The shipping container design industry is booming due to the large demand for these cost effective, eco-friendly, and versatile living space “building blocks”. Because of the standardization in the shipping industry in the 1950s, the sizes of shipping containers are set within certain parameters. More and more architects are being approached by clients to build homes, offices and buildings with these containers. As a result, we are seeing an increase in container home designs popping up in cities and suburbs.
Shipping Container Dimensions
The range of dimensions for shipping containers is from 8 feet at the low end, and up to 53 feet at the high. The 8, 10, and 53 foot containers are specially made and not as readily available, although you can find them. The most common containers are the 20 foot and 40 foot boxes that were primarily used for dry goods. The actual dimensions of a standard 40 foot ISO box are 39’5” in length, 7’8” in width, and 7’10” in height. The standard 20 foot box is 19’4” length, 7’8” width, and 7’10” height. As you can see, the difference is the length as is customary in the boxes, except for the HQ, or High Cube boxes which are 1’ taller than the standards.
Given these dimensions, there are several styles and designs available for ISBU containers, or inter-modal steel building units, which is what the shipping containers are called when they are used for creating buildings and homes.
Examples of Container Buildings and Container Home Designs
Stacked 9 containers high, the Freitag Shop in Zurich is the tallest shipping container structure on record. This building is a shop, warehouse, and business office center to Freitag, a company which designs, produces, and sells cargo bags made from recycled materials. The design is simple and industrial, but not without charm.
While Zurich built up, others expanded widely. In Le Harve, France, architects designed “The Crou”, a pyramid shaped structure that serves as a student housing center which was made from 100 recycled shipping containers that were both stacked and spread out . This building is reported to be stylish, comfortable, affordable, and of course, sustainable. Other student buildings of recycled shipping containers are hostels, such as the Keetwonen dorms in Amsterdam, and the student led Container Space Project.
From retail space and malls to single and multifamily dwellings, the current trend in design using recycled shipping containers is amazing. While the containers seem too small at first glance to comfortably house a family, the layouts are often very spacious due to the great use of space.
Houses with living roofs, solar panels, and innovative thermal and solar designs, make shipping container homes the perfect opportunity to “get off the grid” and live simply. Still, in an urban setting, these unique and design forward buildings are fashioned for museums, apartments, and even community centers.
While the price per square foot of traditional housing continues to rise, it appears that the cost, functionality, and eco-friendly aspects of the ISBU, along with the design possibilities which seem endless makes the future of shipping container homes solid.
Want to see some container home pictures? Visit our container gallery page.