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container home

Custom Container Home in the Colorado Mountains 

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Jul 28, 2019

Homes created from shipping containers, otherwise known as container homes, are an ultimate example of reuse and recycle. At least 14 million used "ex-service shipping containers" are sitting in ports and shipping yards around the world. Many companies wait for the price of steel to rise before offering these used containers to recycling operations. These solid steel rectangular cuboids can be the perfect building blocks for unique and beautiful homes.

Shipping containers offer tremendous flexibility, from tiny cabins in the woods to stacked multiple container constructions that offer outstanding options for clean, sleek, modernist design. You can design a home from repurposed materials using salvaged, recycled, or repurposed materials during home construction or home remodeling. Doing this reduces the environmental impact of a project, in part by minimizing demand on the natural and raw materials.

There will be pros and cons when opting for a shipping container home. One recent market analysis found the container home market is expected to grow at a CAGR [cumulative average growth rate] of 6.5% globally by 2025. The growth in container homes will be driven by:

  • reduced construction time
  • cost-effectiveness
  • ease of installation and relocation
  • growing awareness of developing green building concepts

The global market for shipping container homes is on track to surpass 73 billion USD by 2025. This increasingly popular sustainable option for home design is fueled, in part, by stories of homeowners willing to share their insights into the benefits and challenges of living in a shipping container. Sara Yi, who purchased and presently lives in a custom-designed container home from Custom Container Living, is one of them.

"I love every moment," says Yi of living in her container home, in a testimonial on the Custom Container Living website. "I look outside my windows, and I look at Mount Thorodin [located in Colorado's Golden Gate Canyon State Park]. It's so peaceful living here." She also mentions that her 40-foot shipping container home is "bigger or the same size than any apartment I've ever lived in."

A Custom Container Home 

After researching several tiny house builders around the country, Yi chose Custom Container Living. Representatives convinced her that her dream of living in a container home could become a reality. "You can truly customize your home any way you'd like," she tells us, and that was another appeal of going the container home route.

Custom Container Living is a Missouri-based company that offers container homes in a wide variety of styles, options, and floor plans. The container homes ship across the continental United States, including Yi's location in a rural area of Blackhawk, Colorado. Yi's custom container home models the Empty Nester Floor Plan offered by Custom Container Living. However, she did incorporate several customizations, detailed below.

container home exterior
Photo Credit: Custom Container Living

The 10x40 home includes two separate shipping containers. The spacious 400-square-foot interior consists of a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and full-size bathroom. A lofted sleeping area has 84 inches of built-in open shelves extending from the loft floor to the ceiling on one of the end walls. The loft also has five 36" x24" slider windows that bathe the space in natural light.

container home interior
Photo Credit: Custom Container Living

The shipping container home's insulation meets local code requirements. The only heat source is a small wood stove, despite living in the snowy Colorado mountains. This customization was something that Yi wanted to include to reduce overall energy demand and reliance on fossil fuel energy from the grid.

container home kitchen
Photo Credit: Custom Container Living

Yi shares her home with her pets and a steady stream of visitors. Whereas the Empty Nester model originally only came with one 40-foot container, she decided on a two-container home for the extra space allowed. "I went this route (shipping container model) mainly due to my builders and because of the sustainability of this option," she says. Yi says she was attracted to the idea of building a home from a wholly repurposed object.

Another major enticement: Keeping a shipping container out of a landfill. Yi's inspiration was to "take something that would end up in our landfills to create a home that is strong, less prone to fire risk, easier to transport, and which you can customize."

shipping container bathroom
Photo Credit: Custom Container Living

Yi also loves how simple her home is to clean. "If I have people coming over, it probably takes me 20 minutes to clean the place through and through." Purchasing a custom container home also allowed Yi to move into a beautiful rural area of Colorado. "I love being out of the city," she says. "There is a real community here. If I need anything, I can reach out to my neighbors. I never felt that in the city."

Homeowner Advice 

Some housing alternatives (such as tiny homes) often face building code and zoning restrictions. Yi, however, "did not have issues with zoning or building codes. The county I live in is relaxed. However, these types of homes need to be certified by the state as well, which did take additional time, effort, and money." According to Discovercontainers.com, states with friendly and flexible building codes for shipping container homes include Texas, California, Tennessee, Louisiana, Missouri, Oregon, and Alaska. Building codes are at a city or county-wide level. There are places in every state (and especially in rural areas) where you can build alternative homes.

container home storage
Photo Credit: Custom Container Living

Now, having lived in her container home for several years, Yi readily offers her insights. "The smaller space might not be suitable for some households," she says. She recommends that all potential homeowners physically tour a container home before deciding to purchase one.

"Also, nothing comes easy with doing a project like this," Yi stated, "and there's not going to be a developer taking care of everything for you. You have to make all the decisions for what you want and how you want it in your home. There are no set options, so your imagination is your limit. It can be difficult for people who do not know what they want ."

After going through the planning and custom design thought process, Yi's home is a turnkey housing solution. "My home was ready to live in as soon as it was delivered," Yi says. "I decided (to go) this route because it was cost-efficient. To have a builder on-site in the mountains is a costly job unless they live up there, too, but that's rare."

Li also recommends that potential homeowners:

  • Do the research. Don't expect contractors to tell you how to do things.
  • The most crucial first step is to find land for which you want to place your home.
  • During the design phase, make sure you pass inspections, and it's not the easiest with container homes. These are still very new, and sometimes they aren't even allowed in certain cities that have minimum square footage requirements.
  • Add about 40% to your entire budget for what your actual cost will likely be. There are always unforeseen costs involved in a new home project, especially a custom one.
  • Don't rush the design and build processes. It is good to have goals and a tentative timeline, but that needs to be realistic. Someone feeling rushed tends always to spend more money on each part of the process.

All of these recommendations can improve the sustainability and livability of this potential affordable and sustainable housing alternative.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2020-01-30T21:21:47+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.