Montainer Makes Shipping Container Architecture Easy

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Shipping container house


You are not just buying a box but a full service design/build package. Could this take container architecture mainstream?

There is a great appeal to shipping container architecture; the idea of reusing the strong steel boxes seems so green. I have complained that they are too narrow for comfortable living, too expensive to modify, and too toxic, with all that industrial strength paint and treated floors, but that doesn’t stop people from trying, and doesn’t prevent them from coming up with attractive little units like this 24’ unit from Montainer, a company offering a range of different clever designs.

montainer interior

© Montainer

They are designed by Joel Egan of Cargotecture, one of the most experienced American architects in the metal box biz,and I believe that this model was actually the Sunset Idea House from 2011. 24’ high cube containers are not all that common, compared to the standard 20 footers, but it makes a big difference inside to have the height (you need it to get in the insulation) and of course, the length gives you a little more room to swing a cat. It’s insulated with closed cell spray foam to reasonable levels, with R-21 walls, R-30 floor and R-48 roof.

bathroom and kitchen

© Montainer

It has a little kitchen, washing machine and 3 piece marine style bathroom (the whole room is the shower). There appears to have been a bit of renovation work since Sunset, or perhaps this is a different unit; the original bathroom had clear glass and all the tiny house website comments are complaining about it. Now it's frosted, which will keep the comment sections quiet.

plan of unit

© Cargotecture

Montainer is trying to market container architecture like a full service design/build firm, “by taking the hassle, complication and uncertainty out of buying a container home. We design, permit, manufacture, deliver and install your home in one simple package.”

cost of unit

© Montainer

The initial price of the base module, $65,000 seemed high at first, but when you consider the time and administrative cost in offering full service, including design and permit review and managing code compliance review and final inspections for a product that a lot of inspectors and examiners don’t understand, it is not that unreasonable.

Montainer multiple

© Montainer

The expansion modules that make the unit bigger and more comfortable are much less money, $20,000 to $30,000, probably because the big overhead costs are already paid for.

Does this make sense? It’s a really strong, bulletproof design that seals up tight when the owners leave, it’s very secure. Egan has been clever in using the steel cut out for the windows to make big sliding barn doors. It’s a bit narrow inside, probably just over seven feet with the insulation and drywall added inside the corrugated walls, but it’s livable and the glass makes it feel more open. The multiple unit designs look comfortable.

When I first saw this unit back in 2011 at Sunset Celebration, I wondered if it would be the one to take container architecture mainstream. It didn’t happen then; perhaps with Montainer it’s time has come.

Found on Jetson Green.