Having purchased a 3.5-acre plot of land in Topanga, California, with a very rustic, 750-square-foot cabin on it several years ago, architect Christof Jantzen found himself in need of a fairly quick, low-cost house expansion for his family (wife Lauryn and three young sons). Jantzen, principal of the Venice, California, office of the firm Behnisch Architekten, soon came upon the idea that more space could be achieved by redesigning a series of recycled and modified shipping containers, which would drastically reduce the typical time-consuming process of a traditional remodel.
“Building my own house made me realize that this was doable,” says Jantzen. “Most of the prefab structures on the market are very expensive, so I tried developing these container structures that would bring the cost margin of prefab down, which I think should happen.” At a cost of around $100 to $150 per square foot, the structures can be customized, stacked and combined into one of six Jantzen designs ranging between 320 and 2,400 square feet. With builder Eric Engheben of 44 West Construction, Jantzen has completed, among other designs, a poolhouse in Brentwood, California, and is in the permit stage on a 2,400-square-foot, 18-container atrium house in Topanga.