Container Living

I think the first time I ran across the idea of living in a shipping container was the film Mies vailla menneisyyttä [The Man Without A Past], a finnish movie about a man who gets mugged, loses his memory, and has to start over from scratch. It’s a pretty good movie, too. Poor guy has to actually rent a plain, boring shipping container.

Then the latest Rolling Thunder (crimethInc’s magazine) came out, and they had an article devoted to clever swedish radicals who got together and built their own autonomous space, Kulturkampanjen. Pictured above, it uses four cargo containers as the basic structural support to build off of. Pretty neat.

Then today I ran across’s exposition of container houses, and it’s pretty amazing, with a lot of different approaches introduced.

I love the re-use and recycling of industrial byproduct. I do wonder, though, how terribly hard these things would be to insulate. Perhaps the coldest night I’ve ever spent was in an empty gondola making its way from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, cause that thick steel just sucked the heat right out of us. Summer must be even worse. Still, a cheap, neat house is a pretty awesome thing.

5 thoughts on “Container Living”

  1. For the one year I was doing the hated architorture MFA, this was one of my research focuses. Shipping containers as modular architecture has precedents as far back as the 70’s, when containerization was standardized. Furthermore, the things are cheap or free in America, as the country imports far more than it exports, and leaving the things to pile up by docks is cheaper than discarding or recycling them.
    Sadly, since nobody makes money off of creative reuse of resources, building codes and local ordinances tend to be slanted against them. Few urban areas allow living in containers unless an expensive architecture firm has doodled pictures of them and hired a contractor to site and modify them. This apparently makes them design instead of garbage. The fact is that shipping containers are structurally sound with no modification stacked up to 12 high. Insulating them for heat and cold is wicked easy, too. Good luck getting the permits.

  2. @willow: typical hay bales when used in insulation have an R-value of 40, but if they get moist they sometimes have a rot problem. Local fire codes may prohibit their use- even though they’re no more flammable than conventional insulation.

  3. I know that usually, when people build strawbale, they coat it in cob to make it more fireproof. From what I’ve read, burning cobbed straw will just kind of smolder. My friend is going to build his house out of cob and the firecodes are making him have an electric motor on his well so that it can put out any fires, even though his dang house is made of dirt. sigh.

  4. I thought about it awhile back, and it would work, but you’d need insulation and paneling, a torch to cut ventilation and window holes and the usual electricity and plumbing. Plus a site. You could half-bury it too.

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