you want to build my house out of WHAT?!

title slide - Pecha Kucha 16 @intuitionale

On Tuesday, November 8th, I gave a small presentation at Pecha Kucha 16 in Jacksonville on Container homes. For those of you not familiar with this very fun and exciting presentation style, check out the official Pecha Kucha website and check out the Pecha Kucha Jax Facebook page as well.

Essentially it’s a 20×20 format – you’ve got 20 slides and 20 seconds to talk about each slide. This adds up to about a 6 1/2 minute presentation on whatever topic you choose. Then a brief Q&A period at the end and now get your ass off the stage and let the next contestant get to work! Below are some slides from my presentation.

container construction illustration

illustration of housing square footage growth in one generation

containers = high quality single family homes

While I focused on the “cargotecture” aspect of housing, this presentation was really part of a larger discussion that I’ve been having on this blog for quite some time about more responsible and more compact living.

As political, economic and social pressures continue to mount in our every day lives, it is becoming increasingly apparent to many that “the way things are done” kinda sucks and are looking for higher quality, higher efficiency and smaller living arrangements. It’s as if Minimalism has become the new American Dream. Good bye McMansion, hello streamlined modular container home. 🙂


11 thoughts on “you want to build my house out of WHAT?!

    • Thanks, I appreciate that! Unfortunately I don’t think anyone was filming the presentations. I’m hopeful that there will be some photos up on the Pecha Kucha Jax Facebook page in a few days. Cheers.

  1. Your presentation was great! I wanted to ask questions, but when there was so much response, I thought I’d let others ask, since I knew I could always ask you later. You know, like now: How much to cargo containers cost to make? What other materials are used in addition to steel? How long does the average container serve as an actual shipping container (in years, in miles, and / or number of trips)? How much do ‘retired’ containers sell for? Is there any research or theories on how long containers will last once they’re incorporated into a building?

    • Wow. Those are awesome questions. You should have kept your hand up! 🙂 I’ll go in order:
      I have no idea how much they actually cost to “make”. But a new single trip 20′ container, i.e. a container fabricated in China and shipped here with a single load of goods, will cost you between $2500 and $4500. It’s not quite double for a 40′. Around $6000.
      The containers themselves are made of Corten Steel, which is a high carbon, marine grade steel. There’s a ton of information on the web about the physical properties of this kind of steel. The floors are made of hardwood, typically not sustainable species, and are treated with some serious pesticides and other chemicals in order to meet Australian import standards (them being the most strict in the world). The floor is really NOT friendly. It should either be sealed and a new finish put over top or, idealy, removed and a new subfloor installed.
      The average container should last about 10 years or so. Longer if they are properly maintained and aren’t overly damaged in transit. However, when there is high demand for goods exported from other countries, it actually becomes more cost effective to simply fabricate new containers instead of shipping them back empty. This has happened a lot of the last 15 years or so because the US does not export very many goods. We mostly import. Therefore, the containers arrive and stay.
      “Retired” containers, or containers that are deemed no longer sea-worthy will sell from between $600 (again starting with 20′) and can go as high as $2500 depending on condition. the price also fluctuates with demand, like anything else. 40′ retired containers will be in the neighborhood of about $1500 to $3000.
      Containers, when used in housing, and depending on MANY factors can theoretically last forever. If the steel is properly prepared, insulated, waterproofed and finished, there’s no reason that a container home shouldn’t last for a few hundred years.
      Thanks for the questions, Lisa! You’re awesome! And thanks for coming out the other night! 🙂 Cheers.

    • Thanks, Enoch. Great question. I think the top 3 reasons are the same reasons to go with any modular solution:

      1 – Cost
      2 – Quality
      3 – Efficiency

      Thanks again! Cheers.

    • There isn’t really a direct comparison to be had. Costs, like any construction project, vary so widely by type, materials used, consultants fees, etc. But, if you take a critical look at how the two construction types progress you will easily see where the savings in time and money come in to play.
      With frame construction you are beholden to a fixed critical path that can be hampered by any number of factors like weather, availability of materials, unforeseen construction mistakes, etc. With modular, and container, construction nearly everything is shop fabricated. So time, material and quality are all controlled in a contained environment. Also, specifically with containers, look at what you’re getting – it’s a singular unit that is structural and watertight immediately upon delivery. Compare that with the time, energy and resources it takes to dry in a conventional stick frame structure and you’ve already saved thousands on dollars in labor costs. Now, obviously you can’t simply take a container, plop it down and live in it. But the fabrication costs in time and material are still going to be less simply due to the nature of the material you’re working with. I could go on but I think you get the idea.
      Cheers. 🙂

  2. Pingback: you want to build my house out of WHAT?! | r | one studio architecture | Container Architecture |

  3. J, I think that the use of ISBU as a first skin Is real. In my country Uruguay, the use of ISBU is increase. I have a 40 HC on its basement to begin my home beach. Grettings from here! !

    • Evelin, thanks for your comments. Container building is definitely on the rise having so much prominent media attention over the last couple of years. I’d love to see some shots of your project.


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