Shipping Containers

Shipping Containers
‘Dream’ Homes for Thousands

I was planning on writing about composting toilets today but came across an article on the CNN website that I just had to share with everyone. So toilets will have to wait for another day.

It was a side trip through a destitute, ramshackle neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, that detoured Brian McCarthy from building houses in Albuquerque to an idea to offer the very poor a chance to own a home.

Container Home

PFNC stands for “Por Fin Nuestra Casa.” Translated in English this simply means “Finally, a home of our own.” These words are the foundation of PFNC, whose goal is to provide housing to those who most desperately need it around the globe.

PFNC utilizes surplus shipping containers resulting from the United States’ consistent trade deficit.  These containers serve as the building block of PFNC housing, but go through an extensive conversion process to make them a home.  PFNC offers an affordable housing solution that is scalable and fully portable. Each PFNC unit includes 1st world amenities for a price of less than $10,000 (US).

Though considered sparse by American standards, these tiny houses have everything a person needs to live a simple life. I personally would like to promote this company for what they are attempting to do and I hope they have great success. I am contacting them to learn more on how to help get these to people who really need a new home.

To learn more go to the PFNC site. Watch the video NBC has put together on PFNC and watch the walk through video as well. I would encourage you also to read the CNN article.

Floorplan

Prototype Construction

Prototype Construction

Exterior Construction

Exterior Construction

Kitchen

Kitchen

Bathroom

Bathroom

Bedroom

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42 Comments Shipping Containers

  1. Taryn Merrick

    I love this idea. My family is thinking of doing this but on a slightly larger scale by combining 2 or 3 containers. If anyone has experience having done this, and knows the best place to buy containers and any tips, please contact me. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Krishnan

      Good Day!

      At the outset let us thank you for sparing your valuable time for our Company’s Introduction. We Heaven Homes located in Sharjah- Hamriyah Free Zone – UAE functions as a Total Solution Provider for the Construction, Engineering, Residential & Oil and Gas Sector and Armed Forces all over the world. Our main area of activities as under”-

      1. Prefabricated Modular Buildings
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      4. Oil & Gas on shore Rig Accommodations, Army Camps

      Reply
  2. Matt Stuart

    …these are soooo cooool !!!

    I think I’m going this route. One for my house and another for a garage space/workshop

    I should be able to connect the two as well…

    Reply
  3. Ida

    Though considered sparse by American standards, these tiny houses have everything a person needs to live a simple life. I personally would like to promote this company for what they are attempting to do and I hope they have great success. I am contacting them to learn more on how to help get these to people who really need a new home.

    Reply
  4. Sissy

    Now thats a thought! We’ve got the “trailer” section of a tractor-trailer that we bought for storage when our garage burnt down about 5 yrs ago. Hubby and I’ve been thinking about what we could do with it… hmmm…. maybe turn it into a trailer and find a little plot of land somewhere to put it on. Any ideas are welcomed!

    Reply
    1. Shawn Labbee

      Hi, Sissy;
      I’ve got a 48′ high cube (extra foot of head-space) that I’m going to convert into a tiny house/RV. I find the 8 foot width to feel a little cramped, so I’m going to have the corrugated wall panels cut out and install a couple of 20′X3′ “slide-outs’ like you see in the newer RVs. I’ll save the corrugated panels and have a frame welded or bolted around them to use as heavy duty awnings which will be bolted to the top sides of the container with piano hinges. This will allow me to retract the slide-outs and close and secure the awning down over the slide-outs should I ever choose to relocate the trailer. These containers are the ultimate building blocks for DIY modular homes or RVs, kind of like Legos for big kids! The only limit is your imagination and budget. They would also make great low cost homeless shelters, I don’t know why FEMA hasn’t been using them all along. Shawn

      Reply
  5. Julio Rodolfo Gonzalez J

    I am Julio Rodolfo González J, i was who send this e-mail request and i want to introduce my self for your info / , i was working for more than 25 years in Shipping Lines Maritime Services and when i see this magnificent idea from your company PFNC , ( PFNC stands for “Por Fin Nuestra Casa.” Translated in English this simply means “Finally, a home of our own.” These words are the foundation of PFNC

    I tell my self we need to bring this to Guatemala city , Central America .

    Also let me tell you that i have a Sister working in Social Programs with the First lady ( wifes President of Gua ) that can give us a strong hand to introduce this type of houses to all the poor people of Guatemala . Goverment ( Social help Dept of the President of the Republic ) and my Sister working like the Right hand of the First lady , i think that we can do it and introduce this faccilieties to Guatemala people.

    Julio Rodolfo González J
    qualityconsolidators@gmail.com / home e-mail

    Reply
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  7. James Ingram

    This is a wonderful idea. Imagine all the low income, homeless, and elderly that would benefit from shipping container homes. We’ll be having our youth construction group on a project like this.

    Reply
  8. TM

    I am not a homeless but I am getting to be elderly soon . I would love to build my OWN place with these shipping containers . I have 5 acres land ( my own saving ) but I have not had enough money to build this type of housing …since one of the architect which I had contacted about these type of building ( shipping containers ) he told me it would be around $ 150 per square foot . Unknowingly , he crushed my dream home because I can’t afford that much . If any one who knows how to build the home with this type of housing , please contact me for more info ( I would be greatly appreciated ) My land is in Seaford , DE . TM_Aviaryandcages@yahoo.com . Thanks, TM.

    Reply
    1. Shawn Labbee

      Hi again, TM;
      $150/square foot is insane for a container home! I too, am looking forward to building a container home from scratch and affordability is a serious concern for me as well. I recently purchased a 48′ high cube (9’6″ high) for $2500 delivered from Seattle to Yakima, WA. That’s around 400 square feet for around $6/square foot (!!!). I think I got a pretty good deal on this unit and you should be able to find a similar deal in your area as well. The one good thing about our massive trade imbalance with China (well, good for us anyway) is that these containers are piling up in our port cities on both coasts and therefore they’re selling them at giveaway prices. The other great thing about them is that they are designed to carry over 30,000 lbs (in a 40′er) and be safely stacked at least ten high. That’s seriously sturdy and the structural strength is almost all in the frame so you can cut out the corrugated sides in any configuration while sacrificing very little structural strength. Another advantage is the modular aspect of containers. Three 40′ containers parked in a ‘C’ shape with a pre-fab steel roof over the whole thing (like the ones on the FarmTek website for instance) would give you 960 square feet of secure interior inside the containers and 15-16 hundred square feet of covered ‘courtyard’ between the containers. You could also install a wall with windows and enclose the courtyard area completely from the elements (check out http://www.fabprefab.com/fabfiles/containerbayhome.htm for ideas) or, install a garage door and you could park in the courtyard.
      Don’t let some fancy architect crush your dreams, the DIY container home looks to me to be the most cost effective modular home building block available today. Keep on dreamin’! Shawn

      Reply
      1. Mike Tuttle

        Shawn,

        Sounds real nice, even bigger than the penthouse apartment in Fremont! contact me offlist to reconnect miketuttle70atgmail

        Reply
      2. Richard

        $150/sqft is about right to fit out a container properly. The $150 number seems high because the amount of sqft is low. By the time you build foundation, add windows, doors, source of heat/cooling, plumbing insulation, elec panel and wiring plus finishes and equipment. Do your math – the containers is the cheapest part. It’s cheaper to wood frame the same shape.

        Reply
  9. TM

    Hello Shawn ( Again _ I did reply to you on the Sings …section )
    Have you done this before ? ( Shipping containers ) I have loved this idea so much , I have made my dream home ‘s idea into a 3 D dimensions carton tiny boxes pictures ( by taking the cereal boxes and made them into the brown square 40 centimeres long like the shipping containers and I tacked them , then glue them to the way I wanted them to be tacked < 12 of them total , 2 styles ) so I can calculate and draw out which it would be bedrooms and which it would be baths …I was hoping to buy 12 of them at one time , get a permit to stack them in my land and slowly from one container to the next …hire some one to do it slowly ( as slowly as I can save my money to pay for labor and the cost of interior )
    I did emails to 2 companies that they have sold the shipping containers , their quotes were : One is in Ca and one is in NJ . The price were about $ 2000 _ $ 2300 each 40 X 8 …plus delivery . I still have not figured it out …how to do it because that architect said that …the building and zoning would require a plan from the engineering architect …so I have not done anything else to it yet …knowing that I have to pay a lot of money to the architect to get that plan …I guess I have to wait until the building and zoning get a little better ( hopefully , the rules would change in a year or 2 since so many people start to build this type of housing )
    I have 2 more years for my daughter to finish high school …then I will need a place of my own for sure …Right now , I just have to gather lot of inputs . ( When you do it , will you let me see how ? ) THanks and have a great afternoon . TM.

    Reply
    1. Shawn Labbee

      Hello again, TM;
      I haven’t yet started my project, I’m still in the saving my pennies stage; I just got the first container and I’m going to start installing the kitchen and bathroom this fall. I hope to finish by next spring, we’ll see. I’m going to be taking lots of photos of the project and I’m going write an article about the experience to share with everyone.
      That sounds like a very reasonable price, much cheaper when you purchase multiple units at one time. I would recommend getting at least a few of the high cube style, I really like the high ceilings and essential if you want to install a loft.
      I’ve also been working with small boxes to help visualize various different configurations, very useful. I think the architectural analysis is kind of a scam but you’ve got to jump through certain hoops to do a project like this, no way around it. My advice would be to shop around for an engineer that is open-minded and familiar with this kind of construction. Don’t waste your time with someone that starts feeding you 20 reasons why this will never work; a quick google search for ‘container homes’ will clearly prove that this construction model is sound and there’s absolutely no reason any legitimate engineer should have any doubts about its’ viability. The containers themselves have already been engineered and designed to support a tremendous amount of weight so there’s no reason that any engineer should have any reason to doubt their structural integrity, but I’m sure there are plenty of architects out there that have that ‘stuck in the box’ mentality. Just shop around til you find one with an open mind who’ll work with you.
      As far as local zoning and permit requirements go, there’s probably not much on the books pertaining to this type of construction as it is still fairly new, but as long as you have a valid structural engineering analysis from a certified engineer there should be no legal grounds for a bureaucrat to deny you a building permit. Just remember that they can’t deny you your right to develop your property as you’d like “just because” they don’t like it. There may be legitimate zoning restrictions on the exterior appearance of the finished structure, but you can install any exterior finish available; wood siding, stucco, vinyl, etc. so there should be no legitimate grounds to deny you a permit as long as you’re in compliance with any exterior appearance zoning regulations you may have in your area.
      Since you’re thinking about a 12 container design, you should definitely take a look at this 12 container home in Brooklin, Maine.(www.jetsongreen.com/2009/01/adam-kalkin-maine-container-house.html) You might even be able to track down the same engineer that signed off on this home and have him/her do the engineering analysis for you. This particular design may not be exactly right for you, but the engineering should be very similar (unless you go more than two stories high of course).
      This project cost $125 per square foot (including engineering and design), but it’s obviously very well appointed and has a tremendous amount of windows which are very expensive. I would think you could find a contractor that could do a somewhat more humble version for half of that.
      Hope that helps. . . Cheers! Shawn

      Reply
    2. Richard

      I’m sure you could get the plans online for free and have a draftsman alter them to suit your site and local zoning laws for less than $1000. Don’t forget permit fees, inspection fees, connection fees (add another $500-1000). By a used 30′ trailer for $5000 and be done with it as there are no rules about them. You just need power, water and sewer cxn and your done. (architect)

      Reply
  10. TM

    Hello Shawn .
    Thanks for taking the time to explain to me , it helps a lot to communicate with some one who knows what I have been thinking about my goal …
    I did contacted that guy who did the 12 containers ( he lives in NJ , which it is about 2 hours from where I live ) however, I have not heard from him .
    Now I do want 12 containers , which they would make into the 3 stories and a large garage ( I have the 3 D model that I made out of the cereal boxes , however , I can ‘t up load the pictures to show you yet for the style I have chosen for myself )
    I can ‘t wait to see by Fall when you start to do it yourself so I can learn from some one who step one step ahead of me …Meanwhile , I will save my money and look out to see any good deal from the shipping containers to buy . Thanks again for the info . TM .

    Reply
    1. Shawn Labbee

      With 12 containers you could build a pretty big house, are you planning on a square three stories high? I like the idea of having a covered courtyard area that could be like an atrium or aviary. It would feel very spacious inside with very high ceilings and you could attach ‘veranda’ decks inside to the second and third story containers for even more usable floor space.
      If you google ‘cargo containers, Baltimore, MD’(or Philadelphia) you’ll find dozens of places that sell containers within two hours of Milton and since you’ll be buying a dozen all at once, you’ll be able to get them at a big discount, probably no more than $2000 each, and shipping should only be around $350-400 each. I’ll let you know if I find anything out about an engineer that has experience with container architecture in you state. Cheers! Shawn

      Reply
  11. Shawn Labbee

    Does anyone know a structural engineer in the Baltimore/Philly/NJ area that has experience working with cargo container architecture? TM is looking for someone to help her out with drafting structural plans for her container house project, any leads would be appreciated. . . Thanks, Shawn

    Reply
  12. Shawn Labbee

    Now that I think about it, does anyone know a structural engineer in the Pacific Northwest area (Seattle or Portland) that has experience working with cargo container architecture? I’m also looking for someone to help me out with drafting structural engineering plans and permitting for my container house project, any leads would be appreciated. . . Thanks again, Shawn

    Reply
  13. TM

    Hello Shawn .
    Don’t be sorry for my suffering ( It could be worst …I didn’t know anything until I faced it …There are millions of women sall over the world are suffering from the hand of loved one < who vowed to love them to death _ I don't know about love , I do know that those husbands and boy friends who tried to control their wife or girl friends by beating them up to death …) I already learned all I could ( Police taught me self defense at police station in Alex , Va …twice to make sure I remember it ) I am trying to put that in my past …Now it is my future .
    I am trying to buy one container 43 ft long …I may come and see it in a few days …if nothing change , I may be able to purchase it and put it in my land in a week or so …then I will see ( look around to see who can get hire to do it ) how I can build one bath , one bed and one kitchen for it like the one in this website …If this goes well …I will save more money to go for the 12 containers as I dreamed about …
    One step at a time . Wish me luck . Yeah , if any one who lives in De , Md , Va and know how to do it …they can contact me and see how we ( they and I ) work it out …I may be able to pay for the stuff ( material ) and if they do this for me , they may be able to live in that for 6 months or a year free of rent to exchange their labor because I can't live there until 2 more years . Thanks for all your help Shawn and thanks for all the tips I can get from people in here . Have a great afternoon . TM.

    Reply
  14. TM

    Shawn .
    You mention drafting structure plan …
    I did study how to draw ( and calculating ) in construction building houses , I took one class …My knowledge may not up to date and I don’t get certified for it ( as you already know , I go back to college every 2 years to learn for fun …I have real estate license for the knowledge < not work in any day , just learn for knowledge ) so I know how to do the drafting myself , but I do need a certify architect to stamp it to make it valid , by the way , English is my third language …that meant I don't know nor understand slang of any kinds . Thanks, TM.

    Reply
  15. JOSH

    Really Quick, That container house is in texas and had no insulation.. It isn’t going to work. It’ll need a roof in no time and paint every few years.

    Also, $150/sqft is REALLY expensive. I just purchased and insulated a container with metal SIPS for a little over $2000. Amenities and a rubber roof could be added for another $2-3000 including beds etc. I am in DE and would be glad to show you our work. You’d be in the low $20/sqft range.

    JOSH ObjectsUnlimited@gmail.com

    Reply
  16. john simmis

    Building with containers is worth taking a look at if you are contemplating a new home.

    Good resource is the Residential Shipping Container Primer website. A DO IT YOURSELF (DIY) REFERENCE AND FOR CONVERTING RECYCLED INTERMODAL CARGO SHIPPING CONTAINERS INTO BUILDINGS AND ARCHITECTURE.

    Lots of example buildings, details, facts, and links to other articles. They have something new that you can setup your own project wiki to get help with your project if you are the design build sort…

    Reply
  17. Dee

    I have a small lot on whidbey Island and would like to have a garage with a workshop/living area and I want to keep it very small because I dont want to have to pay big property taxes. Ive looked at yurts but they wont allow them. I am very very interested in a potential fpr using a cargo container my idea is a room with a toilet and shower period. then one sink for kitchen with small regrig next to it a microwave is all thats needed for cooking KEEP IT SIMPLE. SO A FUTON FOR BED AT NITE SMALL TABLE 2 CHAIRS FOR EATING ALL COULD BE DONE . INSULATION BECAUSE IT GET VERY COLD UP ON THE ISLAND EVEN EVEN IN OAK HARBOR BANANA BELT. ?????????? WHATS THE CHEAPEST WAY I CAN DO THIS ISEE IN NEW MEXICO THEY AHVE A ONE CONTAINER DWELLING FOR $10,OOO, NOW WERE TALKING……..

    Reply
  18. Dee

    I have a small lot on whidbey Island and would like to have a garage with a workshop/living area and I want to keep it very small because I dont want to have to pay big property taxes. Ive looked at yurts but they wont allow them. I am very very interested in a potential fpr using a cargo container my idea is a room with a toilet and shower period. then one sink for kitchen with small refrig next to it a microwave is all thats needed for cooking KEEP IT SIMPLE. SO A FUTON FOR BED AT NITE SMALL TABLE 2 CHAIRS FOR EATING ALL COULD BE DONE . INSULATION BECAUSE IT GET VERY COLD UP ON THE ISLAND EVEN EVEN IN OAK HARBOR BANANA BELT. ?????????? WHATS THE CHEAPEST WAY I CAN DO THIS ISEE IN NEW MEXICO THEY HAVE A ONE CONTAINER DWELLING FOR $10,OOO, NOW WERE TALKING……..

    Reply
  19. Dee

    I have a small lot on whidbey Island and would like to have a garage with a workshop/living area and I want to keep it very small because I dont want to have to pay big property taxes. Ive looked at yurts but they wont allow them. I am very very interested in a potential fpr using a cargo container my idea is a room with a toilet and shower period. then one sink for kitchen with small refrig next to it a microwave is all thats needed for cooking KEEP IT SIMPLE. SO A FUTON FOR BED AT NITE SMALL TABLE 2 CHAIRS FOR EATING ALL COULD BE DONE . INSULATION BECAUSE IT GET VERY COLD UP ON THE ISLAND EVEN EVEN IN OAK HARBOR BANANA BELT. ?????????? WHATS THE CHEAPEST WAY I CAN DO THIS ISEE IN NEW MEXICO THEY HAVE A ONE CONTAINER DWELLING FOR $10,OOO, NOW WERE TALKING……..

    Reply
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  22. James Dunleavy

    This is great. About a month or so ago I was thinking about doing the same thing you have here. I was looking through the Internet {for GP reasons} under shipping containers homes and low and behold here I am. I have not looked extensively yet, but I will be a future customer. Jim

    Reply
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  24. bgibson135

    Without insulation, wouldn’t these containers get incredibly hot if in direct sunlight. Has anyone waterproofed one and semi-buried it? I would think maybe dirt on both sides, and both ends open, and maybe a patio on top.

    Reply
  25. Mike

    I have not read all the comments so I may very well be restating something already said. Being a steel container when ever you have colder air outside then the air inside you WILL have a condensation issue. It will at times seem like it is raining inside the structure. Of course this depends on your location in the country. To get around this you must insulate and seal the steel from the warm air inside. This is usually done with spray foam insulation. I know this because I have a steel structure and live in a cold winter climate area. Be carful.

    Reply

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