Gallery: SG Blocks Container House Debuts at West Coast Green


West Coast Green kicked off this morning and we’re excited to reveal this year’s stunning show house: the SG Blocks Harbinger prefab! Composed of five recycled shipping containers, the home features a durable steel envelope that is capable of withstanding hurricanes in Florida and earthquakes in California. A paragon of sustainability, the Harbinger house also features FSC-certified woods, solar panels, rainwater recycling, and an Agilewaves resource monitoring system. Designed by the Lawrence Group, the prefab was fabricated in a month and assembled on-site in just 4 hours and 47 minutes!

As the crowning exhibit at this year’s West Coast Green conference, the Harbinger House is an incredible exercise in sustainable architecture. The exterior features high-performance glazing and Integrity windows that provide excellent insulation and require less energy to manufacture than traditional windows. All of the wood finishes throughout the house are FSC Certified, and the home’s interior features an eclectic mix of sustainably sourced furniture by ecofabulous. However, according Lawrence Group principal Dan Rosenthal: “at base, the most fundamental strategy is that we’re re-using a shipping container that has lived its useful life as a shipping container”.

Built to withstand the test of time while traversing the globe, shipping containers are an intrepid green builder’s dream. The durable ready-made shells are a readily available and offer exciting possibilities for prefabricated architecture. By working with ConGlobal Industries, SG Blocks is able to source containers from depots nearest to the destination site and then fabricate them on the spot. The same local skilled workers who repair the containers are hired to repurpose them into house modules, which can then be easily shipped on trains. This process translates into a miniscule transportation footprint and blazingly fast build times: “when you deliver the finished components to site, you can install up to 12 containers using one crane in one day – that’s the equivalent of a 5,000 square foot house that is set in place in one day”.

Named by Gregory Schaefer, the Harbinger House is a symbol of “looking forward into the future of design and sustainability”. The final home was selected from 11 potential designs created by architects at the Lawrence Group. Rosenthal says: “one of the motives of the contest was to come up with a lot of houses that will be posted to the SG Blocks website and be sold as catalogue homes. We can not only bring the costs down if we’re mass producing them, but we’re opening up our potential buyers to the entire nation”. The Harbinger house, complete with all of its bells and whistles ran about $150 psf, and the Lawrence Group estimates that its shipping container prefabs will run roughly 15% cheaper than comparable stick-built homes.

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+ SG Blocks

+ Lawrence Group

+ West Coast Green

Photos by Mike Chino


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  1. baidu123 September 8, 2011 at 1:44 am

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  2. Marie59 January 8, 2011 at 4:15 am

    In France, in the North, a company is also expanding into the production of container houses.
    That is House-Up (

  3. lwthomas_98 June 12, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I was stationed in Afghanistan just a few months ago, and all of our rooms were made out of conex boxes (shipping containers). I was impressed with what they had done to make these usable living spaces. Being there in the summer (temps 125) and the winter (temps -10), they were very comfortable. I would highly consider buying a home made out of this material.

  4. zannemclean November 2, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    You can see floor plans here:
    Click on the pictures of the houses and each floor plan will come up.

  5. JohnJ October 30, 2008 at 12:27 am

    The biggest difficulty I’ve seen seems to be convincing local authorities that these can exceed code, but they don’t understand how to compare apples to oranges (or steel to wood, or ceramic to fiberglass…)

    Where does one get validated equivalents for thermal insulation, fire spread, and wind resistance?

  6. Malc October 20, 2008 at 11:17 pm


    To answer your question about the R-Value of shipping containers. Simple answer is that Shipping containers use a ceramic spray on application called SuperTherm, which with one coat used on the interior and exterior has the equivelent R-Value of 28.5 compared to 6 inches of Fiberglass with R-19.

    A more complex answer which can be found by googling Bob Vila + Shipping Container reveals that. Unlike fiberglass whose R-value rating assumes heat loading by a building and simply measures the rate at which that heat is transferred—ceramic coatings are not given an R-value rating. Instead, they are measured by their emissivity. Emissivity measures both the ability to reflect heat and the amount of heat that is loaded onto a surface. The concept is simple: Why use fiberglass insulation to slow the transfer of heat into a building when you can just prevent that heat from ever loading onto the building in the first place? If heat is kept off the structure to begin with, that fiberglass insulation becomes unnecessary.

    Some ceramic coatings feature additional properties, like preventing moisture migration. Some structures see up to 25 percent of HVAC costs coming from dehumidification needs, but a ceramic coating can also bring savings through moisture management. Additional features can include mold and mildew control, sound attenuation properties, and fire resistance.

  7. davidmsmith October 1, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    If all you want is a cute cube, Pre-fab is the answer, and for a lot less money. View Transcon Steel Website:

  8. davidmsmith October 1, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Sounds and looks good. However, if all you’re looking for is a cute cube, that can be achieved though prefab and for a lot less money. Let your imagination run a muck. View

  9. Dane October 1, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    I am all for the container house concept. What I find lacking in every one that I see however, is INSULATION. It makes little sense to use recycled material to build a house only to blow those carbon savings out the window trying to heat and cool the place. Can someone, anyone, tell me what sort of R-value these things achieve?

  10. antkm1 September 29, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    The house will be up for sale once it does the tour of Green conventinos. This was based on West Coast pricing. It may be cheaper in other markets; cost of labor varies from state to state.

    Another aspect I need to comment on is the cost of the high-end materials that went into this house. Nanawall is not cheap my friends. I was told those two segments of Nanawall cost $30,000+ and the Marvin windows were around $25k-$30k; so you’re talking about $50k-$60k just in windows. This showhouse was designed with all the bells and whistles, that’s typically what showhouses are for. The house can and will be built for less and have a simlar of not the same look. In comparison, Michelle Kaufmann’s house from last year cost roughly $350/s.f. to build. So this house is considerably cheaper to build from comparision to last year.

    One other aspect to this house with regards to saving money is that you save in labor time. When you build a house on a site, the contractor has site managment costs and bills the owner for his/her time building the house. Since SG Blocks can be pre-fabed, it takes considerably less time on site to finish (around 15% less time). This show house was assembled in just under 5 hours and took 4 weeks to build from the time they got the raw containers to the time is was finsihed at the show.

    So, before we continue this discussion about the priorities of architects and builders, just keep these few points in mind. Plus, one person’s definition of affordable may be compeltely different than another’s. Look at the comapny call “Design Within Reach”…perfect example. The Harbinger is not a house for Habitat for Humanity nor is it it a HUD house. It is a house that could very easily be affordable to a low to moderate income family.

  11. bing September 27, 2008 at 3:15 am

    The West Coast Green Show website lists the Harbinger house as a 1700 sqft two-story home. At the above quote of $150 psf, that\’s $255,000. I love the looks, I love the prefab concept, I love the use of shipping containers, but come on: a quarter mil for a 1700 sqft prefab in a downmarket economy?

    We must, and certainly can, dramatically lower these prices below stick-built or we\’re just playing at prefab, running through a fad of which your successful clientele will soon tire.

    Prefab architects: is your goal to make a lot of money off a few models sold or to truly change the residential landscape through a mass infusion of great, sustainable design? Is there anyone left with higher ideals?

  12. SG Blocks Container Hou... September 27, 2008 at 12:29 am

    […] O­t­her­ t­han­ all t­hese it­ also­ uses an­ Ag­ilewaves r­eso­ur­c­e mo­n­it­o­r­in­g­ sy­st­em whic­h is a web-based applic­at­io­n­ t­hat­ ac­t­ively­ mo­n­it­o­r­s r­eal-t­ime elec­t­r­ic­, g­as an­d wat­er­ usag­e an­d t­hen­ c­alc­ulat­es t­he c­ar­bo­n­ f­o­o­t­pr­in­t­. But­ t­he SG­ Bloc­k­s con­­tain­­e­r­ h­ou­se­ is n­­ot on­­l­y­ h­igh­l­y­ su­stain­­ab­l­e­ b­u­t can­­ al­so with­stan­­d h­u­r­r­ican­­e­s in­­ Fl­or­ida an­­d e­ar­th­qu­ake­s in­­ Cal­ifor­n­­ia, th­an­­ks to its du­r­ab­l­e­ ste­e­l­ e­n­­ve­l­ope­. Ju­st for­ th­e­ r­e­cor­d … it took th­e­m 1 mon­­th­ to do th­e­ pr­e­fab­ an­­d on­­l­y­ 4 h­ou­r­s an­­d 47 min­­u­te­s to in­­stal­l­ it at th­e­ e­x­po. – via Inh­ab­itat […]

  13. da September 26, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Umm…this is a very nice house and all, but I don’t see any actual shipping containers. Did they re-clad the entire house after building it?

  14. antkm1 September 25, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    the floor plans for the house can be found if you follow the links for Lawrence Group in thier projects under sustainability. You can also find them and all the other 11 designs in West Coast Green’s website

  15. phrancis September 25, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Wow, that’s the best looking shipping container house yet!

  16. Brian Lang September 25, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Can you please post a floor plan and total square footage and total cost for this house? Thanks.

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