Shipping Container Homes – A Sustainable Alternative

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Photographs of Zigloo Domestique home courtesy of Nik West.

A few weeks ago, I happened upon an idea that left me dumbfounded with amazement. My favourite Kreative Find to date: recycling shipping containers and using them as the infrastructure for homes and buildings! Compelled to know more, I researched some real-life examples of this type of construct and found Keith Dewey, an architect and designer who has built his own home using recycled shipping containers. Join us on this virtual tour through his gorgeous, one-of-a-kind container habitat.

keith_zigloo Keith Dewey, in his own Zigloo Domestique home.

Canadian architect and residential designer Keith Dewey is the mastermind behind Zigloo, a custom container home design studio nestled in Fernwood Village, Victoria, BC. Over the phone, Dewey helped me understand the importance of this type of design in promoting a viable, sustainable alternative to traditional home construction.

Shipping Container Home Inspiration – Redefining Green Living

“A big inspiration came from a design show I attended in 1998. Sean Godsell showed “Future Shack” – a single container outfitted as a living unit for life in the Australian outback.”


“Future Shack” by Sean Godsell. Godsell notes that this space can be an efficient solution to providing refugee housing or shelter for disaster relief. Each unit can be erected in 24 hours then easily stored away for future use.

“I don’t consider myself a pioneer of this kind of design; I’m more like a maverick. For me it’s about finding a niche in examples laid out before me by pioneers in green design. I didn’t invent this, but I’m an early enough adopter that I’ve made it unique.”

Facing Facts – Realities of Environmental Architecture

“Sustainability has commonly been associated with limited impact, but everything we do has an impact on the environment, so the question is, how do we make it so it’s not a destructive impact? It’s a sliding scale, we have to make an impact on the environment because we’re a part of it, but how do we do do so gracefully?”


Zigloo Domestique, by Keith Dewey. Specs: 1,920 sqft, 8′-20′ containers, 3 bedrooms/ 2 bathrooms, saved 70 trees, salvaged exterior stairs.  

“It takes approx. 70 trees to make a house, but with a shipping container you’re already way ahead of the game in terms of infrastructure because the foundation is pretty much there. It’s also financially sustainable, because you’re recycling material that’s already available and making it into something brand new.”



 “It’s important to use end-of-life containers and get them before they are shipped to foreign countries to be used for scrap metals because, although shipping containers are recycled, broken and melted down to create new ones, there’s still a lot of energy that goes into that process, not to mention that the container has to be shipped back again to some far away place to be recycled, which leaves a huge carbon footprint. [The shipping container’s] unique dents and dings may even provide some interesting history to add to the new design. Building with them should be a part of their life cycle.”

Defying Misconceptions of Custom, Sustainable Designs


Interior, living room, Zigloo Domestique

“Container designs are sometimes pigeon-holed as ’boutique’ which makes it sound expensive and out of reach, but my goal is to show the opposite: it’s not boutique, or necessarily cheaper, it’s still in line with traditional costs of home development but this is a sustainable, viable solution not just a novel architectural design concept.” [Note: Check out Dewey’s comments for a more detailed break down comparing the costs between traditional construction and that of his custom Shipping Container home.]


Interior, staircase, Zigloo Domestique


Interior, kitchen, Zigloo Domestique


Interior, bedroom, Zigloo Domestique

“Our culture is about consumerism, so it’s ironic to turn the idea on its head and create sustainable living by repurposing shipping containers – the vehicles of our consumerism.”

Keith Dewey, in collaboration with Container West Company, will be exhibiting DEWest Home, a custom-made shipping container home, at the PNE in August 2011. Ironically, his design will be featured alongside the “Dream Home” that the PNE raffles off every year. Dewey will cheekily label his design “Sustainable Alternative”. That ought to get people thinking. If you know of anyone who could help provide sustainable, recycled interior furnishings to be installed in the DEWest Home, please contact Keith Dewey.

Stay tuned for upcoming news on recycling-related projects by Kihada Works Design, Inc. In the meantime, if you have any Kreative Finds you’d like to tell us about, or need a kreative boost for your business, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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