After purchasing a piece of land in the mountains of unincorporated San Diego County, Mike and Shawn McConkey set out to build their dream home from shipping containers. “This is zoned agricultural land out here so you can actually have a little cottage industry or a winery… or a container house.”
With the help of architect Chris Bittner, they designed a 700-square-foot cottage from three containers (one of which they found on the property). By building most of it themselves, Mike and Shawn kept things affordable: the total cost was $160,000, including design fees and permits. They also budgeted by living for two and a half years in a 28-foot travel trailer while they waiting for permits and to complete the build.
They stayed on budget in the interior by mixing IKEA and reclaimed items with a few high end pieces, like a $3800 rolling garage door that opens the home to the outside and unobstructed mountain views.
The home is a hybrid of containers and stick frame structure with ceilings as high as 13 feet between the containers to made the small space feel larger and to allow for natural cooling. To keep the home running at peak efficiency, the McConkeys put in a cool roof (white, to reflect the hot San Diego sun) and a high efficiency tankless water heater.
Since completing the home, Bittner says he’s received 50 calls from people interested in their own container home dreams. “They all start with, ‘I’ve always dreamed of building a container home, how much does it cost? Is it the same as framing?’ And I tell them all the same thing, ‘It certainly can be the same as framing, it can quickly get more expensive than framing.’”
Mike, who is a building superintendent for his day job, is happy he had the chance to make his own grown-up LEGO construction. “I always played with LEGO blocks and stuff as a kid. I just like to build stuff. It’s a hobby and what I do for a living so it’s kind of natural to take something unique and transform it.”