Sarah House Project

Named after a San Francisco sculptor who could not afford a permanent place to live in her expensive city, the Sarah House Project in Salt Lake City, Utah is one man’s attempt to build an affordable home out of castoff shipping containers.


Sara Putnam, (the “h” for the project had already been added to a banner advertising the building) who recently died from cancer was living at an artists’ colony at the Hunter Point Naval Shipyards — where she wasn’t supposed to be sleeping. Her friend, Jeffrey White is building a 672 square foot home out of two 8×40-foot shipping containers. While visiting the Naval shipyards one night, White noticed dock workers unloading containers and thought about turning the big metal boxes into homes. The Sarah House Project has been funded by grants, donations and money raised by Jeffrey’s custom made funeral urns. He said in a recent Salt Lake City news report that his small, custom urns take up less space below ground, just as he hopes his home will take up less ground — above the ground.


The home will have a combination living room, dining and kitchen, a bathroom and bedroom and a day room. Jeffrey had originally put a 40-foot container on his driveway and started converting it into a house, but ran into trouble with city officials. Now the home is being built on some land procured by a local nonprofit, the Crossroads Urban Center, and when completed, will be sold to a low income family or couple.

Jeffrey estimates the cost of the project, including the land, at $108,000 – $115,000. This, he says, is close to the cost of a conventional home and is higher than he expected, but White hopes he’ll be able to bring those numbers down in future.

“I would love this house to come somewhere in the $60,000 – $75,000 range,” White said.


Photos courtesy of the Sarah House Project


By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

Designboom’s Container Office

Designboom is a publication and blog that focuses on design, architecture, art, photography and graphics. Their main offices are located in Milan, Italy, but for the hot summer months, the crew of Designboom recently moved their offices into a series of cargo containers on the island of Sardinia. Their DIY adventure was profiled in a recent post on their website and the results are a beautiful representation of relaxed, sustainable living (and working) on a desert island in the Mediterranean.

The government of Sardinia has adopted some strict criteria for building permits on the island to curb overbuilding. However, one way to get around the long permit waiting period is by using temporary or modular structures as housing. Designboom purchased three used cargo containers and crane-lifted them onto natural stone pavement since the team did not want to use any concrete in the construction. The outdoor flooring is made from local stone and dry set with sand and mortar. The containers are placed at 90 degree angles to each other so that their external doors can be latched together to protect the dining area from the ocean winds. Continue reading


Building houses from shipping containers is not new, but I think this might be the first company I have seen that builds smaller homes that are environmentally friendly and can be secured tight like a tiny little bunker.

Ecopods are built from recycled 8×20 steel shipping containers transformed into living, working and high end display spaces. The Ecopod is a transformed, designed built, multiple use, eco-friendly, building that promotes the best use of portability, off grid power supply capabilities and low environmental footprint.


The Toronto based company wanted to go even further with this ethos, so they incorporated rubber flooring recycled from shredded car tires into the design as well as an entire range of off-grid options including a solar-powered refrigerator, XM radio and 12V lighting and wall outlets powered from a roof-mounted solar panel. Even the composting toilet requires very little maintenance and costs a fraction of the traditional septic bed system. Download a PDF of the Ecopod brochure here.


Matthew Davies, the publicist for includes the following:

The ecopod started its life as a shipping container and traveled most likely half-way around the globe before being converted into the Ecopod. When the added hinged deck is raised the Ecopod maintains both the strength and proportions of its predecessor. It was our intention for the Ecopod to work ‘off grid’, although you can use it either way.

We first cut one twenty-foot side out of the shipping container and re-manufactured that steel wall into a deck that was then hinged back to the unit with six custom-designed offset hinges that allow the deck to lay flat and fit into its original position when closed. The deck is fairly heavy, so we engineered a 12V winch apparatus that has a lifting capacity of at least 4000lbs – its 12 volt battery takes its power from the solar panel. If you are leaving the Ecopod for an extended period of time, you can close the deck by flipping the electrical panel switch to supply the power to the 12 volt winch and the door closes by means of a handheld remote control. It takes about a minute to close and with the back doors locked, the pod is again returned to the form and strength of the original container.There is no conventionally-constructed building on the market that can compare to the strength and durability of the Ecopod.

Maintenance on the unit requires very little effort. The original steel walls and frame are made from a product called corten steel. Corten steel has a natural rust inhibitor that stops rust at the surface. The interior and exterior floor surfaces are covered with a product that looks very similar to cork flooring but is made from recycled car tires. This product has excellent interior and exterior performance qualities and is both impervious to water and easy to keep clean. The entire wall and ceiling cavities have been spray-foam insulated with the latest environmentally-friendly soya insulation available on the market today. It is a rigid ‘closed-cell’ insulation,’closed-cell’ meaning there is no moister transfer. All interior walls come clear-coat birch finished with a hidden fastening system and trimmed with aluminum. There are no visible mechanical fasteners in the wood finish. The front sliding glass doors and front glass side panels are double-glazed thermal pane units that allow you to enjoy all season weather conditions. We have equipped the pod with two electrical wall outlets that can supply power from the 12 volt battery through the inverter or are switchable to 120volts should you have access to either house or generator power. An 80 watt solar panel and 12 volt battery are included in the basic model.

Our intention was to give someone the option of enjoying a recreational property while creating a very low environmental footprint. The Ecopod can be used as a stand alone unit working off the grid or in conjunction with established building or cottage sites.

The Ecopod comes complete with all above-mentioned conveniences and finishes, all for a price of $26,650.00 CDN dollars.

What attracted me to the Ecopod was that it was not too expensive for a heavy duty self-contained space, and that you can completely close it up to protect it from animals, weather, vandalism and break-ins.

For Tiny House Blog readers who live in the Toronto area, you can view the Ecopod this month at the Green Living Show on April 24-26.

By Christina Nellemann

Photos by Ecopods

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