Living Off-Grid in a Self-Built 20ft Shipping Container Mobile Home


Two-and-a-half years ago I decided to
move out of the city and build myself a shipping container cabin. I drew it
up on the computer first and then once I saw this site it just came together really
quickly. The cabin is made of three standard
20-foot shipping containers. I’ve done some modifications to them so you can walk through all three containers. This is my washroom. I had a roughed in toilet that I never used. I used the outhouse instead. This was my bedroom. Living room, kitchen, and then I guess… second living room. This is where I primarily spent all my time. Either in
front of the fire during winter or most likely outside enjoying the sun in the summertime. All of these doors are
standard issue shipping container doors. They’re actually sealed when they’re locked and I initially designed
the cabin around containers on the premise that once the doors are sealed
and locked you can walk away for several weeks at a time. If you go traveling you can close up your house and you don’t have to worry about it. This is my utility
room basically it was a a propane fired hot water tank that fed the in-floor
radiant heat system and also provided hot domestic water. There’s 17.4 million
containers in the world and three-quarters of them are sitting empty
and so they’re readily available and they’re relatively inexpensive and also
they provide a great deal of structural properties. The largest challenge was to
insulate the cabin I was hoping to stay here for four
seasons. I came up with insulating the interior walls with spray foam and then
the openings where the steel doors are insulated with bats. I was able to get an
R-value about R22 for all the walls which makes surviving the winter more…I
guess more enjoyable. Water sources were an issue. My neighbors were kind enough
to let me fill up my water tote so I would either drive my tractor over and
pick up the water or make arrangements and travel into the closest town and
fill up my water so I trucked all my water in. For the energy side I designed a two
kilowatt solar system. I use the outhouse as my primary washroom. After watching many
people before me make tiny houses I I really liked the idea of downsizing and
simplifying your life. By moving to a smaller space it forced me to select
what mattered in my life. I grew up around off-grid systems…my grandfather
built his first hydro site in the 40s to power his house and his
business and my father did the same and I wanted to do something similar so I
guess it’s been in my family for three generations so it just felt natural. I enjoy simple well-thought-out things
and this incorporates a lot of my interests into just a smaller spot. I
feel that being responsible and sustainable goes hand-in-hand with
well-designed systems. My passion is design and having a holistic
lifestyle is also passion of mine and they just they marry very well. I just
graduated from school so I am starting my own business in the solar renewable
energy field trying to, I guess, empower people to to do similar things that I’ve
been doing. I lived in the house for two-and-a-half
years full-time. the cabin is 355 square feet and most people would consider that small or
tiny. To be honest I didn’t spend that much time inside the cabin. It’s where I
prepared and ate food, and slept, and then read most evenings but when I was home
I’d be outside where I prefer to be, in nature. Living here by myself for
two-and-a-half years with just me and my dog… some people might have thought it would have been boring or quiet but I was never bored. There was always something fun, or interesting, or new to discover, ,or to learn. The time I spent here was kind of
like meditation… it was a time to reflect on my life, so I really enjoyed my time
here.

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