Container House: A Complete Guide on How to Design


Having your own customized container house is a rewarding experience especially if you were the one who designed and built it. With the increasing cost of housing and construction materials, people around the world are now choosing upcycled shipping containers to save on their expenses. The affordability, durability, and flexibility of shipping containers make them ideal for low-budget but long-lasting modular homes.


If you are planning to build your own container home and want to save on architectural costs, then you are in the right place! Let us help you turn your dream home into reality by guiding you through the steps of designing your very own shipping container house.


1. Set Your Budget

The first thing you need to do is to set a reasonable budget. Container houses may be more affordable compared to traditional homes but this will still depend on your home’s location, size, design, and features. Research on the professional service costs you will be needing and contact professionals such as the following:

  • Land surveyors
  • Architects
  • Structural engineers
  • Civil engineers
  • Mechanical engineers
  • Builders & contractors
  • Shipping containers resellers
Setting Your Budget
Source: Pixabay

In addition, allocate about 20% for your contingency fund. This is the budget reserved for unexpected delays and expenses during the construction process. Modifications on-site can also be expensive so you need to research your off-site construction options. Most importantly, make sure that you stick to your budget.

2. Know the Building Codes in Your Area

It is recommended that you contact your local building department and get details about the important building codes in your area. Know the zoning restrictions, building standards, height limitations, and others. You also need to list the required drawings, inspections, permits, and fees.

Find out about the drawings that you need to get professionally-stamped. Your local building department will surely review your drawings for conformity aside from issuing permits and conducting inspections. It is also best to work with experienced architects of container homes to avoid problems in the construction process.


Your local department’s approval can be time-consuming depending on your design’s complexity but doing your own research will help you a lot.

Best modern prefab homes
Source: Pinteres

3. Plan the Size & Layout of Your Home

Plan the layout of your home properly. You can arrange shipping containers in various configurations so the amount of space you need and their purpose will determine the placement and number of containers you will be needing.


Below are the common questions you should answer when you are planning the layout of your container home:

  • Who is going to occupy your container house? What do they need?
  • Are you planning to include a spare room or an office?
  • Do you want a small house, a spacious home, or something between the two?
  • How many bathrooms and bedrooms do you need?
  • How many stories will your house have?
  • Are you planning to move in the future, which in this case, will need detachable containers?
Modular home designs
Source: Pinterest

4. Think About Your Building’s Position & Orientation

Consider the following when you are planning about the orientation and positioning of your container home:

  • Review your site and take note of the soil bearing capacity.
  • Observe the existing landscaping, grade, potential views, and proximity to site boundaries/easements and roads.
  • Make sure to build on suitable flat areas to avoid expensive excavation or grading.
  • Utilize the existing greenery. This will help you reduce heat loss and wind chill in winter and create shade during the summer.
Inexpensive modular home kits
Source: Pinterest

How you position your container home will have a big impact on your home’s energy efficiency including cooling and heating costs. Take advantage of the sun’s light to reduce your energy consumption.

5. Design Floor Plan/s & Site Layout

After planning the layout of your container house, you can now start sketching. Determine the estimated area of each of your home’s rooms to help with the floor plan. You will find a lot of modern modular home floor plans online.

Once you are satisfied with the layouts you made, you can make use of a 3D modeling tool to get an idea of your home’s appearance. If your layout is simple, like a 20ft or 40-ft small house, tools such as AutoCAD, Revit, or Google SketchUp would be enough.

Prefabricated house kits
Source: Levapack

6. Add Exterior Features

Since the roofs of container houses are generally flat, they are perfect for a small garden. You can plant flowers, vegetables, or grass. Regardless of your decision, roof gardens will help insulate your house naturally which is a good way of reducing your energy expenses.

Prefab housing designs
Source: Levapack


Building your own container home may be challenging but we hope that this short guide was able to help you design your dream home. You may also want to research the cost of building a 40-feet container house to get an idea of the expenses you will be faced with. Knowing how to buy a container house might also help you.


If you are ready to build your container house, JJC can help you build your ideal home with our affordable and aesthetic container houses. Feel free to contact us anytime and don’t forget to leave your comments below.

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