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The pile is taking shape

The Glennon family’s next home looks like a stack of shipping containers of all different colors from the outside.

That’s because it is a pile of shipping containers.  Once it’s complete, it will be a sprawling, 5,000-square-foot, four-storey building – two levels above ground, a walkout basement and another level below – with four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a games and media room, garage and workshop, and two enclosed decks.

It will cost about $150 per square foot –  well below the price for conventional  building but still $750,000 by the time all is said and done.

The family hopes to live “off the grid completely” and has installed energy efficient windows, a wind generator, a 4.8-kilowatt solar panel system. A solar hot water heater, which will be their main source of heat, will come later, owner Bill Glennon said.

The wooden interior walls will be insulated for extra warmth, though the fact that much of the home is underground means it will be fairly easy to heat in the winter, he added.

A massive garden with a potato crop, chickens, and a trout pond, will surround the residence on the eight-hectare property just outside Rimbey, about 140 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.

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And the shipping containers won’t be visible forever – the plan is to cover the exterior with stucco.

“It’s just going to look like a regular home,” said homeowner Bill Glennon.

Except most homes aren’t made of Sea-Can shipping containers – and the Glennon’s might be the only one in North America built with the containers from the footings all the way up to the roof, he said.

After years of touring show homes, checking out homes on the market, and attending home and design shows, Glennon said he never found anything he liked under $1 million.

By chance, his wife Roseann spotted a newspaper article about a shipping container home several years ago, which sparked their interest.

Putting his construction abilities to work, the former scaffolder and carpenter started drawing up plans to build his own home out of 30 shipping containers, each weighing about 5,000 kilograms with a load capacity of about 30,390 kilograms.

Besides being “really tough,” the containers are economically sound and structurally practical, Glennon said, though it can be a challenge to cut and grind materials, he added.

The couple, in their late 50s, started excavation in September 2009.

A month later, 30 containers were shipped from Calgary to their property for a cost of about $3,000 per container.

Ever since, the couple and their 19-yearold daughter Kala, with help from Glennon’s brother Bruce and sister Colleen, have been hard at work welding, putting in the insulation and roof truss system, painting, installing weeping tile, lighting, and tending to the garden.

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“Right now, we’re trying to insulate the outside, and we’re still waiting for the concrete to be poured on the roof, backfill the garage, and get some plumbing in,” Glennon said. “We’ve got a long ways to go.”

(This is the first in a series of Canadian Off-Grid homes we will be featuring – please write to if you want your home featured.)

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6 Responses to “Canadian shipping container home”

  1. breck2

    i dont care what you all say its a cool idea

  2. Cesare Bonventre

    Honestly – ugly containers is not an attractive way to live well and get off the grid

    ICF’s or Insulated concrete forms are beautiful and in some cases, if you partially cover home in earth, requires no heating or a/c!

    Also, they are inexpensive and go up within a couple days!

  3. Adrian

    Wow, that’s a lot of boxes for one home! There’s no doubt that container homes offer an alternative to the usual bricks and mortar but all too often you see the modern modular Homes as exec style/boutique living – yep some are still rustic but they don’t always follow the off grid living style and be assured they take a level of planning and kitting out – don’t be fooled into thinking that they’re too easy!!

  4. Mary Patricia

    John Wesley Rawles does not recommend shipping containers for various reasons. Look for the links on left side and find topic.

  5. Todd

    Who needs 5000 sq feet? Kind of goes against the spirit of living off grid, doesn’t it? I could do A LOT better with way less than 750k!

  6. Mainah

    50Containers? They must have a lot of stuff.

    I could say more, but I’ll be nice today.