Shipping containers are cool! They’re big, empty, uniform boxes that you can put things in, and, with a bit of elbow grease, turn into a livable space. You can call them Off-Grid Legos!
What also makes shipping containers awesome is their portability. They’re designed to be moved! Unfortunately, they often move some pretty dangerous stuff, and they aren’t designed for residential housing, so there’s a bit of cleanup and engineering involved to keep this up-cycling wonder structure from becoming an off-grid nightmare.
While the disadvantages are plenty, if you can overcome them, then containers will work out. The question then becomes whether you are equipped to overcome these problems or if it might make more sense to outsource your building to the professionals.
Fortunately, there are pre-fabricated manufacturers that are building modular homes by either using up-cycled shipping containers themselves, or by using shipping containers as a model for designing modular structures that are easily transportable.
Shipping containers are universal; they’re designed for transport by truck, train, and boat so designing a modular frame that takes advantage of this format will revolutionize the modular and tiny home industry!
At the time of this writing, there are three major manufacturers that build homes either by using shipping containers themselves, or by building modular homes that use a metal frame with the same dimensions of your average shipping containers, and then fill in the blanks with more conventional and cheaper materials.
While shipping containers lose structural integrity as you remove side paneling for doors, windows, and at attachment points for additional containers, shipping container inspired homes are engineered so that structural support is located where it is needed. This keeps the need for additional materials low and helps these homes meet local building codes.
Logical Homes builds actual shipping container homes, and handles all the necessary prep-work and engineering so you don’t have to.
Nova Deko Modular Home Solutions builds modular homes inspired by shipping containers. With a wide variety of designs and the cheapest prefab unit on our list, Nova Deko seems to have a great product line. They are based out of Australia but their manufacturing is in China so their units are available globally.
Meka boasts a somewhat Scandinavian line of modular, shipping container inspired units that I wouldn’t be shocked to find in my local Ikea showroom in the near future. They manufacture in good ‘ol Indiana, USA, so local shipping to US customers will be a breeze. While not as chic as Nova Deko, Meka designs have an outdoors appeal that go with their Nordic naming scheme.
**Editor’s note: we’ve updated this list for 2018 with current information, pricing, and some new models available now. As many more shipping container home manufacturers have appeared on the market since the time of this article, we have also published a separate article featuring additional manufacturers: 11 Shipping Container Homes You Can Buy Right Now.**
So, below is a list of 10 models from $24,000. Nova Deko makes a strong appearance here because they simply have a much bigger selection in the sub-$100k price range and great looking designs in general, but Meka and Logical Homes have some promising designs that won themselves a spot on this list.
The Monaco by Nova Deko – $24,000
1 Bedroom, 1 Bath 160sqft
Update: Nova Deko no longer provides pricing information on their website, but this model is still shown in their residential gallery. You can contact the company for specific pricing.
…the Monaco is a studio granny flat, where the living space duals as a bedroom. It features a tiled bathroom, full kitchen, meals area and the dual living/sleeping area. It comes with all the quality features that are standard in Nova Deko modular homes, such as a quality kitchen with cabinetry in 2-pac finish and reconstituted quartz stone bench tops.
The home has high ceilings and large areas of double glazed windows and doors to let in the light and to avoid that closed-in feeling. This steel framed home is delivered complete (excluding kitchen appliances and hot water system). If the foundations and services are in place, you can move in almost immediately. (Source: Nova Deko)
The Talma 200 by Meka – $32,500
1 Bedroom, 1 Bath, 200sqft
Update: The Talma is no longer specifically listed on the Meka website, though it may still be a custom option. Contact information is available on the Meka website.
With the Talma 200, Meka seems to be going with a “beach hut” appeal, while showing off container inspired stackability. I could see a few trucks rolling these into burning man, or to a temporary corporate beach retreat.
The Yucatan 160 by Logical Homes – $40,000
1 Bedroom, 1 Bath, 160sqft
The Yucatan 160 is built using an 8 ft by 20 ft container and features a simple floor plan with a bathroom, kitchen, and a living/sleep area. Logical homes have a list of standard options available in every home, as well as four pre-defined color schemes for the kitchen and bathroom.
The Kara 320 by Logical Homes – $60,000
1 Bedroom, 1 Bathroom, 320sqft
At 320 square feet this compact home includes all of the basic domestic necessities. The home has a roll-up glass garage door that opens onto a 270 square foot porch. This structure is ideal as a retreat, cabin or accessory dwelling. (Source: Logical Homes)
The Yucatan 320 by Logical Homes – $60,000
2 Bedroom, 1 Bath, 320sqft
The Yucatan packs quite a bit into a tiny space. You could fill an acre of land with a dozen of these things and have yourself an off-grid resort.
The Alp 320 by Meka – $72,000
1 Bedroom, 1 Bath, 320sqft
The Scandinavian design is very evident in this simple but cozy little box that just seems to exist modestly in its woody environment. This unit doesn’t offer much in the way of privacy, but I don’t think the deer will mind.
The Sol 480 by Meka – $86,300
1 Bedroom, 1 Bath, 480sqft
The Sol 480 adds 160sqft onto the Alp model by Meka, and they give you a lot with that 160 feet. Again, you could probably find this decor at home on an Ikea showroom, but the open design makes efficient use of the space. A perfect little getaway or cozy home.
The Vor 640 by Meka – $121,500
2 Bedroom, 1 Bath, 640sqft
The Vor 640 features a considerable amount of space in a beautiful package. The home includes a terrace area and plenty of storage space in addition to the bathroom, kitchen, living room, and bedrooms.
The Aegean 640 by Logical Homes – $180,000
1 Bedroom, 1 Bath, 640sqft
Need a weekend getaway or a modest home with a small footprint? Then our Aegean series of homes is for you. The Aegean is a single story house with a small footprint and a bold cantilevered roof – this makes for a strong architectural statement in a small package.