Container Home Kit

Back in July, LOT-EK announced their Container Home Kit, a prefab, do-it-yourself assembly unit that “combines multiple shipping containers to build modern, intelligent and affordable homes. 40-foot-long (13.00m) shipping containers are joined and stacked to create configurations that vary in size approximately from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet (90m2 to 270m2).”
Watch the video.

“Each container is transformed [by] cutting sections of its corrugated metal walls,” they explain. “Incrementing the amount of containers allows the house to expand from a 1 bedroom to a 2, 3, and 4 bedrooms home. The landscaping around the houses uses additional containers to configure a swimming pool, a pool house/tool shed and a car port. CHK™ houses can be disassembled and reassembled elsewhere.”
Here’s a poster-sized PDF to guide you through the options, including several dozen external colors:

LOTEK_Contain_CatalogI want a bright yellow one that I’ll park somewhere in Los Angeles, serving as both BLDGBLOG’s new home office and as a space for public architectural lectures. Archinect, Pruned, Subtopia, and Inhabitat will open up similar containers next door; then Edgar Gonzalez, gravestmor, and The Dirt will move in. Soon, a color-coded microcity of container high-rises, run entirely by architecture and design bloggers, will appear – a media complex for the 22nd century, covered in satellite dishes, winning grants and producing documentaries – eventually awarded urban landmark status from the Californian government.
things magazine and The Kircher Society will set up shop. Ballardian. Abstract Dynamics. MoCo Loco. And so on.
We’ll serve too much wine, issue counterfeit passports, discuss seismology and the structural fate of the avant-garde – then design, in secret, an archipelago of hovercrafts the exact size and shape of Hawaii.
Then we’ll invade Hawaii.

(Elsewhere: Architect’s Newspaper and BusinessWeek. Earlier: LOT-EK’s library of airplanes).

51 thoughts on “Container Home Kit”

  1. yo, i’m gonna hook us up with a network for our own crazy underground scene. tunnels fingering subterranean LA like never before, our very own concert bunker, instrumental foundation shafts that each of us can play together from our own container homes, so that are community is both a hardened hive for blogger archiactivism as well as some silly secret garden, with walks that lead to some hollow tour of LA that only certain intrepid geographers will be allowed to comb, growing our commnunity of container blogs to strategic points across the whole metropolis; container homes popping up like pruned flowers in odd geo-annexing bounds, we’ll even rig a chute to the vaults of the archinect HQ’ as the hub for spokes and spokes of internal border crossings for subversive academics, underground researchers, our own little institute of subtopian architectual valves breeching the city scape in notorious documentarian ways, access points to a hidden refuge of artists, freaks, renegade architects, albino explorers, tunnel rats, spontaneous sewer music, halls of mirrors and transported angles of sunlight, earthquake listening stations, game arcades embedded in the earth, and so on. oh so much digging to do in so little time.

  2. Geoff Manaugh wrote:
    “I want a bright yellow one that I’ll park somewhere in Los Angeles, serving as both BLDGBLOG’s new home office and as a space for public architectural lectures.”

    Whoa! Hold on there, Geoff. Not in my celebrity-adjacent backyard, you don’t.

    I grew up in Middle America, where the housing industry had pre-fab dwellings down pat a long time ago. They call them mobile homes. Today they’re more accurately known as manufactured homes, since no mobile-home-owner ever seems inclined to become “mobile” again except during an F4 tornado.

    They’re approximately 30 x 60 feet — almost exactly the same size as a shipping container! — and durned near as ugly as any Maersk Line unit I’ve ever had the privilege of being invited to tea in. It’s especially gratifying to watch these mobile beauties being constructed, which you can do (a two-story model, no less!) at this site but without the hiphop.

    Imagine one going up in your neighborhood.

    I ddin’t think so . . . .

  3. I’m sorry, I can’t bite my lip any longer – I’ve got to say something.
    So they did this in their first week of archi-school – what did they do for the other 363 weeks?

    After your “Architectural Criticism” post of May 5th, I thought you were seriously interested in trying to figure out how to start an architectural conversation with non-architects.
    How on earth can you engage Mr & Mrs Bloggs in any kind of conversation on architecture if this is what you’re going to talk about? They’ll look at you like you’re some kind of religious leader who is trying to bring them into the fold. Nobody wants to live in a pile of rubbish, except architects with 7 years’ de-programming. Is there any wonder that we can’t engage the rest of society in any kind of serious architectural debate when this is our opening line?

    It’s cheap.
    It’s thoughtless.
    It’s ugly.
    Nobody wants it except the elitely educated architectural establishment.
    That’s fine, but you can count me out! I want to live and work somewhere inspiring and beautiful. And containers will never be either, no matter what colour you paint them.

    It’s time we put an end to this container nonsense and sent them back to the ships and docks where they belong.

    For more ranting on this topic (if you can bear it),
    see here.

    Otherwise, keep up the great work!

    1. Your comment only serves to foment backwards thinking ! The container is much like a huge Lego block that you can place in a Miriad of ways according to either the space available or the mind of it’s architect/end user . Just because it wasn’t originally designed for this purpose doesn’t mean it can’t be used for any other purpose i.e. : WD40. As far as beauty that’s what facades are built for because honestly if buildings didn’t have them there would be a shitload of ugly buildings out there !

  4. Oh well – I like them. With the exception of dimension, I think they’re substantially different, in almost every way, from mobile homes – but hey. I see things like this, this, or this, for instance, and I think it’s inspired, interesting, kind of funny, well-colored and aesthetically pleasing. Not to mention thoughtfully economical and vaguely sci-fi. Do these weather well over time? I don’t know. From the looks of shipping containers used for trans-world cargo, I’d say not; but then those have been banged around and exposed to salt-spray for years on end. But put a high-gloss coat of paint on those suckers… give ’em cool windows… and balconies, decks, etc…

    And you’re both still invited to stop by.

  5. And bfunk, how about an aboveground – indeed, sky-based – network of those things? Get out of the dirt and tunnels, enter catwalks and pedestrian bridges, the whole thing tuned to the movements of bedrock below…

    Finally, again, when I see this picture I don’t see this picture – and I’m tempted to suggest that that has nothing to do with my being elitely educated. I think it’s because these are very different projects. (Of course, every link I’m now supplying doesn’t go to LOT-EK’s work, so…)

  6. Wouldn’t it get terribly hot in a metal box in the sun? Stick it in the ground for a container-berm housing unit.

    And imagine, if you will, a fire inside one of these things. Remember making hobo stoves as a boy scout? Take an empty coffee can, remove the bottom, poke a hole in the bottom for air to get in, and a hole in the top opposite for air to get out. Place pan on top. Do not touch.

    So a bermed container unit on fire. Otherwise known as a ‘kiln.’

    Crap. I just created the ad campaign for more traditional mobile home manufacturers. Sorry.

  7. design, in secret, an archipelago of hovercrafts the exact size and shape of Hawaii.
    Then we’ll invade Hawaii.

    sometimes when i read this blog i think you’re completely insane – but i keep reading it.

  8. “design, in secret, an archipelago of hovercrafts the exact size and shape of Hawaii.
    Then we’ll invade Hawaii.”

    sometimes when i read this blog i think you’re completely insane. then i think i might be in love with you.

  9. so i have to say, as an engineer, not an architect. Mobile homes vs. dryvans is no comparison at all.

    you Cannot stack mobile homes nine high. You cannot throw an empty mobile home in the water and expect it to float. You cannot expect a mobile home to be near airtight. Mobile homes cannot be recycled as a unit. you cannot expect a mobile home to survive hurricanes/tornados/a tumble from a cargoship. and you cannot purchase retired mobile homes for refit into affordable housing.

    From a social perspective, housing made from used shipping containers is maximizing the use-life of a product, and creating a medium for housing that crosses the boundaries of local infrastructure limits. Build where you want, then ship your home anywhere in the world. Every port has the equipment to handle the dryvan.

    I think if this medium is going to survive the stereotyping masses, it is going to need a drastic aversion to any mobile home comparisons

  10. I live in AB, Canada. At present we have one of our infamous northern winters coming on and many people living in tents around the FortMac Tarsands project. Though these ‘container houses’ are ugly, they could be put to great use in areas where housing is needed for the short term. In a few years there will be very little need for housing in the FortMac area as the TarSands project will be completed. These houses are easily put up and easily moved. They provide a great solution to the problems of short term housing for huge infastuctural projects such as this or even great housing for the growing problem of homelessness within our urban centers.

    Perhaps looking past the esthetic is required here.

  11. I live in northern England (the U.K) and the cost of new-build properties is horrendous. If the containers are more economical per square metre to build, quicker to erect and construction not dependant on the crap weather we have, I’m all for them. At the end of the day, if you don’t like the look of the finished article, they can always be clad and a traditional slate/tile roof put on.

  12. I recently bought two of these, which will be the basis of my studio. The day they were set down, I had over 600 square feet of usable shelter (with solid mahogany floors) for about 10 dollars a square foot. Where else are you going to find usable, space for anything near that price? I mention this in consideration for the millions of people who can not afford to pay $300-$400 a square foot for a home. I can hardly wait to start playing with them! On the other hand, you might try to think of them as raw building material. Give it time, people will find many ways to make great homes using these.

  13. OK, Enough all ready….. As a designer/builder I get so tired of folks who “bad mouth” an idea yet have never tried to build anything let alone something new….. CONTAINER HOMES are for real! They don’t need to look like boxes, they are strong, safe, less expensive, exceptable in any neighborhood (depending on their outward appearance) and can be built nearly anyplace by anyone…. I am doing it on the Gulf Coast for storm relief victums and I don’t think you can tell the finished product from conventional construction!!!!!!

  14. Recommend you research the field further. This stuff is the future. I own a US$250,000.00 home in Florida and what they are doing to us for hurricane insurance is a crime. Would love to have a 32×40 two story to live in, paid for. No insurance req’d. Good to 240 mph winds without a groan.

  15. Son has one buried two feet in the ground. Great tornado shelter in the midwest US. Check out the Tampa Armature Works website. They are making a quiet killing on these things.

  16. These are also mudslide, flood, tsunami, projectile, and mold resistant.
    My company
    partnering with is the first built-on-site container housing company in the US. We are unveiling new models for sale at this time and we will also build to suit. Check out our website for more info and advice. I am one of the first container house proponents in the U.S. (13 years experience). Look for us on the news in the future. We are taking this to a new level, and we have quite an awesome group of experts (Architects from the U.S. and Italy). Check out the website and spread the word we are going to be updating often over the next few weeks.

    If you still need your questions answered, please contact me at the below email address and I’ll be happy to assist.

    We have the most sustainable and green housing in the world, reusing containers is the ultimate form of recycling. Let us know what you think about container housing.

  17. As a general contractor I can imagine the same types of resistance when the first people moved out of caves into wooden structures. “Wood burns!”. “Stone lasts forever.” Blah, blah, blah. I would much rather be in a wooden building than an unreinforced masonry building in a flood or earthquake. Containers are simply another option to provide housing at a reasonable cost ($12-15 per sq. ft. as opposed to $100-300 per sq. ft. for an unfinished shell. If you don’t like their looks, take a look at some of the buildings that have been hailed as masterpieces in the past. By the way, if you can’t build your own house. be grateful that some of us don’t listen to all of your negativity, man.

  18. Im 14 years old. I am heading towards a architectural/ designer career. Im nuts about container homes, infact cant wait to move out of my parents home to live in one! It would be so great as a first project. When people say house, people think bricks… thats what makes a container home so unique and great. I cant believe people can say bad things about them, maybe there not everyones ‘cup of tea’ but then again prehaps brick houses are not everones cup of tea. Im 15 this year, i hope that in three or four years i will be living in a container home.

  19. They are already widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq for accomidation and offices. I lived in a 40′ with a bathroom and it was great. I am sitting in a 20′ one working right now. Looking forward to building one (2 40′) in a remote location in the Carribean some day. I need some plans and help with mine.

    “Keep thinking inside the box”!

  20. dont forget termite proof and earthquake proof and fireproof

    lots of creative building potential with a container too, just like blocks when we were kids.

  21. Another annoying container house.
    Hey, architects! How about using COMPLEMENTARY materials like concrete and classic styling?
    Go look at Frank Lloyd Wrights “Fireproof House”. Now draft plans using containers and concrete panels that lock using standard container fittings. Google Tandemloc for pics.

  22. I set up a great little 20 footer in Tasmania. Theres a few pics on

    If you scroll down. One of the best things is the instant shelter, without the authorities coming down on you like they would if you built an illegal shed or hut. Plus it locks up and is safe and inconspicuous.

  23. Has anyone factored in the cost of putting up the insulated wood stud inner walls to provide insulation. I am not sure how the cost compares to build the same size box – stick framed. You have to transport the containers many miles from the port as well. I imagine building from scratch is cheaper.

  24. I was bored at work the other day and decided to try to make a decent design for the 33′ x 100′ property my home is currently on. This is what I came up with (using MS Paint).

    It uses 1 10′, 3 20′ and 3 30′ containers. I figured that if I was going to be covering the entire property with a steel shed, I could just use the tops of some of the containers (with some strategic railing) for an artist’s workshop and library on the second floor. A row two high at the front would keep out the prying eyes of the public from the street.

    Oh, I’m going to say that this design is © Rizak the Really Horrible, 2007.

  25. Let’s all remember that when Bill Gates falls asleep inside or walks out of his $40 million mansion to go for a walk in a beautiful park, and a hobo falls asleep inside or walks out of his $40 collection of taped-together cardboard boxes to go for a walk in the same park, then both men are experiencing and enjoying life and the beautiful park the same. And when Bill returns to his lavish home to watch T.V., and the hobo returns to watch the same show on his battery-powered T.V., then again both men are enjoying life the same (except that Bill has more phone calls and headaches and property taxes to deal with, and the hobo has to go to the local swimming pool to take a shower).

    So, who cares what the exterior of your living box looks like???

    We Americans have really screwed- up values and priorities, which is why so many of us are so spiritually impoverished. As Jesus Christ said, we “strain out gnats and swallow camels”– we are so worried about insignificant things, and we miss the big things.
    God bless you, everyone!

  26. Forget about how “ugly” they look. Of course they are, but they’re skinnable, which includes regular looking siding. Even when they aren’t skinned though I’ve seen some pretty good looking creations using bright colors that make them positively attractive – at least to me. has some good ones in a slide show on the lower part of the page of some neat advanced things that can be done with them. No insurance? That’s great! In Florida insurance is killing everyone!

  27. Isn’t the same what we do for designing such buildings many times? Eject a part similar to containers body, imply similar ones to somewhere and play with their lenght/width etc.. They are not looking that ugly. But yeah, if I was Billy the Gate, I would love to live in a palace. Why don’t you people focus on more cheap things except of garbages?

  28. What’s so ugly? Light play on the corrugations could be quite interesting.

    Sure, I’d prefer an Ando or Predock, but this seems feasible, esp. if you’re near a major port. Like LA, Bay Area, Portland, Seattle…

    Pavilion design with a roof overhead to take the heat perhaps? DeMaria seems to get it.

    Given the narrow width it seems the claustrophobia factor is the challenge. But big roll-ups, central court and Mediterranean inspired outdoor living appear promising.

    Less is more here.

  29. Some people on here have mentioned some concerns regarding insulation for hot and cold climates, interior walls driving up costs, the unpleasant aesthetics. Try googling “Bob Villa Container House” there video clips on his website of a container house project being built in Florida. The video shows how the interior walls are setup, talks about the spray on ceramic insulation used, and also shows the finished product, which was stucco’d and fits in seemlessly with the other non-container houses.

    I also suggest people check out and google Peter DeMaria. There is a good video interview of him on a online video channel called Green Living.

  30. The original “kit” design was posted in 2005. The graphics are impressive, as is the little cad movie. But, where is the real thing? They don’t exist and probably never will. There is no kit. The other reality is that by the time you cut, modify, insulate, add interior and exterior mods you probably far exceed the costs of standard lumber homes. If these things made sense you’d see them being used all over the place, not just the occasional one promoted by architects to further their name.

  31. … one other thing. The idea of container architecture originally started as a Military technology that has seen successful field use. Given the track record of how successful Military technology has eventually entered the commercial markets over time, the odds are with looking good for container architecture.


  32. I had a details response to Anonymous, which did not post for some reason. 🙁 . I will try to sum it up quick below

    This lot-tek kit won’t see popularity in the US housing market, because of its industrial design.

    However, container architecture (C.A. from now on) is gaining in popularity right now as a solution to hurricane and tornado resistant housing. These houses use ISBU for the shell of the house, and finish the interior and exterior to match the surrounding houses in the neighborhood. You wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. Insurance companies are also providing big discounts to this type of housing, since piece of flying storm debris is less likely to break the wall of a steel reinforced structure.

    Also, three things need to be kept in mind when thinking about the demand growth for C.A. styled homes.
    1) Overall decline in housing market demand
    2) C.A. is a disruptive technology that few designers, builders, and city officials (they give out building permits) know how to deal with.
    3) Consumers associate C.A. projects with pure industrial design.

    The demand growth of C.A. can be compared to the demand growth of electric cars.
    Electric cars were not popular in the 90’s because they were ugly, expensive, and the combustion engine was fine. After gas prices created a demand base for EV’s, automakers made prettier EV’s and were able to use economies of scale to produce them cheaper.

    Due to the need of stronger homes, C.A. is building its demand base in hurricane and tornado affected regions. This will allow designers the opportunity to make prettier non-industrial designs, and ISBU construction to utilize economies of scale to lower the costs even further.

  33. The term “Container house” should be changed to “Irony Home” due to the fact that “thinking outside the box” has lead us to living inside a box.

    All joking aside though. This is the best idea for housing there is. Recycled, bullet proof, puts the overpaid unionized trades person out of work, reduces our dependance on “forest building materials”, will last forever. AND the best part suberbia hates it.

    You want to be successful? Find out what the masses do and then do the opposite.

    All the sheep should keep on Mooo’n!

  34. As a structural engineer working on a few of these projects, I have to jump in with my comments. I guess it reflects my tastes as an engineer that I like the way these buildings look.

    For low cost housing, they are many times better than mobile homes as far as strength and life span.

    They are also good for use in coastal zones, high seismic use areas, and you can build a very open floor plan in a long narrow lot like you find in a city.

  35. I was just looking at a container home built by Gorilla Designs in Utah. You would never know it was a container home from the outside or inside. Beautiful, economical, green and comfortable what more could you ask for.

  36. Hello from Egypt!

    I think this is a fascinating idea.

    Here, cement and steel are the standard. And because they are the standard, they are ludicrously expensive.

    The outer shell of any home here costs about twice as much using cement and steel as it does using containers.

    If you also factor in that it takes about 3 months to construct a building vs. maybe a week using the containers and I think it's a "no-brainer".

    As for inside and outside finish, cost will be almost the same!

    In the middle of the desert, buildings made of cement, steel and bricks are ovens, as well.

    In the end, intelligent design makes all the difference. 🙂

  37. Shipping containers are highly viable building blocks for any kind of accommodation.
    The challenges are not in the technical and design field – the challenges are perceptual!
    The majority of people, especially those finding their safety within the confines of bureaucracies (or behind anonymous comments), are scared of something different, it unsettles their comfort zone, challenging their being and status – it also gives them renewed impetus to enforce their otherwise lacking authority via a group of likewise depraved individuals on the 'out of the box' thinkers and doers (a global example of this can be found in communist and other authoritarian societies).
    Whatever the case might be, we were granted approval to build a house with shipping containers on municipal property in South Africa – hats off to a bright spark in the municipality of East London!
    God bless,

  38. I'm a big fan of green living and currently in the process of building my own shipping container house. A big thanks on great e-Book which gave me answers to all of my questions related to the subject of building a shipping containers house –

  39. Building with containers is worth taking a look at if you are contemplating a new home.


    Lots of example buildings, details, facts, and links to other articles. They have something new that you can setup your own project wiki to get help with your project if you are the design build sort…

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