About 10 minutes into the movie Tron: Legacy, the character Sam Flynn rides his Ducati up to his dockside home: an industrial-looking place obviously built from shipping containers. Large glass garage doors open on the front and back, permitting him to store his bike right in the living room and giving his living room a water-front view. It’s a bit of a dive, but I couldn’t help but wonder: could a home like this — cleaned up, of course — work for normal living? And how expensive would it be (or would it even be possible) to build one?
It turns out I’m not the only one thinking along those lines. Meet Adam Kalkin and his Quik House.
Adam, a self-proclaimed “artist and architect,” develops his projects as a form of “upcycling” — a way of taking something designed and built for a specific purpose and recontextualizing it. His personal website, architecture and hygiene, features some of his many home projects, including a simplified $99,000 house, a huge, sprawling home built from 12 shipping containers (which he’ll rent to you for $6-10k/week between the months of June and October), and a tiny “pushbutton house” built from a single container which folds up to protect its contents, but opens for pure outdoor living. But what really caught my eye is his Quik House, pictured below.
The design is remarkably similar to Flynn’s house in Tron, built from three containers stacked crosswise upon two, leaving room for two big rolling doors on the front and back. He’s configured the layout similarly, too, at least from what we can see online, setting a living room downstairs between the two doors with a kitchen off to the side on the first floor and a bedroom and other living areas upstairs. Overall size is dictated by the containers: 40′ x 24′, and much of the container sides are left intact upstairs, dividing living areas mostly into 8′-wide spaces.
Trolling about a bit more, though, one can find numerous variants, including versions with large cuts in the upstairs walls, creating at least one fairly large room. Most configurations feature a single winding staircase on one side, but some include more complex straight-stair designs.
The bad news, from what I can tell, is that the Quik House works pretty much like a kit car. It may seem inexpensive on the surface, but it’s not designed to save anyone money. It’s designed for customization. Current pricing, assuming you’re willing to hop on Kalkin’s six-month waiting list, starts at $76,000, and at that price point you don’t even get the equivalent of the kit car “rolling chassis.” The “kit” includes “six modified containers, stairs, walls, pre-fitted electircal and plumbing systems, and aluminum glazing frames.” Buyers will need to provide “everything in the ground” plus whatever’s necessary to finish the roof, make electrical and plumbing connections, and finish the walls. Bottom line: Kalkin recommends budgeting between $125 and $165 per square foot for the entire project (excluding land).
That’s about twice what I paid for my mid-grade suburban home.
Still, this design is inspiring, and shows that building such a home entirely on one’s own is certainly doable. Building a home from containers raises some serious issues for most folks, ranging from difficulty in meeting architectural and building codes to convincing others in the area that containers aren’t just for hobos. But the idea of a small, efficient (both in terms of resources and space) home strikes me as a seriously cool deal. Plop something similar down on a lake or near the beach, and I think I’d be quite happy in it.
I’ll keep researching. If you’ve built a container home, or another small-living-style home, I’d love to hear about it.
The Quik House [Quik-Build]