Google Sketch up: Shipping container Home

First FloorI have been using Google Sketchup (free download) for over a year to design beds , bow cam mounts for smartphones and most importantly a shipping container home.

For free 3D modeling software, it is really tough to beat although I have forgotten if you can import .iges or .dwg files into or export them. One of these days I’ll look into it again. There is a page of all kinds of pre designed items that you can import as well in the Google Sketchup 3D Warehouse.

I have been dreaming for a few years of building a shipping container home which was rekindled by some friends who built the Arkhaus Project. You may have seen them on television showing off a sustainable home built out of a Conex box, an intermodal container for shipping and storage.

first floor plumbing

Fire, hurricane, earthquake proof homes that can be pretty slick., I am thinking it could be clad with straw bale (hay bales) and stucco to achieve an R40+ insulation factor with 20″ thick window sills that would make it look like an adobe home.

The image to the right is a rough design of a 3 shipping container home first floor. The living room exterior wall could be a row of sliding or opening glass doors side by side to allow for a great view outdoors at a low cost.

The idea is to pour a 3″ concrete pad (with expansion \ crack joints every 8′) over a radiant heated water tube  floor system to heat the entire house like this:


A well could keep the floor \ home cool during the warm months while a water heater could heat the floor at low cost during the cold time of the year. Radiant heated floors are the best and one of, if not also the most efficient way to heat a home. Paired with a geothermal system, you would have almost no heating or cooling bills. Radiant heated floors also feel the best. No dry air blowing on you or dusty vents to worry about. Getting out of the shower and stepping on a heated floor simply can’t be beat. These floors could be polished to look like glass, marble or granite. They could also be made to match custom concrete counter tops that I would employ into the design.

You might wonder about a foundation. Another advantage of this type of construction is that the Conex containers could be set upon a concrete pier system, This reduces the cost of a concrete slab dramatically and will accommodate for ground swell in the winter time. A 18″ access area under the entire home would also allow for easy access to electrical wiring and plumbing if repairs or alterations were needed in the future.


This area would also serve as a buffer zone for the radiant floors improving the insulation factor of the ground and eliminating any possibility of heat loss to mother earth.

The walls will be ugly…Actually they won’t. Using closed cell blown insulation (on exterior walls only) with a thin cover of 1\4′ drywall would give the home a warm and modern feel and everything would already be perfectly level and square (if you didn’t want to clad the house in straw bale \ stucco). The interior walls could be cut all the way open or left with opening cut into them and reinforced with welded in place steel square tubing.  This low maintenance, inexpensive (as compared by sq. ft. to modern stick construction) and efficient home could literally last forever.

Simple Modern

Simple Modern

My layout is somewhat of a wagon circle. The central open area could have a sheet metal roof via a pole barn that could be of just about any color that you choose welded directly to the top of the containers or supported in the living area corners by steel “I” beams. I have decided to go with a sunken living room and a central fireplace that would be open on the other side into the master bedroom.

You could complete one container and live in it while adding on the others or build the bottom floor first and stack other containers on top of them for an instant second floor

The modular design makes the layout possibilities endless. My design incorporates  a cantilevered wrap around deck that I would use Industrial grade mezzanine flooring panel to give you the feeling that you were suspended while walking around the Mezz-Naval-Base-021-LGhome and also to eliminate the need to shovel snow on my deck LOL!

My design is a 56 x 56′ (3136 sq ft) home that could be move-in ready with all appliances  that I have estimated around only $80K. Now that is one cheap but kick ass living space with extremely low utility bills (preferably with a well on the property). A perfect retirement home that won’t cost you much monthly requiring very little, if any maintenance for my old ass when I am ready to succumb to the recliner. You could also build a floor on top of the entire unit and install a hydro garden or outdoor living area with extremely low cost as well. Click HERE for 1000’s of pictures and ideas….Enjoy!


It isn’t a matter of if I will build one of these but when I will. I AM INTERESTED IN A solid home that I can build myself that will last forever. You can purchase these containers after they are retired from duty (48’x 8’x 9.4′) for roughly $3-4 K each. I have seen deals online for better pricing on multiple purchases (of 2 or more) that include delivery to your location.  I would also install my own septic system but that is a subject for another time.