Efficient Shipping Container Floor Plan Ideas Inspired By Real Homes

Container homes have become almost mainstream lately, with more and more inspiring designs and cool ideas popping up constantly. Design-wise, each project is unique and different from the others, meant to appeal to certain types of people or to adapt to particular climates or locations.

shipping container home plans

One thing that most shipping container homes for sale seem to have in common is a small footprint and a floor plan that’s optimized to pack as much functionality in as little space as possible. We’re going to explore this idea in more detail through the examples that follow.

What Is a Shipping Container House?

What Is a Shipping Container House?

At first look, a shipping container house may appear to be an unlikely candidate for a home, but it is gaining favor because it easily stands out as a cost-effective housing alternative that combines style, spaciousness, and affordability in a single steel box.

While container homes can be a cheap and environmentally beneficial alternative for rental properties, they are not for everyone. Discover what a shipping container home is, the advantages and disadvantages of shipping container homes, and how to locate reused shipping containers for investment purposes.

A shipping container home is a structure constructed entirely of recycled shipping containers, such as cargo or storage containers. They are basically modular steel boxes, which are normally available in two sizes (20 x 8 feet and 40 x 8 feet) and may be assembled to form a permanent or movable living area with a range of design, square footage, and pricing options. 

A shipping container home can be a single container or a collection of containers that are pieced together to make a more traditional housing structure (this is typically done by removing the walls).

Where Do the Shipping Containers Come from and How Do You Buy One?

There is usually a plethora of container vendors in the vicinity of ports. Thus, if you’re looking to purchase a shipping container, this is one place to start. Additionally, you can obtain containers by turning to local brokers, who utilize their localized networks to locate the containers you require.

However, as convenient as it may be to locate the containers you require near ports, there are some drawbacks. Pricing may be higher due to the ease of access and the scarcity of clear deals. Giving you little opportunity to ascertain the rationale for the pricing and additional expenses.

If the seller permits, carefully inspect the container you are about to purchase.

If you require the container to protect you from water and wind, enter it and close the entrance. Because it will be dark, you should look for any points of light. If you discover a location, it is possible that it will be unable to protect you or your belongings from the elements.

Ascertain that the doors close properly and that the container is free of significant dents. Containers rust slightly over time, especially if they are not “fresh,” but you should search for locations where the container has rusted completely through.

The Eco-Friendly Bonus of Container Homes

The Eco-Friendly Bonus of Container Homes

Typically, shipping container architecture is referred to as an eco-friendly kind of construction. It focuses on upcycling or recycling abandoned shipping containers that, if not used for such a purpose, could become a discarded pile of steel taking up valuable space at some ports across the world. 

Additionally, by recycling these steel constructions, one can reduce the demand for different materials that are used to build regular homes. As a result, the total embodied energy cost of a residence is reduced. Therefore, if you’re considering purchasing a ‘new’ container, reconsider – more on that later.

A Cost Breakdown of Shipping Containers

Shipping containers, whether new or second-hand, can be acquired if you have a few thousand dollars, which makes them an economical alternative, particularly for the most basic of residences.

However, if you’re seeking to create a larger house, there are already shipping-container residences that exceed 2,000 square feet but the containers would cost closer to $25,000. Generally speaking, a 20-foot container will usually cost between $1,400 and $2,800.

Shipping Container House Pros and Cons

Shipping Container House Pros and Cons

As you can imagine, buying and using a shipping container house has its advantages and drawbacks, so let’s take a closer look at what you can expect.

Pro: They’re fast to set up.

Setting up a shipping container house is significantly faster than traditional techniques of construction. Offsite fabrication of smaller dwellings can be completed in three weeks. Larger residences can be built in a few months.

Numerous minor features and modifications can be made at the manufacturing site prior to the containers reaching their final destination.

Con: They can have harmful materials.

It is possible that used cargo containers contained hazardous chemicals or other things. Additionally, they have been coated to resist rusting during transit.

Pro: They are cost-effective.

When compared to standard transportation techniques, shipping containers are definitely cheaper. For $35,000, one man utilized two shipping containers to construct a rustic cabin that is totally self-sufficient.

Con: You’ll (most likely) need a permit.

Container housing is still a relatively new concept in a number of communities. As a result, numerous permits and building rules are incompatible with them.

Conduct research to confirm that you are legally permitted to construct a container home. Then you must ensure that your home conforms with all applicable zoning and building rules.

Shipping Container Home Floor Plans

The Container Guest House Floor Plan designed by Poteet Architects

The Container Guest House Floor Plan designed by Poteet Architects
The Container Guest House Floor Plan

This container home was designed and built by Poteet Architects, a studio known for their efforts to work with reclaimed materials and to adapt and constantly evolve in the sphere of modern interior design. They built this structure for a client located in San Antonio, United States. It serves as a guest house and it has a simple and linear layout and large windows and sliding glass doors which connect the structure to its surroundings and let light and nature in.

Off-grid container house by Studio H:T

Off-grid container house by Studio H:T
Off-grid container house by Studio H:T Floor Plan

When Studio H:T designed this house they focused on space-efficiency as well as on making this an off-grid retreat which can do well in remote areas. It takes advantage of the natural light, has a green roof, a stove and photovoltaic panels. From a structural point of view, it’s composed of three sections. There’s the taller module at the center which contains the entryway, living room, dining area and the loft above and two whipping container sections, one on each side, providing additional living space.

El Tiemblo House by James & Mau

El Tiemblo House by James & Mau
El Tiemblo House by James & Mau Floor Plan


Not all shipping container structures are small. In fact, there are some pretty huge ones out there but when it comes to residences size usually varies based on what each design is trying to accomplish. This, for example, is a 190 square meter house built by studio James & Mau. It has an L-shaped floor plan and interior spaces organized on two floors. The living room, kitchen and bathroom are placed on the ground floor and the master bedroom suite and a study occupy the upstairs volume. There’s also a guest area which forms the L shape.

Casa RDP Container Home

Container Casa RDP
Container Casa RDP FLoor plan

When architects Daniel shipping containers simply because it made sense based on their client’s character (a person always interested in the mechanics, on how the pieces move and how the mechanism works, with a passion for old clocks and cars). At the same time, containers also allowed them to keep the cost of the project low. The result was the RDP House, a building with a strong connection to the outdoors emphasized both in its design and floor plan.

The HO4 Container Home by Honomobo

The HO4 by Honomobo
Large The HO4 by Honomobo floor plan

The HO4 container home designed by Honomobo is 32 ft wide and 24 ft deep with a simple and efficient layout. It includes two bedrooms, a living room, a dining area, a full kitchen and a bathroom. Everything fits inside four repurposed shipping containers. It’s ready to work with solar panels in case you decide to take off-the-grid and it a glazed facade and large openings which let the light and the outdoors in.

The VOR 640 by MekaWorld

The VOR 640 by MekaWorld
The VOR 640 by MekaWorld Floor Plan

A lot of times shipping container homes have a strong industrial and cold appearance but that’s actually not the case with VOR 640 which is a compact structure designed and built by MekaWorld. With its wood=paneled exterior and small but cozy footprint, this container house contains a kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom and a living room, with a total surface of 60 square meters (640 square feet, hence the name). It also has a small terrace which acts as a buffer between the indoor and outdoor areas.

The Luckdrops container house

The Luckdrops container house
The Luckdrops container house Design

The Luckdrops container homes are designed to be minimalistic and space-efficient and they include modern amenities and elegant finishes. All these elements put together create a stylish and comfortable environment. The design maximizes space and efficiency and the steel shell ensures that the house is strong, durable and secure and can withstand wind, fire, show, floods and earthquakes. Each unit is built with a single shipping container.

Casa Liray by ARQtainer

Casa Liray by ARQtainer
Casa Liray container floor plan by ARQtainer

Casa Liray is a shipping container home with floor plan measuring 115 square meters total. It was completed by studio ARQtainer back in 2010 and you can find it in Hill, Chile. It was meant to be a low cost, earthquake resistant structure and it has to be built in a short period of time. Given all these requirements, using shipping containers made a lot of sense and helped the architects achieve all their goals. The result was this modern L-shaped container house that’s able to adapt to a variety of different environments and conditions.

Container beach house by Pablo Errázuriz

Container beach house by Pablo Errázuriz
Container beach house floor plan by Pablo Errázuriz

Located in Canela Baja, in Chile, this beach retreat may be small but at the same time it’s also very cool.. It was designed by Pablo Errázuriz and was made using a reclaimed shipping container clad with corten steel plates and wooden boards. It has a covered deck and a roof terrace and it offers a variety of advantages such as the low cost and the fact that it requires very little maintenance. It’s a nice option for short vacations weekend getaways.

The 2070 Live/ Work studio

The 2070 Live/ Work studio
The 2070 Live/ Work studio floor plan

The 2070 Live/ Work studio, as the name of the project suggests, was designed to serve as a home and workspace. It was designed and built by Sundog Structures using seven shipping containers and has an interesting floor plan. There’s a vertical tower and two box-like volumes stacked one on top of the other. Inside there’s space for two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a studio, gallery space, two bathrooms and a small patio. It’s an interesting combo complemented by a cool and modern design.


Do I Need Permit for Container Home?

It really depends on the regulations in the area where you live. Whether you use a shipping container as a residence or a maybe a commercial facility (like a diner), it is subject to the area’s numerous codes and rules.

Additionally, you should understand that obtaining approval from local authorities is not sufficient. A container house building permit or code also entitles you to have your construction plans inspected for safety by a city-certified building inspector. This inspector would verify the container’s placement.

Are Shipping Container Homes Safe to Live In?

Living inside a cargo container requires a great deal of adjustment. You must assess a variety of factors to determine whether it is appropriate for your needs. Affordability and durability mean nothing if you are unable to live comfortably within a container home.

The lifetime of shipping container dwellings is one of their advantages. However, are there any considerations to make if you intend to live in home containers for an extended period of time?

The most frequent safety concern for shipping containers is the application of hazardous chemicals. Concerns have been expressed about the compounds contained in safety containers. To safeguard the delivered items during transportation, the wooden floors are sprayed with hefty and toxic insecticides. Meanwhile, some canisters are coated with toxic paint.

Some future owners of home containers intend to convert it into a cabin and relocate it to the woods. As a result, people want to know what level of security their home containers have, particularly if they would be leaving them for months. 

Shipping container homes offer the same level of security as conventional dwellings. Thus, if you choose to utilize it as a home, you must retain the container’s original structure. 

Are Shipping Container Homes Safe in Tornadoes?

Even if shipping containers are designed to resist storms and waves at sea, they are not completely immune to tornadoes.

Tornadoes are not your typical weather hazard. Tornadoes travel at an average speed of 30 miles per hour. However, they can range between 0 and 70 mph. They strike in a manner that is distinct from that of thunderstorms, fire, or even a strong windstorm. All of which cause “localized” injury.

Tornadoes inflict the most of their damage approximately 10 feet above the ground’s surface. Tornadoes pick up objects and hurl them great distances. Once a tornado has entered a structure, it can cause significant damage.

How Much Does It Cost to Make a Shipping Container Livable?

Apart from the cost of the container itself, you’ll also need to budget for labor (which usually costs between $50 and $150 per hour) and any changes necessary to make the container habitable.

Budget at least $10,000 for labor, in addition to expenditures for the permits needed, for making any plans, and any potential architectural fees. You will likely end up spending money with structural engineering.

Which States Allow Shipping Container Homes?

Technically, all states permit the construction of shipping container dwellings. However, approval is more difficult to obtain in some states.

The following states have less restrictive zoning rules or construction codes: Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Florida, Minnesota, Tennessee, Maine, South Dakota, North Carolina, Nevada, California, South Carolina, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Georgia, Texas, Nebraska, Arizona, Michigan, Idaho, Oregon, and New Hampshire.

Are shipping container homes worth it?

Shipping container homes are a low-maintenance, cost-effective option that can be customized. They have the potential to be more cost effective than conventional houses. They are often more affordable than conventional homes due to the fact that they don’t need that much labor, nor do they consume too many building materials.

Are shipping container homes legal in Florida?

You can build a container home in Florida, but there are some restrictions. You must, however, be familiar with Florida’s zoning restrictions. Prior to purchasing the property on which you intend to build your shipping container home, you should verify that the specific zone doesn’t have any restrictions.

Are shipping container homes legal in Ohio?

While shipping container homes are permitted in Ohio, they must adhere to the Residential Code of Ohio and the Ohio Building Codes.

Are shipping container homes legal in New York?

New York is one of the American states where shipping container homes are legal.

Are shipping container homes legal in Arizona?

Shipping container homes are permitted within Tucson’s city borders, but not within unincorporated Pima County.

Are shipping container homes legal in Nevada?

In Nevada, it is legal to construct a shipping container home.