Shipping Container Cabin in the Woods

Shipping Container Cabin in the Woods

By Christine Walsh 


When Kam Kasravi and Connie Dewitt were faced with the decision on how to build a cabin on their woodland property in the Santa Cruz mountains they first considered buying a prefab house. But after realizing that there simply wasn’t enough room to bring in a prefab house down the narrow forest path that leads to their property, they started considering building the cabin out of recycled shipping containers. They enlisted the help of architect David Fenster of Modulus Architects, who designed for them the modern yet spacious shipping container cabin.


The owners wanted a modern cabin, but one that would not interfere too much with the surrounding forest. Today, their 2-story cabin has a footprint of 1,200 square feet, with 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms and an outdoor shower. In total, it cost roughly $600,000 to build, since in addition to purchasing all the materials, the couple also hired several geological consultants, soil analysts and structural engineers due to the fact that the house stands in the middle of a forest and in an earthquake prone area. This is still a savings of about $50 per square foot over a more conventional prefab house alternative. The cabin is built on a raised concrete base and they had to cut down two redwood trees in order to build it. The owners repurposed the wood to build the cabin’s staircase.

In designing the house, light and the feeling of being in an open space was paramount. The cabin has 9 skylights, 23 windows, and five glass doors, which greatly reduced the cramped feeling of living in a container. They bought the containers from the Port of Oakland, and opted for dry-freight containers called Hi Cubes. These containers have a height of 9 feet and 6 inches, which made it possible for the cabin to have high ceilings and therefore appear more spacious.

They also left most of the spaces inside the cabin open to further add to the feeling of spaciousness. The upstairs bedrooms are only separated by curtains and screen doors to save space, while still providing some privacy to the occupants.

The cabin was assembled onsite in just 6 hours, though the interior took almost a year to finish. While they initially worried about the industrial look of a home made from shipping containers, they, in the end, decided to leave many of the original features of the containers in place. According to the owners, this creates a nice blend of modern and rural and they went so far as to leave the upstairs flooring in its original state.







An added bonus of building a cabin from shipping containers in the region is the fact that they are earthquake proof. The area of the Santa Cruz mountains were the cabin stands is earthquake prone, but this presents little problem for the shipping containers which are built to withstand the harsh conditions of ocean travel. Since the cabin is made mostly of metal it should also prove fire proof in case of a forest fire in the region.

Family Home


Architect Uses Shipping Containers to Expand Cottage Into a Family Home

By Christine Walsh



After purchasing a 3.5-acre plot of land in Topanga, California, where a rustic 750-square-foot cabin already stood, architect Christof Jantzen set out looking for ways to expand the cabin to house his family of five. He opted to complete the expansion using five recycled shipping containers and managed to create a wonderful blend of the old and the new in the resulting home. Adding the shipping containers expanded the size of the house to around 1550-square-feet.


Speed of construction was important to Jantzen and he managed to build the new home in only four weeks. Another reason for his decision to expand the home using shipping containers was cost. Shipping container homes cost roughly $100 to $150 per square foot to construct, which is much cheaper than alternative construction options. Jantzen, who is the principal of the Studio Jantzen architecture firm in Los Angeles, combined several of the firm’s existing designs to create his home. The building fell to Eric Engheben of 44 West Construction. This is not the first container structure that Jantzen has completed, as he also completed a poolhouse in Brentwood, California, a desert container house, and an 18-container, 2,400-square-foot house in Topanga.

Jantzen purchased the five shipping containers in Long Beach, California where they were also modified prior to transport to the building site. The edges and inner housings of the containers were laser cut to allow the five of them to be assembled together. The container seams were welded together, and the walls and ceilings were furred with rigid insulation and finished using plywood.


On site, Jantzen first gutted the existing cottage, and installed a new kitchen and bathroom inside it, before he added the shipping containers to it. The main living area and bedrooms are all located in the shipping container part of the house.

Covering the entire residence is a single-span, corrugated metal roof with site-welded tubes mounted atop the edges of the containers. The roof also hangs over the cottage part of the home, thus creating unity in the design, while it also provides a covered patio area in front of the home. Furthermore, it offers protection from the rain and wind, while the interstitial space provides cross-ventilation meant to mitigate convection heating within the containers.


Large floor to ceiling windows were fitted into the docking ends of the containers to allow the maximum amount of natural light into the structure. All the windows are also fully operable to aid in the cross-ventilation of the home. To reduce the amount of electrical lighting needed, all the interior surfaces of the shipping containers are painted in light colors.




Wisconsin Off The Grid Container Home

Wisconsin Off The Grid Container Home

By Christine Walsh 

container home

This innovative shipping container home measures 500 square feet including the deck space, and is located in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. It comes complete with a small dipping pool and would make a great beach home or lake cabin. While this small home can be hooked up to utilities, it is designed to also function completely off the grid.

Container home extention

The power to this home is supplied via 4 solar panels with 240 watts each, which are connected to a 3600watt 24volt TR3624 Xantrex Inverter and mounted using a Unirac mounting system. This entire system is capable of producing up to 3,700 to 4,440 watt hours per day calculated based on 5 to 6 hours of peak sunshine. The kit can also have an additional 7 panels connected to increase the electrical output of the system.

The interior of the house is made from Blue Ribbon OSB Wood Boards, which are certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The insulation is moisture resistant and capable of reflecting 97% of radiant energy due to the Reflectix foil faced insulation system. The home also comes installed with a murphy bed, which can be doubled up to make more room and which is already fitted with inset fabric panels.

Container Home Interior

Container home living area


Container Home extention and living room

The Water Saver toilet has a sink built into the tank, which allows for direct recycling of grey water for flushing. The toiled can be connected to a Bio-digester waste system or a standard sewer. The hand held shower and mixing valve are connected to a gravity fed batch solar water heater. The flooring in the bathroom is made from acid stained cement, while the rest of the house has cork flooring.

The deck outside is lined with rice husk and recycled plastic decking and is erected on a lightweight 100% corrosive resistant aluminum structure, which has stainless steel fasteners and adjustable legs. The deck also includes an 8’x8’x3.5’ movable pool prototype membrane, which can be used as a dipping pool or water reservoir. The pool can be filtered with non-mechanical slow sand filters and an ultraviolet water pump.

The house has an aluminum and frosted glass exterior with a sliding door system with aluminum tube section and al. angle structure. The home’s kitchen comes complete with 2 induction single cooktops and a pan and also features a 36” stainless steel sink and faucet. The custom-made cabinetry is also constructed from OSB wood boards, while the kitchen counter top is made from stainless steel. This container home was selling for $49,000 about a year ago.

Bathroom of a container home


Container home kitchen

Dining area

Homage to the Shipping Container: Pallotta Teamworks Headquarters

Homage to the Shipping Container: Pallotta Teamworks Headquarters



Over ten years ago, Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWA) were trailblazers in the use of repurposed shipping containers to build out the warehouse headquarters of Pallotta TeamWorks, a charity event company. The design won several design awards, including a national AIA Honor Award in 2002 with comments from the awards jury showing appreciation for its visual richness and environmental conservation. One juror said that it was “truly a California concept – recycling and sustainability at its utmost.”



In its heyday, Pallotta Teamworks was so successful in its fund-raising efforts that it was highlighted in a case study in 2002 by the Harvard Business School, having contributed $305 million net to various charities during a nine year period. Even though the company employed around 400 full-time staff members in sixteen offices nationwide by 2002, when they suddenly went out of business, laid off its entire staff, and closed the doors of its newly-built headquarters, the efforts of Pallotta Teamworks had inspired many other companies, events, and charities with their methodologies.

In an homage to the forward-thinking efforts of the people of Pallotta TeamWorks and the remarkable solution presented by CWA, Jetson Green presents some of the images of their headquarters, in hopes that others will be inspired to utilize similar approaches in today’s designs that utilize shipping containers.

The budget on the project, at $40 per square foot (about half of the going rate at the time), was so tight that analysis revealed there wasn’t enough money to pay for air conditioning in the space, leading to the decision to contain workspaces and strategically isolate the use of lighting and climate control in conjunction with passive air currents and skylights.

Minimal alteration of the warehouse structure, located in the Atwater Village area of Los Angeles, was facilitated by the use of air-conditioned “breathing islands” beneath tent structures that were anchored by shipping containers. A three-story “executive tower” of offices is a central focus of a cluster of departmental “neighborhoods.”




Shipping Containers Serve as Homes for Brighton Homeless


Shipping Containers Serve as for Brighton Homeless



Late in October, 36 new homes made from recycled shipping containers began arriving in Brighton to become temporary dwellings for men and women that have had a history of homelessness.

The initiative was begun by the Brigton Housing Trust, a housing charity, and QED Estates Ltd, a housing developer. Located in New England Road on a plot that is known as Richardson’s Yard, the development is taking the place of a car park and a former scrap metal yard. Because the land is not suitable for long-term housing, the location is temporary, but the container homes can be easily relocated when the five-year permit expires.



“We expect residents to be moving in about five weeks after the arrival of the first container on site and turn this exciting and innovative housing concept into reality,” said Ross Gilbert of QED, in a recent interview with The Argus. “Our temporary use of land earmarked for future regeneration demonstrates just what can be done in the interim to help solve the acute housing shortage.”

Twenty-one residents have been chosen and are “being prepared to move into their new homes,” said Andy Winter, Chief Executive of BHT. “The residents will have completed one of BHT’s programme for change and will free up space in other services that will be able to take in men and women who are currently on the streets.”

Designed and built in The Netherlands for a housing project in Amsterdam that was not finalized, the shipping containers are being stacked in three- and five-story configurations, with stairways leading to the upper stories, and will feature solar roof panels, gardens, and balconies.