Shipping Container House, Connecticut

The Final Product

Here’s some pictures taken by the client for the shipping container house in New Haven, CT. This house was built from six containers, and features a more traditional architecture for the front. This project was built by Marengo Structures, and the designer was Christian Salvati. We worked closely with him to produce the structural design, and the intent of the project was to build an attractive house at an affordable price.  The house was built on a vacant lot in an older neighborhood in New Haven, Connecticut.  The builder wanted to make the house fit well into the architecture of the neighborhood, which consisted of houses built in the 1920′s.  To make a container house do this, you have to cover the containers up to a certain extent, which was done in the front of the structure.  Please see the video to get the best feel for scope and intent of the Project:

 

The interior is nearing the finish.

 

As you can see, the finish on the inside is standard sheet rock.  We have very large windows, which provide quite a bit of natural light.

The front is being furred out to allow a more traditional siding to be placed over it.

 

The house is finally starting to take shape!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Final Product

The final product is above.

The video below provides a very good explanation of the house and shows some interesting views of it while it was under construction:

Comments (17)

  1. Mike

    Love, can you guys send some more photos? Also, what estimate would you use on the “build cost”

    What price do you think you could build a 1,280 sq. ft 2 story container home for in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. What was your top 5 costs? Any pro forma numbers you might want to share or have a link to? Thanks Mike

    Reply
    1. admin (Post author)

      So far construction has run about $125 – 150 SF – hopefully we’ll see that cost come down. As of this time, I generally won’t design for individuals, there are too many things that can wrong and there aren’t enough contractors around to do the work. I am confining my work to investors and builders that will be building multiples of these and are able to understand how many problems these things can bring on.
      George

      Reply
      1. Mike

        George– Thanks for the info. I have my Florida GC license, realty licens and am looking at this for multi-family.
        So simple math for your post is 2,000 sq. ft would cost $300K. If I am the GC would you still estimate that costs, if I had my own labor. I fully understand stick built, but am trying to get a grip on the gotcha’s and work up a pro forma for the sq. ft. pricing on a container multi-family development. Can you give me an idea of your typical structural engineering fees?

        Thanks Mike

        Reply
        1. admin (Post author)

          Mike, I’ll go ahead and respond publicly since this will benefit all. So far in the houses I’ve worked on, the cost for the builder ran between $125.00/SF to $200.00/SF. The actual work with the containers ran about $20-30/SF, so why the high cost of construction I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to really examine the numbers. For the military training structures, the costs run about $40.00/SF.

          There is general consensus among many of us that you can get the costs down to $50 to $60 a square foot, but I haven’t seen it reached yet. There are some critical issues you have to consider:
          1. The biggest problem has been the architects. I know engineers and contractors love to bitch about architects, but this is serious. The container designs I’ve worked have often been splapped together with no regard for how the structure is affected. This can seriously run up the cost. Also, I’ve seen them do stuff that would run the cost to extremes – such as cantilevering these from hills, cutting them lengthwise at angles, putting them in upside down, the list goes on. Why not stack them like they do on ships? Also, a number of architects I’ve worked with were too $%^ing lazy to go look at containers at a storage yard and see how they are built. This is not the standard engineer vs. architect problem – this is serious.
          2. There is a lot of cutting and welding. To make the structure work well, you need a lot of continuous welding. Cutting is tough, and grinding off the old paint is a nightmare.
          3. A lot of this is experimental. I just finished a hotel design in Florida. I got the masonry details from a book I bought from the NCMA. I got the construction notes from another set of plans. The computer spat out my column anchor details. Oh, and I have three books on masonry design, two on concrete, two on structural steel, one on foundations. Do you know how much I have of details and notes from other sources on containers? None. Do you know how many books I have on container design? I have a 1/4″ thick self published book by some guy that I think lives in the woods that has very little information at all. I have the ISO Standards for containers, that is it. Be prepared for hassles.

          For my fee, figure about $1.00 a square foot, with $1,500 as a minimum.

          Hope this helps,
          George

          Reply
          1. Mike

            Thanks Georege, very help. best wishes for the holidays. I look forward to speaking with you. Mike

    2. Jeremiah

      Mike,
      I’m a practicing architectural designer in Jacksonville, Florida (Murray Hill). I’d love to talk with you about your ideas for a home in Jax Beach. Feel free to contact me anytime.

      Cheers.
      Jeremiah

      Reply
  2. Container Hire Prices

    First of all, I like your blog. Second of all, I must admit that a year or two back I had no idea that these shipping containers can be used in building a house without a problem ALTHO I work in a company that rents containers in the last 7 years! I like what you did with this one, Good job

    Reply
  3. Wayne

    What a great idea. This is such a great idea to reuse existing material. I drove by the property about a week ago and it looks like the project is progressing very well. When the project is completed I would like to be able to see the inside, would that be possible?

    Reply
    1. admin (Post author)

      You’ll need to get permission of the builder to go inside, he has been very selective so far as to who he lets in. Please send me your phone number by e-mail and I will forward it to the builder so he can contact you.

      George

      Reply
      1. Craig

        I have spent my whole working life in construction in one form or another and I seriously am thinking of designing and building a container home. I think the main issue with container homes is that if you want it to look like a common stick built home there is no advantage and may cost more. You need to think out of the box in regard to design. You need to intregrate the container design as was stated stack them like they do on a ship, with low cost add ons or spaces between the containers to contain plumbing and HAVC. Stick with a flat roof don’t side the containers. Accept the fact the rooms and spaces will be smaller. Alot of people spend big dollars for metal siding and the minimalist look. You can have a good looking structure and simple at the same time.

        Reply
        1. admin (Post author)

          I agree -the problem I have run into is so many architects want to defy gravity and build something totally impossible with containers and then get upset when they find the reality.

          George

          Reply
          1. Scott

            That is why we sometimes call them Arti-chokes!

            Great work that you, the Architect and the GC did on the two Atlanta homes.

            If there was a way to standardize the projects, that would drive the sq footage down.

            SAS

  4. Dima

    hello George!will be any problem with condensation at -25C in winter in container home?how much isolation interior and exterior do you recomend?

    Reply
    1. admin (Post author)

      There hasn’t been any issues – the key with combatting condensation is figuring where your dew point will be in the wall and putting a moisture barrier in the right place. Or, the better solution is to use a closed cell type insulation, which does not allow water to penetrate. If you used batt insulation, I think you’d have issues with condensation against the steel side without a proper vapor barrier on the inside.

      Reply
    2. admin (Post author)

      Dima,
      Condensation sure could be a problem. You need to insulate according to the local codes, and to avoid condensation I recommend using spray on closed cell foam insulation.
      George

      Reply
  5. marci

    i am thinking of ways to build a container home that can easily be “deconstructed” into it’s compentent containers for transport Do you think that would be possible?

    Reply
    1. admin (Post author)

      Yes, if you don’t have really large openings and use the commercial (Tandemlok) connectors.
      George

      Reply

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