it does create a wonderful living space. It has a living room, study, bathroom and patio. The outside of the container was left in its original finish while the inside is finished in wood panels with very sleek modern windows which makes it look very high-end. Its one of those spaces where the inside is a wonderful surprise to those who just see the shipping container. (Architect: Poteet Architects)
6. House Extension – Nederland, Colorado
While this is only an extension its still a large scale container project. The project is basically 2 containers attached to an existing structure which was then completely redesigned with the additions. The new container additions allowed for vast open spaces inside with reminiscence of the containers to be seen throughout the house. The external cladding however hides the containers very well and gives the house a very contemporary look.
7. Private Home – San Jose, Costa Rica
Built from 2 recycled shipping containers, this remarkable house has a very simple design that’s very effective. The 2 containers are slightly offset to allow for maximum daylight and an internal corridor that has high level windows for light and temperature regulation. The really impressive thing is that the entire cost of the house was under $40,000 which is less than what social housing costs in Costa Rica. The corrugated panels from the containers where painted orange as a tribute to the previous glory of the actual containers. (Architect: Benjamin Garcia Saxe)
8. Private Home – Flagstaff, Arizona
Designed by ECOSA Design Studio this house has a whole host of energy-efficient and en environmental features. Its a multi-storey house that uses shipping containers in a very innovative way. All the containers where cut and fitted off-site and delivered which made the construction time incredibly fast. Much of the internal and exterior parts of the containers will remain “unfinished” to retain the containers’ original character. The finishing pain is a insulating ceramic paint to help it with its “Advanced” rating under the Coconino County Sustainable Building Program.
9. Caterpillar House – Santiago, Chile
Designed by local architects Sebastián Irarrázaval, this house uses shipping containers in a very different way. Its used more aesthetically than functionally and although the containers make up a large potion of the house it also uses a lot of steel and glass. The shipping containers are also clad with a CORTEN steel which is reminiscent of ships and shipping containers. Overall the house is very contemporary and the use of containers very innovative.
10. Farm House, Northern Ireland
This house became famous when the building process was featured on the Channel 4 (UK) hit show Grand Designs. The house was a passion project for architect Patric Bradley who built the house on his family farm. Its a truly modern house which does not sit quietly in the rural setting yet its in perfect harmony. A farm is probably the last place you would expect to find such a forward thinking design but this uses shipping containers in a very smart and unique way. Unlike many container houses, Bradley deliberately hid the containers behind beautifully finished face cladding. The shipping containers where only used as a structure and the end result is nothing short of amazing.
11. Manifesto House – Curacavi, Chile
A truly innovative container house that pushes the idea of re-usable materials to new heights. Made from two 40′ and two 20′ old shipping containers, the entire building is clad in old wooden pallets. The idea of cladding your house in old wooden pallets may sound strange but the architect Infiniski used it in such a way that it adds an element of drama and texture. Leaving the original shipping containers exposed and unfinished can look quite harsh. By painting everything white and arranging the pallets in interesting ways they house gets a totally different character than what the shipping containers give. Elements of the containers are visible everywhere but the most impressive part is that the house was built for less than €80,000 ( about $ 88,000) and its beautiful, spacious and very modern.