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  • Writer's pictureBeth Kunz

Are Shipping Containers the New Jerry Cans of Housing?

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

Jerry Can of WWII

"Jerry" cans are a fluid canister developed by Germany for gas and water transport in World War II. The canister design was far superior to the Ally's. They were cleverly-simple and ruthlessly-rugged. They were a single-weld design that never leaked, they were lined and could to carry a variety of fluids. They floated, had an intelligent handle design which allowed them to be carried two in each hand and be handed off easily. They had a retractable pour spout, were stack-able, tie-able and on and on. The British spent an enormous amount of time trying to steal Jerry cans for their superior design over the "Flimsy" the British had which rusted and leaked profusely.

British "Flimsy" can

The British and Americans eventually copied the design and made millions, which played no small roll in the Ally's ability to defeat Germany. Roosevelt once said "Without these [Jerry] cans it would have been impossible for our armies to cut our way across France."

It has long struck me that our current method of stick-building houses is so far outdated, it's shameful. The high cost of building materials tied to a labor-intensive method of conventional construction makes building new homes very expensive. With increasing mortgage rates, we can no longer overcome these inefficiencies with low-cost loans.

Some people are thinking outside-the-box to increase efficiency by building homes off site, en masse and then assembling on site. This can be anything from standard pref-fab homes using conventional materials to intelligent modular designs with everything integrated and ready to assemble like Legos. These are helpful ideas, but require huge upfront costs for the factories and materials, and in the case of the new designs, engineering, tooling, marketing and much more.

So, what if we employ something that is already made in huge quantities? Something strong, modular and easily transportable? What if we think inside-the-box, or more specifically, the container? Yup, I'm talking about shipping containers.

Now, before you pass-out from even entertaining the thought of trying to make a home in a small, dark, metal box - understand that is not what is being proposed. The idea is to use the strength and uniform shape of the containers for the structure and to cut, space, insulate and finish it as a useful, efficient, comfortable and even aesthetically-pleasing home.

Below are some interesting projects of varying size that caught my attention.


Source: Creative Cabins LLC

Location: Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio USA


Source: Creative Cabins LLC and Hocking Hills Unique Cabins

Location: Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio USA




If variety is the spice of life, is utility the meat?

Before & Afters

What do you think? Is Colorado ready for some Container Cabins, or affordable and elegant container communities? How about independent senior-living communities?

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