Shipping Container Guest House

Poteet Architects in San Antonio, Texas recently constructed this shipping container house for a local client to use as a tiny guest house in her artist community. The plan is to also use it as a summer house, an art house and for entertaining. The owner enjoys the shipping container house for its uncluttered, sunlit appeal and the wonderful blue color.

The shipping container was chosen specifically for its bright color. Shipping containers are a readily available resource for building because they are usually abandoned by shipping companies. The architects mounted the container on recycled telephone poles, and the floor and walls were covered with bamboo. Sliding doors, windows, heating, air conditioning and an 8 foot by 4 foot bathroom with a composting toilet and red sheet metal walls were also added. A garden storage room was also added at the end of the container, which retains its original access doors. A patio with a cantilevered overhang was added to the front of the house and a rooftop garden with a drip system was installed by Madrone Landscape Architecture.

Poteet Architects is a 12-year-old firm based in San Antonio, Texas. Jim Poteet opened the office with the hope that the firm could further the sustainable revitalization of downtown San Antonio. The firm’s portfolio of completed work includes residential, commercial and institutional projects, but is perhaps best known for the sensitive adaptive reuse of existing buildings and a fresh, rigorous approach to modern interior design. The Container Guest House won a 2010 Design Award from AIA San Antonio.

Photos courtesy of Poteet Architects, LP

 

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

44 Comments Shipping Container Guest House

  1. robin yates

    I love this excontainer design ( except the colour !)It just goes to show how easy it is to make these containers into an exciting and novel place to live.Somewhere to let the designer in you let loose.

    Reply
  2. mark

    Nice Job…. I Like the roof top…

    I constantly get asked about designing with shipping containers. The thing to keep in mind is that it is difficult in Northern climates to use them. If you look at the narrowness of the volumn then add layers of insulation to keep it warm in the winter or cool in the summer there is very little space left. There are also problems with moisture build up against the metal… picture a sweating beer can.
    Shipping container homes have been kind of a notion of “something for nothing” mentality… however if you look at the time, money spent to remodel one of these you quickly realize there is no such thing… it all costs. I do appreciate the idea of recycling but at what cost?

    Please remember these things before dreaming of a shipping container home. And if you do buy one… learn to use a metal cutting torch, metal cutting saws and a welder, hiring folks to do this type of work is pricey, much more so than simple wood construction due to costly tools, and the danger of the work. Not trying to be a spoil sport, I just want people to understand the facts of shipping containers as prefabricated volumns. For more on what I call regionalism and sustainability thoughts see my blog entry called “sustainable design?” at
    http://greenovisionblog.blogspot.com/2008_02_01_archive.html

    Reply
    1. Alfred

      Thanks for a great comment!

      It’s just this kind of post that help readers evaluate what is presented here, and whether it’s really practical for them.

      Reply
      1. Ricardo

        Here’s a sugestion: cover all metal areas with industrial black cork slabs. In Portugal and Spain it is widely used in housing as insulation. It is also 100% natural, durable, resistant to practily any weather conditions and is nice looking too. I would say the condensation problems would significantly reduced. If not, a well thought ventilation scheme would surely do the rest.

        There’s only one problem, it’s water absorsion values. Although it does not rot or degrade, when soaked it looses a lot of it’s insulation capability and in freezing climates it just cracks to pieces. So, when used as the external layer, it should be painted or vernished.

        The green roof alredy does a lot for insulation of the top area, in moderate climates 2 inch thick cork slabs glued to the liteira walls would probably be more than enough. Check them out:

        http://www.isocor.pt/index.htm

        note: I’m not in the cork business, my work is with green roofing and vertical gardens.

        Ricardo Lindim

        Reply
    2. Shipping Container Homes

      @ Mark

      you actually make some very valid points – creating homes from Containers is not a straight forward as most of the positive press is presenting it.

      There is definately the great, the good, the bad and ugly as they say.

      I would however caution your advice however about DIY metal work. Whilst I am all for sweat equity and owner builder projects the metal work on container – particularly where you are removing large section of side wall or all the green roof ect is not suitable as a “buy a welder and do it your self project”

      I would encourage anyone to learn to weld, its an awsome skill that will pay on spades but this is a medium to advanced welder project – something you might take on after 1 year or so of practice on smaller jobs.

      Please remember welding is a skilled trade and custom, potentially structural modification – like the green roof is NOT a project to learn on.

      Be certain about you ability to take on a project like this or bring in a expert.

      Reply
  3. mark

    Any idea on what these cost to build out like this? Do you know if there are any plans to mass produce / sell these?

    Thanks,

    mark

    Reply
  4. Phil Austin

    Is that all one container? What size is it?

    The largest we use here in the UK is 40 feet long and they are commonly converted into Buiding Site Offices, club houses etc.

    Reply
  5. alice

    When left intact they are totally bearproof storage. Even a polar bear won’t get in. Very popular as storage units in the Arctic where all heavy freight is brought in on container ships during the summer. Too bad they’re hard to insulate because they’d be great solutions for the Northern housing shortage otherwise. When I lived in the Eastern Arctic we used to invent dream villages made up of all sorts of little houses under a dome like a village in a snow globe but with the snow outside. It would be interesting to have an Arctic container model that came prewired and preplumbed, used to move freight then left behind for housing. There must be a good method of insulating without bulk, something adapted from the space program perhaps?

    Reply
  6. liz

    A metal box in the sun is an oven, a metal box in the cold is a freezer. Condensation, you bet! I agree with Mark. Recycling them is a great idea, but maybe not for housing.

    Reply
    1. StoneMaven

      They make great storm shelters/cellars. My brother in law has a 20’x6’x6′ in his backyard and it has held up perfectly for 15 years. Their is a company out of Louisiana refurbishing them for this.

      Reply
  7. Moontreeranch

    Heating demand in Texas…is pretty small…and all of that glass may provide a nice view but is thermally inefficient in any climate where heating is required.

    That much bamboo…also eats into the “green” nature of recycling a container.

    A recent study found that Bamboo flooring had three times the embodied energy of Concrete in Denver markets. This study covered only the transport of Bamboo compared to the manufacture AND transport of the concrete.

    Those that are familiar with the the manufacturing process of Bamboo would agree that All of the boiling / kiln drying and chemical inputs would push this difference even further.

    http://www.oriental-bamboo.co.za/reference/embodied_energy_considerations_in_existing_leed_credits.pdf

    Reply
  8. Benjamin

    Re: “Shipping containers are a readily available resource for building because they are usually abandoned by shipping companies.”

    Funny, I don’t see a lot of them laying by the roadside.

    Reply
    1. TM

      You are right . They don’t lay in the roadside anywhere . In Baltimore , Md , they were every where , but they laid in the companies’s yards near the harbor and the companies do sell them about $ 2000 each . I know , because I contacted them to ask for the price . They are not cheap either and it cost more to ship to some where . TM.

      Reply
    2. ImReady

      I’ve been checking prices of shipping containers, and I wish I could find one for $2000.00!! That’s about half enough money these days for a good container, even a 20′ one. Check Ebay, you’ll see new pricing. Not a cheap investment, and very complicated to turn into a house. I considered building one, but, after investigating, decided it is too much trouble. I intend to build on a trailer, with conventional building methods. I intend to build to sell. Not just for myself.

      Reply
  9. TM

    I have tried to buy the shipping containers to do as house in my land ( 5 acres in DE ) The planning and zoning required to have engineer architect to design the plan and it costs a lot to hire one . My dream is gone …because hiring one is cost almost half of the regular house been built .
    But it is nice to look at …and dream … TM.

    Reply
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  13. Mike Sullivan

    Looks great!
    I would like to know if lead paint or treated wood floors were a problem. Also, were there structural problems regarding wind load/anchorage or lateral load calculations.
    Thank you.
    mike

    Reply
  14. ShelterKraft

    Great cargo house! One thing has me perplexed though, why is there a shower curtain around the toilet? It looks like a composting toilet. Maybe the shower curtain is just there to keep the toilet dry when showering in this space?

    Reply
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  16. Ricardo

    Here’s a sugestion: cover all metal areas from the exterior with industrial black cork slabs. In Portugal and Spain it is widely used in housing as insulation. It is also 100% natural, durable, resistant to practily any weather conditions and is nice looking too. I would say the condensation problems would significantly reduced. If not, a well thought ventilation scheme would surely do the rest.

    There’s only one problem, it’s water absorsion values. Although it does not rot or degrade, when soaked it looses a lot of it’s insulation capability and in freezing climates it just cracks to pieces. So, when used as the external layer, it should be painted or vernished.

    The green roof alredy does a lot for insulation of the top area, in moderate climates 2 inch thick cork slabs glued to the outside of the walls would probably be more than enough. Check them out:

    http://www.isocor.pt/index.htm

    note: I’m not in the cork business, my work is with green roofing and vertical gardens.

    Ricardo Lindim

    Reply
  17. Peter

    How can I get one of these installed in my backyard in the Chicago suburbs? Even if it’s a 3 season room, it’s beautiful….

    Reply
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  21. Steve

    Looks really awesome but I was curious as to what kind of air conditioning / heating system it has. I don’t see anything in the pics.

    Reply
  22. Courtney

    These storage container homes are the coolest thing to me. This one Particularly is my favorite! It is my hopes to have one just like it built on to my future home as a meditation area for me and my family to soak search and Co-creat together.

    Reply
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