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Think inside the box with these tricked-out shipping container homes

Do you have an inordinate amount of shipping containers? Are you trying figure out what to do with all them? In the unlikely event that the answer to this question is “Yes,” you’ll be pleased to learn that they’re far more practical than you may have imagined. And if, as is more likely, the answer is “No,” then good news! You can grab yourself a decent size shipping container for just over $1,500.

Shipping containers are flood and fire proof, making them a great home-building material. Ranging in length from 20 to 30 feet, shipping containers are typically only used for 10 to 15 years, but they can last much longer. It is estimated that there are 24 million empty shipping containers in the world that will not be used for cargo again. But, as the saying goes, one man’s retired shipping container is another man’s crazy high-end modular home. What? That’s not a saying?

Decameron Design Shop, by Studio MK27

Location: São Paulo, Brazil

Square Footage: Unknown

The exterior walls of the Decameron Design Shop are just as colorful as the Brazilian neighborhood in which it resides. Renowned architect Marcio Kogan built the low-cost shopping facility using two rows of stacked containers, placing the six containers adjacent to downtown. Translucent sliding doors reveal a smattering of products along the walls when during hours of operation, and to isolate the storefronts from the office, Kogan implemented a garden courtyard near the rear of the property. It’s vibrant and bold, with a center lounge area that’s probably more inviting than your living room.

Container House, by Ecocosa Design Studio

Location: Flagstaff, Arizona

Square Footage: 2,000

Adorned with a rooftop terrace and a construction time just under a year, Eco Design Studio’s desert home is one of the few residences on our list representing a student-designer collaboration. The mint-green dwelling sports an industrial design, with concrete floors and a walnut finish, along with tools for collecting solar power and harvesting rainwater. A slew of dual-pane aluminum windows provide ample natural light throughout the year, but it’s the home’s five separate decks that give it astonishing views of the surrounding San Francisco Peaks.

Containers of Hope, by Benjamin Garcia Saxe

Location: San Jose, Costa Rica

Square Footage: 1,000

This inexpensive home was created by architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe for only $40,000. It’s made with two 40-foot shipping containers. Saxe created this for a couple with the intent of building a rural home that wouldn’t put them in debt. The slanted roof lets the sunlight in but also lets the hot air escape. It is located 20 minutes outside the capital of Costa Rica, but you couldn’t tell from the pictures that it is anywhere near a city of roughly two million people.

Container Guest House, by Jim Poteet

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Square Footage: 320

A mere 320 feet of space is not much to work with, that is, unless you’re creating minimalist guest house in your backyard. The private residence, constructed with the help of local Texas architect Jim Poteet, adds a touch of luxury to a recycled shipping container measuring a narrow 8 feet wide and 40 feet long. The foundation of the structure utilizes a bevy of recycled telephone poles, while the flooring and wallcovering feature repurposed bamboo. The roof of the navy-blue crate even offers garden space — making it more than just a space for storing tools and housing people passing through.

The Caterpillar House, by Sebastián Irarrázaval

Location: Santiago, Chile

Square Footage: 3,800

This shipping container home is located just outside of a large city as well, on a hillside outside of Santiago, Chile and is built from 12 containers. The design was chosen by the family for its quick build time on a reasonable budget. The facade is ventilated and arranged in a way that makes electronic cooling unnecessary, using the natural, cool mountain air as a passive cooling system.

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