Gallery: PREFAB FRIDAY: Container Homes for the Tropics


Inhabitat’s Prefab Friday column has seen its fair share of shipping container homes, but we’ve never seen shipping containers paired with bamboo as a construction material before. But now, Bamboo Groves, a design and construction firm in Costa Rica, has developed some great designs for homes made from insulated shipping containers and bamboo. Developed for the tropical climate, these prefab homes are different from the designs we are accustomed to — those designed for temperate or cooler climates.  Many of these prefab and shipping container homes focus on passive heating and cooling. But in warmer climates, such as Central America, construction requires a different tactic – insulating from the heat and providing lots of natural ventilation to help cool.

Bamboo Groves uses Intermodal Steel Building Units (ISBUs), which are insulated shipping containers, in creating the framework of the home. Then Guadua Bamboo, which is one of the fastest growing bamboos, is harvested from nearby Costa Rican bamboo plantations and used as the structural beams for the roof. Current designs range from 100 sq meters with one ISBU up to 250 sq meter split level villas with three ISBUs. Construction should take less than 5 months and be very affordable.

Concrete is a very common and accessible building material in Central America, so it is used for countertops and other built-in pieces of furniture like benches and bed stands. Other sustainable elements could be added to these homes, such as a greywater recycling system, rainwater collection, and wind or solar systems. Green building supplies like low-VOC paints, formaldehyde-free cabinets are not easily accessible there, but as the demand for these items grow, they will surely be available soon.

We are impressed by these prefabs for two reasons: first, that they are built from insulated shipping containers and  a local material, bamboo; and second that it accommodates the tropical climate by minimizing heat gain and maximizing natural ventilation. With those items in mind, we think this company certainly has a good handle on creating affordable and beautiful homes.

+ Bamboo Groves


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  1. Fruean November 30, 2012 at 5:19 am

    Would like to know more about The container homes & where I could see one to see if this is what I can start with?

  2. Britrodge April 6, 2012 at 12:39 am

    Very nice concept!!
    I think folk in the Philippines would be very keen on these designs.
    However I am worried about typhoons, which often reach speeds in excess of 200kms per hour.
    What will the structural integrity be?
    Best regards
    Roger Garnham

  3. j_chez24 June 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I have a line of container houses intended for the coast of Jalisco, with my base in Puerto Vallarta. I am a Chicago Architect who does work in Mexico as well. My email is
    drop me a line, you can see my work at

  4. pagetwilson June 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    I live 2 hours south of Tamarindo and will begin building in a few months. But when I came across this site, I am extremely interested in learning more. I love the style of both homes pictured here but could not find the floor plan on your site. Please provide a phone number and email for me to contact.

  5. anne1234 May 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    these homes look great. we are in the process of buying a lot in Refugio Mira Piedras in C.R. could you please give me a quote for a 2 bed 2 bath container home.

  6. Shipping Container Hous... July 16, 2010 at 11:11 am

    […] out of three insulated shipping containers and stacked on two levels with a two-story atrium in the middle, this home packs a lot into a […]

  7. KenRoberts February 23, 2010 at 1:15 am

    I have same question as Deepak (above) I have 1.5 acres in Ojachal and want to build 1-3 rental units on my property – each about 800 square feet. 1-2 bedrooms – 2 bathrooms – kitchen and living area that could be used as sleeping area. The units would be on level ground. Need to look nice from outside.

    Open to ideas, but want these to be more than a hotel room but do not need to be as nice as an expensive condo. Lots of homes are being built in our area and people need place to stay for weeks or months at a time while their homes are being constructed. Is it true that permits are not needed if buildings are less than 1000 sq feet?

    Ken Roberts 253 851 0480

  8. Bamboo Costa Rica August 31, 2009 at 11:38 am

    NIce post, in out company Bamboo Costa Rica try to keep a friendly relationship wit the enviromental

  9. indiman111 June 3, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Ilove this style and method of construction. I have 1.75 acres in Ojochal, Costa Rica and would be interested in getting details for a low cost prefab bamboo structure under 1000 sft. so that no permit is required for its construction.One or Two bedromms, 1-2 baths, living and kitchen. The living room could be semi covered outdoor type?
    Please call 1-925-891-5516 or 1-510-666-4428
    Thank you

  10. erwin schuster May 15, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    No need for another roof in case of a hurricane. As long as the wind can blow through the house no need for
    M ore info contact

  11. earplay May 14, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    One word: hurricane. Need another: roof.

  12. Claudia J Rojas May 2, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    HELLO! THIS HOUSES ARE REALLY GREAT!, is there any way to have information about costs, requirements for building, etc.

  13. Claudia J Rojas May 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I would like to know if you build in Mexico, do you have quotations?

  14. Shropshire Architect April 24, 2009 at 8:52 am

    This looks great and I love the use of Bamboo. The before and after shots really help explain it.

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