TK Containership SLEIPNER (IMO 9322554) passing Hook of Holland en route to Klaipeda Roel Hemkes

In the quest for more affordable housing and reduce and reuse, some builders have tried to repurpose shipping containers. This Curbed article is the all-you-need-to-know guide about shipping container homes.

Shipping containers fill a crucial niche in the world’s economy. They are large and sturdy enough to uniformly transport goods but small enough to fit on trucks and light enough to be moved by cranes and forklifts. However, over the decades a challenge emerged: an excess of used containers.

Where some saw a problem, innovative architects saw an eco-friendly opportunity. Since the mid-2000s, designers began repurposing containers into a wide array of buildings. Some structures can be simple—a single compact shipping container outfitted for dwelling—while others are complex designs that use multiple containers merged with other structural components.

So what exactly goes into building a shipping container home? And are they as economical, sustainable, and livable as claimed? We break down what you need to know below.

What is a shipping container house?
A shipping container house is any dwelling made from a shipping container, but the resulting structures can be quite diverse. Shipping containers usually come in two sizes, either 20 feet by 8 feet or 40 feet by 8 feet. The smaller of the two equals about 160 square feet of living space, while the larger container gets you 320 square feet. There are also two height types, regular (8.5 feet high) or a high cube container that provides about a foot of extra vertical living space. Some shipping container homes stop here, using these compact spaces as standalone tiny homes or offices.

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