At first glance, an industrial shipping container doesn’t inspire thoughts of home. But in the hands of a talented architect with an eye for reuse, the humble steel container can be transformed into an eco-friendly house, a colorful pop-up store, or even a sprawling marketplace. Cargotecture isn’t necessarily more affordable than traditional site-built buildings, but the power of prefab means that these upcycled structures can be quickly and efficiently built.
Award-winning architecture studio LOT-EK is famous for transforming shipping containers into creative building projects. Based in New York and Naples, the design studio has produced a wide variety of cargotecture projects—from colorful installations created in collaboration with major cultural institutions (including MoMA and the Guggenheim) to commercial properties and upscale homes.
2. SG Blocks
Founded in 2007, Brooklyn-based SG Blocks has worked with architects, developers, builders, retailers, and even the military to create and deliver container-based structures. Their projects range from the first eco-friendly container home in the Hamptons to a seasonal cocktail bar for Manhattan’s Battery Park. SG Blocks was the first supplier to receive an ESR number from the ICC back in 2017, which helps to expedite approval times for their marine-grade containers.
Canadian firm Honomobo specializes in energy-efficient modular homes. Their plug-and-play shipping container homes—known as the H-Series—are all built from recycled containers insulated with polyurethane cell foam. Their offerings range from a 534-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bath abode to a spacious three-bed, two-bath family home that spans 1,530 square feet and is built from five 40-foot containers. All Honomobo homes are also photovoltaic-ready, giving owners the chance to go "full net positive."
With an estimated third of its business in the U.S., Toronto-based Giant Containers has opened offices in Miami, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles to serve clients south of the border. The firm creates contemporary shipping container homes that range from compact bachelor pads to large family homes, and they also work with commercial interests to create stores, offices, exhibition spaces, and more.
Prefabrication is in the design DNA of Denver-based Tomecek Studio, whose portfolio includes modular builds, panelized construction, and cargotecture cabins. Their site-specific shipping container projects are all custom built and purposefully designed to expose, rather than hide, the building material’s industrial roots.
Related Reading: The Essential Guide to Shipping Container Home Design