Saturday, September 13, 2008

Building With Cargo Containers (introduction)

This blog has been created to answer questions about using conex shipping containers as habitable space. I'll be covering all the issues that came up when I built the structure located at 5135 NE 42nd Street Portland, Oregon. The City of Portland maintains a website called, you can use this website and the above address to see which permits were pulled. Rather than sit and write a complete book about this project I will answer questions posed in the comments part of this blog, or you can email me at and I will post them to this blog.

I think a little personal information is in order so that you can judge the level of skills necessary to pull off a project like this. Most of my professional experience in the building trades came from 15 years in the electrical sign industry. I've been involved in all phases of the design and fabrication to the installation and service of large electrical neon signs in San Francisco. This experience gave me an appreciation of most of the basic skills required in the building trades. In addition to the practical experience of sign work I also worked as an account executive for various sign companies. In this capacity I was able to develop the skills that help estimate costs and manage projects to completion. I was also responsible for pulling permits and seeing the projects though the necessary design review processes that municipalities use to make sure that that a project is both safe and fits into the community.

I left San Francisco in 2000 and moved to New Orleans. I bought and remodeled a 1867 coffee warehouse into my home and commercial rental. In the next five years I went on to work on various projects from a 1870s fire house to the major reconstuction of an 1820s antebullum mansion in the Lower Garden District. I'm very proud of the fact that nothing I worked on in New Orleans suffered any damage by Katrina or any of the hurricanes that plauge the gulf coast. In each of these projects one of my first purchases was a shipping container. They provide me with secure storage for the tools and materials used in constuction. As the last detail of each job I finished out the shipping container as a guest house on the property. I'd sheet the exterior of the container to appear consistant with the main structure.

When I sold my property in New Orleans in 2006 I was given the full square foot value of the container as I got for the house. This caused me to consider constucting a full home from multipule containers. Eventually I settled in Portland, Oregon. I bought the old Hare Khrisna temple on NE 42nd Street. It had a garage that was racked and about to fall over so it was perfect for the project we are going to discuss in this blog.

I'd like to thank you for your interst in my project and I wish you the best of luck building your dreams. I'd be happy to do anything I can do to help you with the construction of your own container house.

Chris Radcliffe, September 2008


Johnny said...

Hello Chris!

I have just recently started researching uses for the containers and I thought of you and your project. I came across your project last year when my girlfriend was telling me about the "Eco Homes" tour that she was on. She mentioned that you were re purposing these professionally. I admire your project and I have oh so many questions. I have a business plan in mind and some container-construction will be necessary. I am currently living in the SE area and I was wondering if I could catch your ear for a moment at some point in time to discuss some of the possibilities. I could really use a local professional such as yourself! Please get back to me when you have a moment! Thanks so much!


Zane said...

Having container house is never in my brain before. But, after seeing the picture of container house, I change my opinion about it. Now, it sounds interesting to have container house because it looks unique.

jackie sauriol said...

hi from jackie
just read your page
on container houses...
wanted to get you in touch
or maybe you know
magnus johannsen, since
my friend suzy works
at the star e rose
coffeeshop, she was
mentioning to me that
magnus is also interested
in container houses in general
and is involved with the 1%
movement and housing for
the people....see you soon

Carl Patten said...

You've done a great job finishing your container house project. That shows how dedicated you are to prove that there is a possibility for these containers to be an alternative house. But how did you manage to put that container on that area? What materials did you use? It's quite heavy to lift those with a simple lifter.

maxine israel said...

r there interior pics? I saw it by accident and a neighbor told me that the inside was really nice.

Maxine Israel on Facebook

Warren Van Zandt said...

What did you do for the flooring? What are the wall coverings and if there are how did you attach them?

chicklitt said...

I am planning a visit to Portland soon and hope to see your project!

Alex Nguyen said...

It's inspiring to see you pursue this dream and make it happen. I've been fascinated with the idea of building a home out of containers and have walked by your house many of times while out with my dog. It's the only one that i've actually seen in person. Nice work!

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