Modern, Colorful and Creative Shipping Container Home in Houston

by , 09/18/09

shipping containers, shipping container home, houston, affordable housing, recycled materials

Shipping container homes just keep on getting cooler. Developers Katie Nichols and John Walker along with architect Christopher Robertson wanted to create affordable and sustainable homes for the emerging hipster crowd – modern, colorful and creative. This single-story home, located on the outskirts of downtown Houston in a “transitional neighborhood,” is made from 4 shipping containers sourced from nearby ports. The house is constructed using some fairly advanced building techniques that make it an extremely sturdy and well insulated structure, not to mention incredibly cool.

shipping containers, shipping container home, houston, affordable housing, recycled materials

If you’ve taken to shipping container architecture, you probably already noticed the interesting design of the home, use of space, and range of ceiling heights. Building with shipping container is a bit like playing with legos – you’ve got certain constraints, but they can be arranged in any number of ways. There are 4 containers, three of which are 40-foot high cubes (9’6″ tall) and a fourth is a 20-foot standard (8’6″). Two of the 40-foot containers make up the living, dining, and bedrooms, while the 20-foot container is slightly elevated and serves as a galley kitchen. Many of the interior walls were taken out or re-purposed to yield a surprisingly open and airy feeling home. The last 40-foot container is set across an open breezeway and serves as the guest cottage, totaling for a modest 3-bedroom home of 1,858 square feet.

The use of shipping containers means that the structure of the home is essentially prefabricated when it arrives on site. Each of the containers cost $2,000 to $5,500. The containers were placed on the site within one day, and within one month the home was enclosed and ready for interior work. Supported on 34 small piers elevated off the ground, the containers are less susceptible to settling and seasonal movement.

Insulation and structure for both the roof and flooring comes from SIPs (structural insulated panels). Meanwhile the exterior and undersides of all the containers is coated in a thin ceramic coating called Supertherm – which is amazingly non-toxic, has received Cradle to Cradle certification and has the equivalent of 6 inches of fiberglass insulation! Oh and NASA uses it on their shuttle boosters.

shipping containers, shipping container home, houston, affordable housing, recycled materials

Besides the amazing insulative properties of the home, there is natural daylight streaming in from clerestory windows and a large glass facade on the east of the house. Interior materials were recycled and/or non-toxic, paints and finishes are low-VOC, efficient HVAC systems, super tight construction with energy recovery ventilation, porous paving and much more. Additionally, during construction, waste was kept to a minimum and recycled whenever possible, so at the end construction, there were only 12 contractor bags of trash.

Overall, an incredibly impressive house – modest size, sustainable construction, use of recycled and environmentally friendly materials, energy-efficient and sensitive of waste. Well done, Numen Development, we look forward to more of your cleverly designed shipping container homes!

+ Numen Development

Dwell via TheCoolist*

Photos copyright Jack Thompson, produced by Dwell

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  1. kayserha September 16, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Great! Love it. Just what I’m looking for. What is the cost for one exactly like this?

  2. nur jeffah September 12, 2012 at 9:50 am

    brilliant display. we nomarmally have so many containers in our east african coast. they it will be of great benefit if i can get more knowledge on how i can handle the media form

  3. Dorsi January 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Awesome site. Love it and look forward to receiving your updates.

  4. Johnny Dick October 27, 2011 at 3:27 am

    I am 68, a retired international musician, and have a huge property that, living on my own, is getting a bit too much to run. I am very impressed at first glance at the small amount of options I have seen so far to build a home from ” steel crates “. Having said that though, I am fascinated at the possibilties that exist to build a small retirement home on a block of land near a river that requires little maintenance. I note though that some comments above refer to the lack of information re pricing. Here, in Australia, a container costs about $2000. But that’s just the beginning. If anyone who has a home built this way would contact me re costs etc. I would appreciate it.

  5. john simmis October 20, 2010 at 11:21 am

    If you are considering modular or prefab home, building with recycled shipping containers is worth taking a look at.


    Lots of great 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 considering a design build project.

  6. Daniel3 July 29, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Wow! That was a mouthful.
    Getting back to the cost question. There are two factors that greatly affect the bottom line. 1) how far the container has to travel to get to your site (proximity to a port basically), and 2) how much of the project you can do yourself. People build expensive shipping container houses for a lot of reasons including, weather resistance (think hurricane), desire to reuse what amounts to industrial waste, etc. But there are folks who do do manage to build for less than the cost of a comparable stick built home. You just have to wade in and learn about the system and the various options.


  7. sgtpepper June 26, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    You guys need to wake up! First off, beware of builders. Or any business that makes any kind of ‘dwelling’ or house. These are the guys that developed what the market is now overflowing with: Horse drawn carriages. Those things people used to get around in. And they are still trying to rope people into buying them. Come again? Yep thats right.They all come with bills that you don’t have to pay anymore. What? Fact is, for 10k you dont have to pay an electrical bill for at least ten years. Right now you pay 20k for the same power. Why? Because you’re used to the box. Well you can climb out of it you know.We’ve all been raised on lies perpetuated by stockholders in electrical companies and builders…companies like general electric, and owens corning that sell things that drain the pocketbook, and steal your health. But you’re all grow’d up now. Snap out of it. Focus. These are the guys who convinced half of all Americans that, migrant worker housing(mobile homes…yep you got it) were the way to go. But are you a migrant worker? I know I’m not! Research it. If you’re not offended to the marrow, you are truly dead from the neck up and nothing I say will ever make a dent in that hard head of your’s. Because after your ‘doublewide’ disintegrates after ten years(and loses all its value) you’ll have thrown away your lifes work(and money) and you’ll be a renter paying for someones stick-built that another renter paid to keep it in a livable condition. Americans have been chased out of land-ownership, by it’s own.Tell me this, if you lived in a castle…would you just walk way from it? No. Not if it was built to last your lifetime you wouldn’t. 30k-60k for a rectangular box made out of cardboard and tinfoil and comes with numerous bills that are endless? I don’t think so. Not for me.I’ve seen the way manufactured houses are thrown together. And anyone can do a better job. Why not Build it yourself for a lifetime of savings? My research tells me that right now,I can build an off-grid solar-powered home for under 100k. My plan? First I’ll install a septic system. Then I’ll install piers to support the frame which will be shipping containers(these are built to withstand hurricanes and do). They will be welded to the tops of the piers, and to each other. Then I’ll build a curbing around the perimeter of the containers to support the strawbale walls which will insulate the house. Then I’ll install and test services…electrical..Plumming…water..fireplace… and doors. Once the services are approved, I’ll build the four exterior bale walls and a roof, re-inforce them with rebar, cover over them in wire mesh, weld the joists to the tops of the containers to secure the semi-detached rainwater collection grid/roof from uplift, and then I’ll plaster the bales, and then paint. Then I’ll install the rainwater collection grid/roof on top of the joists.

    The effects of this type of design(super insulation…limited numbers of doors and windows…no direct sunlight contacts exterior..a semi earthen orientation.. in conjunction with a households specific use of certain appliances and fixtures over others, combines to produce a living environment that economically speaking, cannot be competed with by any traditionally designed and built residential structure. And it will last you the rest of your life.

  8. David Shoemaker September 19, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I agree the cost is a bit much for the retirement crowed. With Baby Boomers downsizing and looking for ways to save money for and during retirement, there has to be a cheaper solution for using up those shipping containers and going Green.

  9. The Campus TV September 19, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I agree that it’s frustrating that these articles never include costs figures – it contributes further to the myth that building in a sustainable fashion has to be more expensive.

    We are in the process of setting up a complete manufacturing facility to produce shipping container architecture in volume – the only way to bring down costs. We are joint venturing every component – such as windows etc – directly with other manufacturers. We’re looking at a $ 70/sq.ft price 1,400 sq.ft 3 BR/2 BA for $ 100 K. We are producing a documentary/interactive reality show that will be documenting our progress as-it-happens in the near future.

    you can check out our designs at

  10. Brian Lang September 18, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I dug into their site a little bit. Found a figure per sq ft of $100 to $150. I’m assuming that this varies based mostly on the interior finishes selected. The functional components (insulation, hvac, etc) won’t change much. So for this 1858 sq ft house, that would mean it is in the range of $185,800 to $278,700. I’m also assuming this is plus the cost of land to put it on.

    Still too expensive.

    Someone needs to work out a way to make this much less expensive.

  11. Bridgette Meinhold September 18, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Sorry. The articles I read didn’t include the cost – wish I knew too. Maybe the architects can weigh in?

  12. Brian Lang September 18, 2009 at 11:25 am

    What was the total cost to build/construct the house (Not including land)?

  13. Rom September 18, 2009 at 9:33 am

    By chance do you know what the total cost was? Being persuaded to build a house in this way would require it.

    It’s kind of like just knowing how much lumber costs when building a standard type home.

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