How 16 containers became 8 wanted market-rate Phoenix condos

On an old used car lot in Phoenix, architects Brian Stark and Wesley James placed 16 used shipping containers and turned them into 8 one- apartments. With the goal of creating market-rate rental units, the architects tried to work with the containers rather than altering them.

The containers are stacked as they would be on ships, using the cam-lock (twist lock) system to lock them in place two stories high. The container were left in place – welded open or shut in an alternating pattern – and serve as the main source of daylight. Only a few small windows are cut from the sides of the containers.

The Containers on Grand apartments (the first in the Western US) now rent at market rate ($1000/month for a 740-square-foot one-bedroom; the going rate for the up-and-coming arts district just outside downtown).

While this type of construction may never out-compete the ’s “stick and stucco” vernacular, Stark argues that it could compete strongly in a place like San Francisco where labor costs are high.

What would prevent this type of building from scaling are codes (there are height limits due to combustion regulations) and financing. Containers on Grand was self-financed (Stark and James became investors, among others), since, as Stark explains, “banks aren’t on board yet with financing a shipping container project”.

One unit is being rented on VRBO as a nightly rental]


  1. I love the way the outside looks. such a great industrial look. I would
    like the inside to look a little more industrial to match the outside.
    Overall these r amazing. definitely something I will keep in mind for a
    future home project.

  2. On the owner info on the VRBO page for this, it has the manager’s languages
    listed as English and Alienese (a fake language from Futurama). That alone
    makes me want to stay there.

  3. Kirsten, have you heard about the cph village project in Copenhagen? Its
    affordable, sustainable student housing made out of old shipping containers
    as well. They will be placed in old industry areas by the water. Really

  4. I would totally live on one of these. I don’t dislike the exterior but
    having it painted perhaps would make look more appealing.

  5. I would want them to at least seal up all the rust on those things. If you
    brush against it kiss your clothes goodbye. That stuff is impossible to get
    out. And who wants to live in a house that looks like a shipping box
    anyway. Its ugly. Layout inside wastes space that could be used better as
    well. Why did they weld the doors open or closed? Makes no sense. They
    could be used for security. Especially in Phoenix. I lived there for 10
    years and the crime was off the scale. Lastly, this “brilliant” idea does
    nothing to help alleviate the housing shortage in cities. Being a single
    bedroom and the high rent. Anyone working a regular job couldnt afford
    these. I have seen much more economical use of these containers, and put
    together more attractively. Try again guys.

  6. Having looked up how cheap these containers can be, I’m honestly quite
    tempted to start my own project with something like this. Though the land I
    own does have some esthetic guidelines for building so I’d need to put some
    paneling or something around it to make it look less like a scrap yard.. ?
    Curious to know if one can keep them structurally sound while adding more
    windows though cause I’d definitely want more light.

  7. I like the idea but I would of painted them. To me it looks like a storage
    yard rather than a residential area but the architect has his own vision.

  8. I think the way it looks would attract the wrong kind of attention. It
    looks like a abandoned shipping yard, I think unsavory weirdos would flock
    to this property because it just looks like a waste land.

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