There are tons of prefab design firms, manufacturers, and developers churning out cutting-edge modern modular designs, many using reclaimed shipping containers. We often hear complaints from you guys that good green prefab architecture is a bit out of reach for the average homeowner, so it’s great to see a small, family-oriented project that shows how you can do it yourself with a little ingenuity. The DIY Zigloo Domestique integrates shipping containers, personal and sustainable touches, and lots of hard work. Keith Dewey, an architect based in British Columbia, designed, built, and documented the construction of his Zigloo Domestique home that epitomizes accessible, green, reclaimed, yet comfortable contemporary prefab architecture.

The home is located in Fernwood, one of Victoria’s oldest and funkiest areas, and proves that shipping containers are more than just modules for cargo transport or emergency housing. The designer has done a wonderful job of documenting the entire design process, from initial plans to delivery of the containers and final construction and furnishing. The project spans almost two years, and the final residence consists of 8 containers, 1800 square feet, and 3 stories of homey prefab space. Keith’s family home design is a great example of shipping containers and prefab techniques as a viable and accessible building approach for just about anyone.

After installing the containers in place, Keith strategically cut pieces of the containers to create an open floor plan, windows, and sliding deck doors. He hopes that the Zigloo Domestique, his own family home, will serve as a comfortable and affordable prototype for the construction of many other family residences.

“We’re seeing some really creative solutions in the world and I’m just hoping to be one of them,” Dewey said. “It takes a lot of energy to recycle steel shipping containers. Or you could take those six million decommissioned shipping containers and build a million houses.”

Check out this news coverage video of the project’s progress and completion:

Keith also has some great conceptual projects on his website, all of which employ shipping containers, green design materials and techniques.

+ Zigloo


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  1. GILBERT Vincent November 14, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Bonsoir,auriez vous de la documentation et prix pour des conteneurs transformé en box pour chevaux.Cordialement

  2. griffariff January 13, 2009 at 12:26 am

    In Canada we have more a more harsh climate than the climate that most of the container homes that I have seen on the net. This home is the best insulated that I have seen yet. I have an idea with regard to eliminating the wood framing and removing the need for SIP as well…

    If you were to weld 2″ vertical strips of steel between the top and bottom horizontal members of the outer container wall on standard 16″ centers, you could fill the corrugations with spray foam and then screw styrofoam sheets to the metal strips, apply a vapor barrier and then finish as desired with sheet rock or paneling or whatever. I haven’t researched the specs yet, but I imagine if you chose the right combination of products, your should be able to easily reach R20. An outer finish of Supertherm would reduce thermal conduction in the summer.If allowances for plumbing and electrical are needed, then the strips could be replaced with U channel. Then you could apply the spray foam once the electrical and plumbing is in place. Thoughts???

  3. michelle March 7, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Virgil, do you realize shipping containers have an incredibly long life span and that they’re only trying to reuse them in other ways because there is a surplus of them? There’s a surplus because it is cheaper to make new ones than ship around empty ones to where they are needed. Containers are build to with stand sea salt and other harsh elements. the container with not turn into a pile of rust if it is maintained properly; much the way you must maintain a regular house by residing it of repainting it.
    use some common sense, architects wouldnt go through all the trouble of designing and building these things if they were just going to fall apart

  4. Virgil McAlpine October 31, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Soon the building will be a pile of rust and decay. Too bad for the owner.

  5. biscuit August 7, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    I think this is great! Congrats to the architect for using mundane materials in a new way! I love the chain-link, and I love that he didn’t paint all of the shipping containers- rather, they speak of their history.

  6. Helen Eckard August 6, 2007 at 11:45 am

    This is one of the ugliest homes I have ever seen.

  7. Jean-Pierre El Asmar August 6, 2007 at 1:26 am

    Brilliant, reusing and recycling containers! the result is also pleasing. I would suggest the author presents this idea to the international competition on do yourself your house I think in Portugal. I really love this website.

  8. Christopher P. August 5, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    “Hidden” work (electric, plumbing, insulation, basement/foundation) factored by time+materialsX architect X 2 years of redesigns and rebuilds of “protype” = $180/sq.ft. vs. $250 to $500. Sure, there are ingenious sweat-equity shelter solutions all over the world that rival “real” architecture. (Witness Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers historic site here in LA — also not appreciated much at the time of its construction, 1925-1955.) But get a grip, people! This concept is several cuts above dumpster diving! And, as for “harsh”, look at Frank Gehry’s house (1978) the “Deconstructivist/Post-Modern” seminal work, that started the vogue in construction-site chic….

  9. Bart August 5, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    I’d… like to see a bit more glass, I’d paint the outside in other colors, but… I do admire the innovative way of building !!!
    With the buildingcodes overhere one almost needs a permit to change color of curtains, unfortunately.

  10. Martel August 5, 2007 at 2:48 am

    Won’t he paint it? The way it looks now, I think this house will lower the prices of real-estate in the neighborhood. Kudos for the designer for using shipping containers, but this is not my favorite container project. Meanwhile, check out DeMaria’s Venice Beach project:

  11. nothgiel August 4, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Great except fo the chain link, but thgats just my opinion

  12. Michael August 4, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    It looks like this house was a Hurricane Katrina victim! The overall design is pedestrian at best.

  13. Richie August 4, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    It’s $180 a square foot because it’s a STICK FRAME HOUSE within a shipping container shell ! There’s all that wood framing all over the place. This seems kind of dumb when much less framing would have been necessary if Structurally Insulated Panels (SIP’s) were used. Also… there’s a ferro-concrete basement and a curved, wood frame, roof. Maybe the local building codes required that this approach was taken ?

    A better take on this 3 bedroom shipping container design is found at: (click on ‘buildings’ and then on CHK[Container Home Kit] The 4 wide container(3 bedroom) design there makes a lot more sense.

    Using SIP’s internally, to provide insulation, walls, and a smooth surface is the way to go. I suggest a resounding NO to stick framing inside Shipping Container Designs !

  14. Bryce August 4, 2007 at 2:00 am

    Some parts of it are cool, but I’m also perplexed as to how it wound up costing $180/sf.

  15. blackcomb August 4, 2007 at 12:52 am

    Seems like a lot ( $180/sf ) for what you really get, I mean the inside isn’t really cool it looks pretty trashy and the exterior isn’t really great either. The idea is fun but really the end product just looks harsh for the money spent.

  16. royalestel August 3, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    An Architect doing this to a shipping container? Wow. Now I’m totally convinced this is within reach of the common guy.

  17. Thibodeaux August 3, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    A 40X8 reclaimed shipping container runs less than $2000. Fitting 7 of them together will give you more than the Zigloo’s 2000 sq feet for less than a buck and a half per square foot. Chain link fence costs next to nothing. I know Bamboo flooring and custom cabinetry can get pricey, but $180 a square foot seems nuts. I know the design shoots for urban trendy, but it looks like a Fred Sanford and son wannabe with OCD. I expected the news caster to give a $30 a square foot price tag. Let me know when Inhabited covers the sustainable story about the old Cajun from New Orleans who got shafted by State Farm after Katrina, who put together his own dream house out of discarded containers from the port and salvaged storm debris with nothing more than the loose change he picked up tap dancing in the French Quarter during convention season.

  18. ‘view-dio’ ... August 3, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    […] and built for an artist by Keith Dewey, the man behind the Zigloo Domestique – go check that out on Inhabitat’s Prefab Friday. The studio is built with a combination of reclaimed windows, raw wood, green and blue bottles […]

  19. Mark August 3, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    I’m a huge fan of what he’s done here. I’ve blogged on it, and intend to my own one day. Awesome job.

  20. Will August 3, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    this is very cool. alot of design elements that aren’t over-wrought, it looks like. invites wear which gives it familiarity

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