VIDEO: Shipping-Container Homes from Lot-ek

by , 07/05/06

Anyone who reads Inhabitat with regularity knows we love shipping-container architecture, and are big fans of the creative NYC architecture firm Lot-ek. We’ve raved about their Recycled Airplane Library and prefab homes made from reclaimed shipping containers. If you are curious to see the faces behind this brilliant work, check out this fabulous presentation given by the iconoclastic Italian design duo at Postopolis event in NYC.

Postopolis was extremely interesting for all those who attended, thanks to intriguing discussions on the intersection of design, architecture, and the blogosphere. Lot-ek gave a particularly great presentation, due to their fun and dynamic presentation style. Our video contains some of the highlights of their talk, including a segment called “Lot-ek blogs Lot-ek” in which Ada Tolla presents questions to the blogosphere for debate/discussion:

1. Is a container structure less costly than conventional construction?
2. Is it as structurally safe?
2. Do you really need an architect to design with containers?

We’d love to hear YOUR thoughts…

If you really like this stuff, watch the full (20 minute) version of the presentation here >

+ Lot-ek

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  1. john simmis October 18, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    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.

  2. Mr.Ecotistical November 7, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    The only thing I don’t understand is how is this considered reuse and prevention of waste if new ones are being built. I mean China is mining somewhere (destroying the land) just to build more. So obviously the best thing we could do is ship as many back as we can. But the point is that we simply don’t ship that many back right? So if they’re going to sit unused because of a trade imbalance I guess we have to see it as green when we use them. In the end though we should send them all back to China and eventually they’ll all be sent back. They don’t have to be sent back immediately with stuff.

  3. olmos25 March 8, 2009 at 12:39 am

    I would like to know how well they can withstand in the desert, I live in an area where the heat can get up to 120 degrees, and I love the idea of a shipping container home, whoever thought of it should be really proud of themselves, maybe people will open their minds and see that we need to act now on helping the environment and every bit counts.

  4. Budi Waluyo February 9, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I am adore the fabulous idea. It will enrich people with paradigm on building human space. But I’m wondering about the convenience in accordance with climate and neighborhood noise, since the wall is thin enough and made of tiny metal sheet. However It’s excellent in the view of eco-friendly and saving the waste.

  5. chris radcliffe August 27, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    My container house is part of the Build it Green tour in Portland, Oregon on Sept 20, 2008
    Feel free to contact me at
    I’d be glad to offer my experiance and contacts that helped to complete my project.

  6. Inhabitat » SHIPP... July 7, 2008 at 9:13 am

    […] always impressed with creative design reuse, but this children’s playground made from recycled shipping containers takes the cake for one […]

  7. Tim March 12, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Chris Radcliff – could you please post a site or sample of your building with containers? I’d love to see an example of a real world project and would love to learn more about you and your company.

  8. Ragib Safaeth February 17, 2008 at 12:52 am

    I am a civil engineeering student at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Calgary,AB, Canada. I am in my final year and have to do a major project for graduation. Now i have chosen shipping container architecture as my topic of interest. I would appreciate any help regarding technical aspect of building with shipping containers.

    i can be reached at

    thank you

  9. Kim November 29, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    I don’t like the idea of building a house out of it because of the meaning. I liked the projects when the containers were used for example storage facilities or exhibitions. But there is only so much you can do with them. In Korea, for PIFF, a few containers were used to build a temporary structure for a couple of weeks of festival. First year, I was fond of the idea, and it actually looked good on sunny days. However, the structure were recycled again for another year, and it was already boring. I think they should really find other ways to use them other than in architecture.

  10. Mack October 23, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    To answer Johnny Queso’s question. Because of a huge trade imbalance with Asia there are a lot more containers coming into the US that are not being shipped out. From what I understand the cost to ship an empty container back to Asia is about $900. Now there are thousands of empty containers littering the ports. Most are 8’X40′ and used ones can go for under $3000. So for around $10. per sq. foot you can have a water tight structure. Not a bad place to start if you want to build an affordable home. Here is a page with lots of links about shipping containers as homes, dorms and other uses.

  11. Dan October 7, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    There seems to have been quite a bit of talk about Lot-Ek and their shipping container house kit. The computer renderings look great but they definitely lead to MANY questions. First off, I’ve seen many quotes about the cost of individual containers (used and new) but no estimates about the construction costs of a house such as this. By the way, how does the HVAC work in these houses (drawings)? Lot-Ek doesn’t seem to answer any email.
    So, in other words, are these REALITY or FANTASY? Have they even actually BUILT any of these houses or is this some student final exam fantasy project?

  12. keirsten September 18, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    Chris Radcliffe – I’m with an architecture firm in Portland and the building dept is acting like this is the first time they’ve seen containers in architecture. Care to share notes?

    and johnny queso, the problem isn’t that the containers are unusable, the problem is that it is cheaper the build new ones in china than it is to ship them back empty.

  13. johnny queso September 18, 2007 at 11:11 am

    i’m not sure i understand why shipping containers need to be recycled. can they not keep being reused as shipping containers? what causes a container to be unusable for shipping, but acceptable for a residence?

    please excuse my ignorance, but this seems like it might be a case of willful style versus actual necessity.

  14. Eric Griffin September 16, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    hi can anyone please note major obstacles with obtaining permits? restroom solution ideas? a structural engineer was mentioned by Chris Radcliffe, what was he required to sign off on specifically?


  15. michael r couch September 11, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    very interested in your site. looking to build and office on my property in a rural area in Indiana. Shipping container building interests me. Would the overall cost be cheaper than a conventional steel building?
    Thanks for making this website.

  16. RD September 10, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    So far only the LA based architect DeMaria has figured out the permit process. Eventually others will get it done. Radcliffe is right on – do it and then come talk to me, otherwise, talk is cheap. I like this site being a place to discuss and exchange design ideas. At the same time, when someone acts on all the theory and pulls off a real project, I have to tip my hat. It’s a jungle out there!

  17. Chris Radcliffe September 10, 2007 at 11:47 am

    I build with shipping containers. I’ve found that getting residential building permits is actually fairly easy. The city of Portland, Oregon-USA asks that I retain a structural engineer but that is really just common sense. This isn’t ground breaking stuff anymore. And I find it tiresome that so many coffee shop enthusiasts publish their design plans but never really build anything.

  18. REUBENMILLER September 10, 2007 at 8:23 am

    I think it is inaccurate to think of LOT-EK as environmental warriors. They are not and don’t claim to be (see end of video).

  19. marco September 6, 2007 at 11:08 am

    How about using tap water for press conferences, I just can’t believe that forward thinking designers still use crappy discusting plasic tap water instead of a nice Sigg bottle or justa glass and icewater. It`s 2007 !

  20. Bob Ellenberg September 5, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    I am a fan of the concept so I won’t critcize. What I really want to know is if they have any projects underway or complete or are they still all propsed ideas?

  21. SM September 4, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Well they clearly address the recycling issue in the video… namely, they themslves (Lot-ek) have maybe built structures using maybe 25 containers… which is barely a dent in the surplus. They mention home recycling of plastic is a more effective use of recycling. The issue is a response to the environment, and design with materials that are obviously in surplus rather than, cutting down Burmese Teak trees or other affluent wastes of natural materials. When you consider displaced people in New Orleans, and many areas soon to be hit by more and stronger hurricanes and global warming weather… these structures seem to be not only a form or recycling but incredibly strong and as seem by the design… aesthetically quite impressive. I think there is a certain stigma to “recycling” as garbage, and the containers from the outside look too industrial for some… but the interior was quite nice, and as prefab as any modern condo being built today.

  22. Richie September 3, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    Jesus.. I just watched the video posted. It really seems different, AND BETTER, than the video I first saw posted on inhabitat right after the ‘Postopolis’ event. Is that possible ? Is this a different video than what was first posted on inhabitat after ‘postopolis’ ?

    This video doesn’t ramble and isn’t boring at all. The ‘Metal Management’ project seems really great… and the CHK video within the video was great. Did they respond to the question of whether you ‘needed’ an architect to create shipping container designs, or not ?

  23. Jill September 1, 2007 at 11:51 am


    What I don’t get is why people are commenting on this post without taking the time to watch the video. Clearly no-one here has actually watched the video except for me. If you actually WATCHED the video (or read any of our articles), you would realize that no-one is arguing that reusing shipping containers is going to save the earth. We’re not telling people to all go out and try to refurbish shipping containers. Nor is anyone advocating purifying urine for drinking water…. This is a site about DESIGN – and we think that the reuse of old industrial waste – as practiced by these architects – is an interesting design strategy.


    We’re not making any “arguments” that we need to get clear. This is simply a showcase for interesting, innovative design.

  24. saurabh September 1, 2007 at 7:55 am

    i still don’t get it, with you guys and shipping containers…i totally understand your concern but there is a small tiny flaw in the argument…lets see if i have got this one right…the argument is because of certain trade and economic policies we are left with lot of containers, so we are finding ways to use them right? correct me if i am wrong on this…now if we are over producing cars, we should find ways to ‘environmentally’ use them in other ways…but then there are also computers, refrigerators, microwaves etc….So instead of tackling the problem of how to use the containers shouldn’t we be focusing on how we can make policies so as to avoid having left with so many containers, cars, refrigerators, microwaves, etc in the first place….i mean going by your argument a lot of people will be living in containers with furniture made out of used cars and drinking their re-purified urine for water…and who will be these people i wonder?
    Your site is really nice and very sincere, giving a lot of people like me to express our opinions, but i feel to truly make it effective we must understand the idea of “environment” is a very political one, further skewed by nations just buying carbon credits as well as the license to pollute…in such a situation i feel it is extremely important for you guys to get your arguments clear.

  25. Jill August 31, 2007 at 5:21 pm


    To be fair to Lot-ek, they do a lot more than just shipping container architecture. Just look at their website or past articles we’ve written about them. However, we can’t have a title that is three sentences long, so we had to shorten it to this, thereby pigeonholing them into the ‘Shipping Container Architects” stereotype.

    And where are you getting your information about the amount of paint and chemicals required to prepare a shipping container fr habitation? Sure it is part of the process, but its not THAT onerous a task!


  26. Michael August 31, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    I do feel that Lot-ek’s design sensibilities are nice but…

    Talking about milking your “15 minutes of fame” enough already with shipping containers…

    Did you know that the amount of harmful chemicals and paint needed to “re-fab, clean and prepare” just one of these containers taken from a cargo ship is enough to wipe out a small city, say… the size of NYC.

  27. Modern Homes New Englan... August 31, 2007 at 9:21 am

    […] Inhabitat put together a video featuring NYC firm Lot-ek talking about shipping container architecture. There’s some great stuff in this. I love seeing the rendering of stacked containers homes that are offset to provide an overhang covering a porch on one end, and an exposed terrace on the other, similar to what I did in my design. […]

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