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“Eco-Pak” expands on shipping container houses


June 12, 2012

The original prototype Eco-Pak house constructed in Turkey

The original prototype Eco-Pak house constructed in Turkey

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Thanks to their size, strength and ease of transport, shipping containers have been embraced by architects who have turned them into everything from restaurants and off-grid homes, to school classrooms and modular, portable hotels. The “Eco-Pak” home doesn’t just renovate the inside of a shipping container, but uses a shipping container as an integral part of a larger building, with all the structural components contained within it so it can be delivered just about anywhere in one convenient package.

The “Eco-Pak” home is the brainchild of aircraft structural engineer James Green of Building Container LLC, who was recently granted a U.S. patent for the concept, with international patents also pending. He teamed with Seattle-based architect Matthew Coates to make his vision of a transportable, eco-friendly, low cost, structurally sound container home a reality after being tasked with designing and building a home in remote Turkey without using a conventional concrete foundation.

His idea was to include extended framework transported within the container to form the structure of the house. The original prototype was completed in Turkey using basic tools and equipment, and the team has now developed a method for producing the extended framework using automated machinery based on 2D computer drawings and 3D models.

While the shipping container is integrated into the structure of the home, becoming anything from a kitchen to a bedroom, the extended structure is attached to the container’s “strong points” and can be assembled with no special tools, equipment or skills required.

The extended framework, which typically relies on standard steel beam sections with added reinforcement where necessary, can include full or partial extensions, balconies and changes in the apex of the roof. Other features will also be made available as options, with prices dependent on demand and a design service offered for custom structure design.

Coates’ Seattle-based company, Coates Design, will now build a prototype in the Seattle area, which is due to be completed in early 2013.

Source: Coates Design, Building Container

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Has anyone ever tested a shipping container in one of those extreme weather simulators? If the container could be secured appropriately to the ground (deep pilings or something) could it double as a tornado shelter within the house? No clue as to cost but if it were reasonable it would make for quick affordable rebuild with some peace of mind designed into the package.


Brilliant. It actually produces a building that is NOT boxy.


Great idea-- should be durable as long as the FRAMEWORK is secure and yes DEEP pilings are a great idea or else you may have "Flying Boxcars" in severe weather.

Azar Attura

Its fantastic to see continued innovation in the field of container based construction methods.

Great work.

Container Home

I hoping additional designs will be available once this is released in the U.S. as I would prefer a ranch style house with a garage & workshop. It seems promising for a person to use this to "build" their own home, keeping the cost down with "sweat equity".

Gene Jordan

Brilliant idea ! wish Australian councils were more agreeable to these innovative ideas instead of brick and tile "Mc Mansions"

Ron Raines

Shipping containers are already used to ship cars, so turn it around and put the access doors to the outside. One ready made single car garage. The floor is already made for the load, just level it, light it, and add an apron outside for easy access. Simple gate actuators would work as a garage door operator, and the side door access they show would give easy entrance to the house proper.


We've actually done this in both the AZ and NM deserts or the US. Sonotube pilings minimize foundation costs and the "modular" aspects of steel construction combined with ISBUs allow expansion at will, as time and money allow. It's cool to see people doing what we've done, and putting a new twist on it! Designs like these are GLOBAL. And best of all, they can be extremely cost effective. Remember however that the "higher" you go, the more "sail" you build to be buffeted around by wind and weather. Keep it Simple.

Renaissance Ronin

an interesting effort, although I am not sure what is patent-able about it. putting it into the shape of a traditional house should increase adoption rate, but I find it to be unimaginative in what the best way to use these building blocks are. I've seen much better design elsewhere. The other thing, and this is where I have the most issue with this design, is that it really seems to have a huge superstructure within which the containers go. usually the use of containers is so that a large frame is unnecessary. it seems a waste of materials and cost. especially compared to other designs. so, concept: interesting execution: wasteful/unimaginative

MockingBird TheWizard
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