Home » MBJ FEATURE » Would you set up house in a shipping container?

Would you set up house in a shipping container?

house-exterior_rgbThe story begins with a missed invoice and a passion for sustainable construction, takes a winding path through California and Georgia and ends in Oxford with arguably the most unique house in the State of Mississippi.

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“I’ve had a lot of interest and inquiries since, but the Barton home is the only one so far that I’ve built using shipping containers,” said Bill Lilly, LEED AP, owner of Village Green Builders in Oxford.

That’s right, shipping containers — the same ones used by ocean-going ships to carry goods. That might be a novelty here in the Magnolia State, but the idea of converting shipping containers into livable structures is gaining popularity across the nation.

The recent downturn in the economy left a large inventory of idled, relatively inexpensive shipping containers. And, while sounding far-fetched, Jackson architect Jeff Seabold of Seabold Architectural Studio in Jackson says the industrial-sized crates offer outstanding characteristics for design and construction.

“They are literally built to go on a slow boat to China,” said Seabold. “They’re tough, water-tight, can be stacked for modular construction. I’d love to build my office out of shipping containers. I’ve had some inquiries from clients, but I’m unaware of anything being built from shipping containers here in Mississippi. Bill Lilly’s way ahead of the curve.”

Indeed, Lilly negotiated some curves on his way to the Barton home project. A native of Oxford, Lilly had a keen interest in green construction, eventually earning a graduate degree from the University of Indiana in sustainable development.

However, he began his career in international trade, and would subsequently open his own consulting firm in California.

The re-shift to green homebuilding was a sudden one.

“A client missed an invoice, and I had to go out and start swinging a hammer to make ends meet,” Lilly said matter-of-factly.

From container to guesthouse (Related story)

Lilly would relocate to Atlanta where he founded Village Green Builders in 2006, which primarily focuses on sustainable residential construction. When Lilly returned to Oxford in 2008, Village Green became a Mississippi corporation.

In 2009, he was approached by the Barton family of Oxford about replacing their guesthouse that had been lost to a fire. Coincidentally, Lilly had been looking for a project to enter in a green construction competition offered by the Mississippi Home Corporation.

“The Bartons came to me in early July of 2009, and the competition deadline was that November,” Lilly said. “The first challenge was the tight timeframe.”

There were other challenges to face, but the crew wrapped up the house in time to enter the contest (it finished third), and Lilly has a gem on his portfolio.

“The Bartons are happy with it, and it has attracted a lot of interest,” Lilly said. “It showcases what sustainable construction is all about.”

Barton Container Home Details

» Location: Oxford

» Climate Zone: Mixed-humid

» Type of Project: New construction

» Home Completed: 2009

» Setting: Rural

» Energy Source: Geothermal/solar electric

» Layout: Single-family; three-bedroom; no garage

» Lot Size: One acre

» Square Footage: 1,000

» Sales Market: Middle-income

» Cost/Square Foot: $ 135 (Lilly estimated approximately $138)

Source: Homes Across America

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About Wally Northway


  1. I absolutely would live in one. I’m also looking to transform one into a recording studio.

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