The Grand Opening!

April 25, 2009


My Home is an Inter-modal Steel Building Unit!

And yours could be, too! Follow along with us, while we examine this phenomenon and figure out the best way to help you build that home you’ve always wanted!

Leave it to lawyers to screw up our “scheduled opening day,” but you have to follow the rules, and the world doesn’t seem to work without forms filed in triplicate. But all of that is water under the bridge now, and we’re here. And THAT is what matters!

By now, you’d have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to know what a shipping container is. These wonderful steel boxes (Shown below being jockeyed about by lifts designed especially for them) are tasked with hauling freight to every point on the planet, most piled several high on the decks of behemoth ships, and offtimes seen stacked two high on railway cars.


The containers, called inter-modal steel building units (ISBUs) in the trades, are familiar to almost everyone. Even inland hundreds of miles from a shoreline, they can be seen riding the rails, piled onto flatbed railroad cars or hauled on dollies behind tractor-trailers on interstate highways. They are regularly seen on television, as they are featured in stock film footage on the news channels, illustrating every story about port security.


These are indestructible beauties, manufactured of heavy-gauge Corten steel, designed to be water-proof, fire resistant, impervious to bugs and built to hold cargo securely on the pitching deck of a ship in the harshest of environments!


Looked at as exactly what they are, an ISBU is a steel frame, with skin on it, not unlike a skyscraper or commercial building that you see in almost every neighborhood. It’s for that very reason that so many architects are busy working on plans and building techniques to make shipping container building attractive and functional.


But ISBU homes do not have to be square and flat-roofed – the only limit is your imagination, and the depth of your wallet. Some of them are finished with trussed roofs and interior and exterior finishes that make them look very much like any other conventional building in your city/town/village/hamlet/suburb…

ISBUs are manufactured in several sizes. You can get them from 10′ – 53′ long. 20′ x 8′ x 8′ and 40′ x 8′ x 8′ are currently the most prevalent sizes in use today. But, I recommend using a container called an High Cube (HQ), because this container is taller than it’s peers. In fact, it’s over 9′ tall (at 9’6” approx). This means that the structure you build will have taller ceilings. Or, laid on it’s side, you get more square footage out of this HQ unit. (almost 30 square feet, to be exact!)

For example, take (4) 40′ ISBUs placed side by side with the side walls of the inner two containers removed, andwhat have you got? Well, you have  an open space that measures 40′ x 32′ – and that translates to 1,280 square feet of living space.

The containers are manufactured to be stacked, and like I’ve already mentioned, you can stack them as many as nine high without compromising their structural integrity. This means that using them to create multistory dwellings in no problem. Be it a second, third, fourth, or fifth floor, ISBUs are there to help you achieve your goal!

Stay with us as we look at the advantages and address the challenges of the ISBU as a structural unit. Learning how it works and how to configure it, will allow you to build that home you’ve been dreaming of, for less than the price of a comparable traditionally built home…

Now, we’re NOT going to talk about the “fantasy houses” that you see on sites like Treehugger (although we REALLY admire those guys!), and we’re not going to talk about “Impossible to build” renders of homes that will never get built. We’re not going to talk about using ISBUs to build McMansions.

What we ARE going to talk about (in great detail) is building a single family home using ISBUs, in most cases utilizing a budget of approximately $100,000 (US). We’re aiming at helping you create a home for your family, a home you can not only afford, but an efficient home that will take care of you, as you take care of those you love.

See you next time!



  1. Hi, good post. I have been pondering this issue,so thanks for sharing. I will likely be coming back to your posts. Keep up the good work

  2. To whom it may concern,

    Where is the house located above? Is it a computer generated image? It is magnificent!



    • Hi Jason,

      We actually built this design, as part of an “alternative construction dare” a few years ago. It turned out beautifully, and won several awards. Most missed the fact that it’s primary core was ISBU’s.

      The house is in Marin County, CA. We published the renders and floorplans when it was featured a while back on another (now dead) site, and several people have copied it, building replica’s (knock-offs) in Colorado and New Mexico. We’re told that several others have produced a similar version, but I’m telling you, you can do much better. We’ll do an assessment of it, with suggestions for how it could be better, in a future series of posts. Right now, the brain’s behind the web site is in the hospital, and we’re trying to fill his shoes. Stay tuned…

      More later.

  3. All these descriptions and pie in the sky are fine, if you aren’t looking to building one of these homes now! I need actual, real-life, doing business now, companies to buld one in West Texas.

    • Sorry the site hasn’t been updated lately. The principal partner has suffered a massive heart attack, and is still in the hospital awaiting a heart transplant. The minority partners are currently engaged in other projects (several ISBU projects included) and don’t have time to update the site as of yet.

      We don’t have time for “pie in the sky…” We’re too busy actually doing.

      More ASAP.

  4. What was the building cost minus the land? I LOVE this design. When you say better, do you mean move livable space or less money? Thanks!

    • Hi Joe,

      Like I said before, the house came in at right around $437,000.00. Now, note that this includes every stick of furniture, every finish, and a lot of upgrades. The “build” cost was right around $345,000.00. It came in right at $75 a foot.

      Like all good things, tech marches on, and it’s possible to build this home for about $300,000, depending on where you’re dropping it.

      And, after having a while to look at it, I think that you could squeeze another 325 square feet out of it, rather simply.

      We may feature it again. Although, the last time we did, six different contractor/developers knocked it off… 😦

  5. My son and daughter in law are looking to build, could you please tell me how much the house above would cost them approx?
    Are the floor plans still available?

    • Hi Lyn,

      If I recall correctly, by the time every single bill got paid, the house depicted above came in at $437,000.00.

      That sounds like a lot, but we’re talking about a lot of house, in Marin County, CA, one of the more expensive places to build in the US.

      Floor plans aren’t currently available, but we may post samples – to allow readers to get an idea what can be done with steel boxes.

  6. This is amazing,

    I know it is hard to believe that this house was done by normal containers. I mean finising looks perfect.

    It is really a creative idea.

    I am emailing you from Abu Dhabi, UAE. I am really interested in starting such business here. I may need your help to let it go.

    I have a lot of questions, so I do need your help.


    • Hello Rashed,

      Check your email. We sent you a message and are waiting for a reply. We’re here to help.

  7. Planning on building a container home and studio/gallery in the Blue Ridge Mts. VA./NC, Stuart,VA.
    Need information on the process of putting them together and have it look finished. Cutting holes is one thing making it look good another.
    Flanges, angle iron, sliding doors and window installation, etc.
    Any good books or blogs out there?

  8. Hi there, I have been searching the net for prefab homes of this nature and your design is absolutely stunning! I love the render & finishes. My partner and I are from Sydney Australia where there’s not really that much info. Would you be able to email me any pics of the inside?

  9. Hi

    I’d really like to get more info and plans for u’r units,i think this is something that could be used here in South Africa cause of our housing shortages.Id really like to get more info on joining the boxes and all general info on the construction.The are plenty of boxes already in townships used for shops and the like but none has been used for housing this is something i really wanna start here in SA and grow.

    Could i got more info pls.


  10. I am wondering if this concept could be made to look Mediterranean / Spanish/ Was thinking that the container could be stood up on end to serve as stairs and have that tower look. Just found your website. My condolences on your loss.

    • Hi Kaitlyn,

      We’ve made it a habit to use a 48′ High Cube ISBU container, on end, for just the purpose you describe.

      You actually “kill several birds with one stone,” so to speak. You get rid of that nasty (poison) flooring, you get a cool “transit column,” you get more light and air movement, and then you get a really neat (and pretty wide) staircase out of that “steel carcass.”

      And, it’s CHEAP.

      It not only forms a cool staircase tower, it serves as a “chimney” for heat, and you even get a cool “observation/meditation” room out of the bargain!

      Remember that these ISBUs are just steel boxes. We can make them look like anything we want. It’s really easy (easier than you would think) to make the structure look Mediterranean, or Gothic, or Federalist, or Victorian, or whatever else you want. Your creativity is the limiting factor.

      Thanks for your condolences. It’s appreciated. We miss him.

  11. Dear Person,

    please tell us where can we can get or buy the plans for that gorgeous house above.From the many messages above,i have notice that a lot of people are asking for the same thing.You seem to be toying in a annoying and childish way with those like myself whom are waiting to be able to get the plans in order to built that great home.

    • Dear Graig,

      We don’t SELL plans for ISBU homes.

      Here’s why;

      There simply aren’t that many qualified and experienced builders to execute them. Lots of builders and architects are starting to try and “reinvent” themselves, by doing ISBU projects, but they are learning as they go. Ultimately, the client pays for their education.

      So, while we’ll discuss what we are doing, and even what we’ve done, the idea is to be a PART of the project, to insure it’s success. We’ve tried the “plan route”, it’s just headache after headache, as builders try to figure out how to do what we’ve drawn. Obviously we don’t want to be associated with projects that failed, because the builders couldn’t build them to our expectations because they lack the skillsets required. Nor do we want to spend the rest of our lives on the phone talking to “learning ISBU novices”, who are trying to supplement their stick-built businesses at OUR expense.

      We aren’t a “learning institution”.

      And, further… if you really suspect that we’re “toying in an annoying and childish way” with ISBU home hopefuls, I suggest that you go get your information somewhere else. You’ve completely missed the point of our posts.

      The Person…

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