When I was a little kid, I would stare in wonder as a train went by on the track in front of our parked car. I could never understand why it annoyed my parents so much when we got caught at the track crossing. It was a train! Trains are cool. As it turns out, the shipping containers on said trains are becoming much cooler.

Although it’s certainly not the first of its kind, General Motors (GM) is sponsoring a shipping container home that will be placed alongside Michigan Urban Farming Initiative’s (MUFI) urban garden in Detroit. Eighty-five percent of the home, which will measure 40 feet long, 10 feet tall and eight feet wide will be made from scrap materials donated by GM. Employees at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant will donate their time to construct the home, which will also be completed in partnership with TAKD Design and Integrity Building Group of Detroit.

Using items such as sound-deadening vehicle insulation to insulate the walls and plywood repurposed from large shipping containers for interior walls and furniture components, the home is part of the long-term vision of MUFI to show the public exactly how little space a person needs in order to live a healthy, fulfilled life.

The home will be constructed on the grounds of the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant and when it’s done, the house will be moved to MUFI’s urban garden in the city’s New Center neighborhood.

Tiny houses are all the rage—living smaller and within your means has become a very appealing way to live lately—and shipping containers are just one of the ways people are repurposing everyday objects for a better world.


Shipping container homes have been popping up all over the place for more than a decade. In 2001, Container City in London was completed, creating 12 work studios made from something like 80 percent recycled materials and in Italy, you can find illy’s pop-up café: a shipping container that, with a push of a button, reveals a fully functioning kitchen, café and bathroom.

What makes GM’s project so interesting is the number of really wacky things going into the house. I mentioned the insulation and plywood, but they’re also using things like Chevrolet Volt battery cases for birdhouses and planters. Lockers will find new lives as tool storage compartments and small fastener containers from the factory will serve as plant and vegetable starter containers. Guess they won’t be needing to start seeds in toilet paper rolls.

By Megan Winkler

Eco-nerd, solar power enthusiast, DIY diva and professional coffee drinker, Megan has written everything from courses in healthcare and psychology to interior design and cooking advice. She has a master’s degree in military history, owns two chainsaws, is a collector of strange trivia and a world renowned Pinterest pro. She is constantly looking for better ways to do things.