Three Shipping Containers Form a Tiny, Eco-Friendly Home in Australia

Three Shipping Containers Form a Tiny, Eco-Friendly Home in Australia

By Laura Mauk
A designer couple convert three shipping containers into a 530-square-foot, solar-powered dwelling on their family’s farm.

It was a 2015 trip to London and Cornwall that made Amy Plank and Richard Vaughan, designers at modular home company Modhouse, rethink the idea of home. "We realized that if we minimized our belongings and made peace with living in a smaller space, we’d have more freedom," recalls Amy. "We wouldn’t be tied down by domestic duties and could enjoy surfing, gardening, and just being in nature."

With these goals in mind, Amy and Richard set out to design a compact, sustainable, and cost-effective home on five acres of farmland in South Gippsland, Victoria, owned by her parents—Modhouse founders Mark and Melissa Plank.

Amy Plank and Richard Vaughn linked three 20-foot shipping containers to create a striking and sustainable home in Victoria, Australia. The house is clad with interlocking Colorbond steel panels, accented by windows and doors framed with silvertop ash.

Comprising three 20-foot shipping containers, the roughly 530-square-foot residence is connected by passageways that also hold the laundry area and extra storage space. Interlocking Colorbond cladding covers the exteriors while silvertop ash surrounds windows and doors. "We wanted it to look more grounded and refined, and less rustic, which is something you often see with container conversions," says Amy.

A floating, secondary roof with solar panels offers shade and facilitates passive cooling. 

The additional siding adds thermal efficiency for the 7.1-star energy-rated home. There are three layers of insulation between the Colorbond cladding and the container walls, three layers between that and the interior walls, and two more layers in the floor and ceiling.

The home’s entry opens to the kitchen and dining area in the first shipping container. Ecoply plywood walls, ceilings, and cabinetry, along with Tasmanian oak flooring, add a warm contrast to the exterior metal cladding.

Low-VOC, zero-formaldehyde white plywood cabinets, a subway-tile backsplash, and stone counters run through the kitchen.

A rainwater harvesting system allows the couple to collect water in large tanks connected to the rear of the home, while solar panels on the roof feed back to the main grid.

A smaller volume links the containers and provides additional storage.

Amy and Richard chose low-impact materials like FSC-certified, zero-formaldehyde timber and natural sealer on the walls and floors. "We used local tradespeople and supplies to support the local economy and lower our carbon footprint," Amy adds. "And to reduce waste, we built in material-size increments." 

The living area, housed in the second container volume, features a vintage metal stove.

A built-in desk creates an office area for two at one end of the living room.

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The living room is outfitted with a plush, built-in sofa with storage cubbies underneath. "It’s difficult to find ready-made pieces with storage that fit a unique space, so we built-in the desk, bed, and sofa," says Amy.

The couple also wanted the home to blend in with the environment, choosing a gray hue for the exterior that "would sink into the surrounding bush," says Amy. Within, Ecoply plywood walls and ceilings and Tasmanian oak flooring lend warmth and texture that contrast with the sleek cladding outside.

An efficient laundry area is tucked into one of the home’s connecting passageways.

The built-in bed features a clever dresser system and a headboard that doubles as a bookshelf.

Partial walls and white subway tile create a spacious feeling for the bathroom.

A deck connects the container home to the outdoors.

Now, the one-bedroom, one-bath home is currently for sale, able to be transported and rebuilt on the new owner’s site.

Related Reading: 

9 Modern Homes Made Out of Shipping Containers

The Dos and Don’ts of Shipping Container Homes

Project Credits: 

Architecture & Construction: Amy Plank and Richard Vaughn, Modhouse / @modhouseaustralia

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