San Francisco’s “Containertopia:” The Boxhouse Open Source Container Home Project
Commonly defined as a living space less than one thousand square feet, the micro-living trend has grown as individuals work to combat urban density and housing shortages. Downsizing living space has become both ecological and economically more feasible and has been attracting persons from diverse walks of life – from young professionals to working-age adults to retirees. The trend has been covered by The New Yorker, The Washington Post and NPR and has been featured on PBS and Portlandia.
One couple looking to transition to living tiny were Luke Iseman and Heather Stewart. They were weary of paying the incredibly high rent for their San Francisco apartment and began to think critically about their housing options. Living near the Port of Oakland gave Iseman and Stewart an idea – what about utilizing one of the numerous shipping containers that were easily obtainable in their area and converting it into a home?
For less than one month’s rent, the couple bought a used shipping container from the Port of Oakland. They rented an abandoned lot near the port and placed their new home upon it. Iseman and Stewart began outfitting their 160-square-foot home with bamboo floors, a lofted bed, a porch, LED lights, a shower, basic kitchen, solar panels and more. They adapted both home and RV accessories for the space, testing the layout and design to create an ideal transportable home.
For a total of $12,000 and about three weeks of labor, the couple had created a comfortable living space for a fraction of the cost of an apartment or home in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Iseman and Stewart began purchasing more shipping containers, repurposing them and renting them out to friends – essentially experimenting with their “adult legos.” Their off-the-grid lifestyle was expanded to include chickens and a community garden.
“[We are trying to] parody the idea that portable low-cost infrastructure is only for people who cannot afford other options… portable infrastructure doesn’t have to be poorly made, it doesn’t have to be energy intensive. It can be preferable to the things that are in place permanently.” – Luke Iseman
The couple has now expanded their shipping container tiny-home project and are currently selling fully built shipping containers as well as renting converted “boxhouses” on their new property.
Iseman and Stewart have since become the faces of sustainable shipping container living. They have spoken on “CBS This Morning,” TEDx, KQED with NPR and have been interviewed on numerous blogs.
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
The micro-living social movement is evident in the DIY boxhome project of Iseman and Stewart, who believe their storage container housing gives them permission to experiment and a license to consume, but the freedom to be more intelligent about it.
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