Think inside the box …
what can you do with a steel shipping container?

Intermodal Shipping Container design marries environmental sustainability with cutting-edge design sensibility. Cargotecture has a well-earned reputation as one of the world’s preeminent shipping container design firms. Led by renowned designer Joel Egan, we have created functional space for a variety of uses for municipalities, homeowners and developers for over 14 years.


If you come, we will build it.

Think inside the box… what can you do with a steel shipping container?

Intermodal Shipping Container design marries environmental sustainability with cutting-edge design sensibility. Cargotecture has a well-earned reputation as one of the world’s preeminent shipping container design firms. Led by renowned designer Joel Egan, we have created functional space for a variety of uses for municipalities, homeowners and developers for over 14 years.

If you come, we will build it.

About Us


Joel Egan is a Seattle native who received his BS in Experiential Psychology in 1994 from Western Washington University.  His study of the effects of the five human senses led to his deep understanding of function and form and the human experience of the built structure.

Living in Winthrop, Washington, high in the Cascades, Joel mastered residential design and construction in extreme hot/cold weather environments.  He earned his Masters in Architecture from the University of Oregon in 2000, with an emphasis on sustainability.  During school he lived and worked in France, Italy, and Japan.


Joel founded Cargotecture in 2003, and practices in Seattle, Washington.  The firm has past and ongoing work in the Pacific Northwest, Texas, California, Vermont, New York, Nevada, Utah, and Florida.  The practice can support projects around the world.

Cargotecture can provide services ranging from schematic design, design development, consultancy, and project management for any global project.  Cargotecture creates both site-built and factory-built designs and completed projects.  Cargotecture also provides permitting services for projects in most jurisdictions.

Cargotecture gets its name from the practice of creating buildings out of steel intermodal shipping containers, which it helped to pioneer.  This has now become a trend featured in architectural and style journals worldwide. This method merges Egan’s focus on sustainability with his understanding of the interplay of senses and structure.

Joel Egan


(206) 495-2520

4211 SW College St.
Seattle, WA 98116

By Appointments Only

11 + 14 =


Why do you build structures from steel shipping containers?
The steel intermodal-shipping container (ISC) was designed to simplify and streamline long-distance shipping in the era after World War Two, and there are millions of these containers in existence, with many out of use. In recent years, architects and builders have come to recognize that these versatile strong platforms represent a way to unite environmental concern with structural integrity. Disused containers can be sustainably recycled into real estate, eliminating waste. Cargotecture was founded to manifest this promise.
Is cargo/shipping/intermodal container architecture appropriate for affordable housing?
The best answer is “Maybe.” Affordability is a flexible concept, depending greatly on regional and local real estate valuations and trends. For example, in the Upper Midwest, where a Victorian can be obtained for less than $100,000, including land, it would be difficult to produce an ISC-based home with as much space for that cost. On the other hand, in markets where real estate is dear and zoning makes land expensive, ISC homes can be a viable alternative to stick-built, especially in jurisdictions that specifically allow for microhousing.
Can you give me an example?
In places such as the Pacific Northwest, Silicon Valley, and the Northeast, prices are high and zoning is tight, so new construction is both rare and expensive. If one can add a two-bedroom home to an existing property in the San Francisco area for less than $200,000, this represents a significant savings of as much as 90% from the existing market rate. Groupings of such homes could represent a very viable rental investment. In such areas, steel shipping container homes can become a bridge to homeownership for young people, and can assist municipalities experiencing housing shortages. In such regions, ISC homes are a viable affordable housing concept.
What should I know about zoning?
Even if your area does not allow microhousing, it may be possible to add an ISC building to your current property, or to get an ISC home approved on developable vacant land. Cargotecture recommends that our potential customers begin the investigative process with the relevant municipal zoning and planning departments before truly contemplating a purchase. In many jurisdictions, if your project is less than 200sf there is no permitting process required.
Are there barriers to ISC home construction?
There are several elements that can increase the cost of an ISC-based building.


• Container-based construction does not reduce the cost of permit-required components inside.
• Micro-home appliances are less common and micro-sized, making them more expensive than appliances found in stick-built construction.
• The steel container conversion adds some costs, such as adding insulation, floors, doors, and windows.
• Steel ISCs are very heavy.

These issues are often surmountable, so long as the regional cost ratio remains favorable.

Why select Cargotecture for my micro-home, retreat, DADU, or home office?
Cargotecture’s Principal Joel Egan has been a leader in the ISC-construction industry for over a decade, and this experience makes our designs a cut above in style, utility and sustainability. A Cargotecture home or office is sustainable, smart, modern, and durable enough to last several generations - not to mention just plain COOL!


Pluses include:

• They can be relocated (including their foundations), so they can be moved from season to season, turning from fish camp to surf shack.
• They can be secured against intruders and storms.
• They are nostalgic for their globetrotting history.
• Architecture critics love them.
• They travel easily on typical trucks, ships, and trains.
• This is a unique luxury retreat that can be a transferrable asset for many generations.

I am a do-it-yourself builder and would like to use your construction documents. Can you help me build my own?
On a case-by-case basis, we provide contractual ISC construction consulting services. We have worked with engineers, architects, builders and do-it-yourselfers with great results. Please contact us to discuss our models, plans, and options.
I live in an extremely hot and cold weather environment. Are your designs fully insulated? Would these homes be able to handle these extremes?
Yes. All our models are insulated about 15% above IBC and UBC building codes in the floors, walls and roofs. The building can be placed in cold, moderate and hot climates. The recycled plastic and soy sprayed-in insulation is more than sufficient for most climates — R24 walls, R 44 ceilings, and R32 floors. The roofs can handle 60psf snow loads.
How much will shipping the Cargotecture from the factory cost?
Shipping tends to be approximately $1.20 per mile per truck (up to 40’ on one truck). If you provide us with your Zip code and address we can offer an accurate delivery cost to your location.
What kind of foundation is recommended?
The foundation depends on the soil and terrain on which you will be placing your Cargotecture structure. Proper foundation configurations are important. Your local contractor/ engineer must approve them with your local planning/zoning/building department. Full detailed drawings will be available once your order has been initiated. These drawings will assist your contractor in determining the right foundation for the terrain.
Cargotecture recommends diamond-shaped pre-cast concrete/steel foundational piers (examples can be seen at They are less expensive and more green than a site-poured slab and they have been approved in seismic, frost, flood, high wind zones as well as areas with poor soils. Cargotecture procures these with cargo container locking mechanisms already installed. They come shipped with the unit at an average cost of $220 per block and most homes require a minimum of 6 blocks.

Is the installation included?
If you are located in Washington State, our construction arm can build your foundation and set the home. If out of the area, we will assist you in selecting a contractor that can build your foundation and hook up your sewage and electrical systems. The final installation needs to meet local code requirements.
Do you have awnings for outdoor living, and decks to expand my livable space?
Awnings are available as an option for passive heating and cooling. These are available in 15’x10’ sections. Decks are available in a 12 x 20 size, with customization additional.
What additional options, such as roofs for green roof gardening, are available?
There are several. Please see the options tab of this website for specifics. (Must add green rubber roofing cost to OPTIONS Page.)
Does the purchase price include all the electrical/water/washroom installations/connections?
Yes! Our homes are shipped complete, including plumbing if your model has a kitchen or bath. It is a complete inspection-approved move-in ready home, requiring only foundations and electrical/plumbing hookup. Permitting is also additional, but in many jurisdictions, if your project is less than 200sf there is no permitting process required.
Where do you deliver?
We ship worldwide.
Are you in a position to build with my own designs? What is maximum size that you can do?
We can do some minor customization. The cost will be quoted on a separate basis and it can increase the time to complete the drawings. Please see the "custom designs" tab on this website for more information.

Cargotecture C-series Specifications and Pricing

c160 Scout

Base Price: $19,000

c192 Nomad


c320 Nomad



c320 Lookout


c640 Lookout


c720 Lookout


Rendering available upon request.

Base prices include:
  • Recycled ISO cargo container(s) with new paint
  • Steel modification of the above containers
  • Soy based spray foam insulation
  • Aluminum clad wood windows and doors (one 10’ long opening and one side door included.) Fiberglass available
  • Bamboo finish floor or Swedish finish of original mahogany floors
  • 5/8” drywall ceiling and walls
  • Complete bathroom
  • Duravit bath fixtures
  • IKEA cabinets, kitchen fixtures, and lighting
  • Summit appliances
  • 30 gal electric water heater (gas if available on site)
  • Convectair Apero heating system
  • Factory plans, State L&I permits and inspections
  • All projects are permit-approved at factory gate
  • Free shipping to most US locations
Prices do not include:
  • Schematic Design Development for your particular model
  • Sales tax (specific to your municipality)
  • Local plan review and permits (for land-use review, foundations and utilities)
  • On-site construction requirements (grading, foundation, utility connection)
  • Engineering or steep slope/ECA permitting services or fees
Standard options include:
  • Sliding steel barn door:                 $1800 each
  • Additional 10-foot openings          $8000 each
  • Upper retractable bunk:                $1500
  • Fujitsu Heat pump:                       $3500
  • 12’x20’ panelized deck:                $2500
  • Canvas shade awning:                 $2500
  • Lower retractable bunk:                $2000
  • Glass bath enclosure:                   $1800
Deep Green and Off-The-Grid Options
The following options are available for enhanced energy performance or to take your project “off-the-grid”.  Pricing is available upon request.

  • Natural gas or propane appliances, water heater and furnace.
  • Solar panels and inverter.
  • “Green Roof”
  • Composting toilets or “green machine” sewage treatment.
  • Roofwater harvesting and reuse.
The Purchase Process
Step One: Feasibility Analysis

Cargotecture will research the specifics of your site to determine and assess the feasibility of transportation, crane access, local zoning codes, foundation required etc.  These tasks are typically billed hourly and very rarely run over $1000.

Step Two:  Schematic Design, Plans and Permits

Your Cargotecture home is factory permitted, but typically local permits are required for land use review, foundation design, and utilities.  Cargotecture can assist you for a fee that typically ranges from $2000-$5000.

Step Three:  Production begins

Upon completion of design development, a non-refundable 50% is required to begin construction of the home at one of our factories.  Production typically takes 30-60 days depending on options and complexity of your project.

Step Four:  Factory completion and delivery

The balance of the sales price is due upon factory completion of your Cargotecture unit. Then the home will be shipped to your site, and you will have key in the door within a week.