Green Energy Futures visits the Octopod

David Dodge, producer of Green Energy tours our Off-Grid Shipping Container Cabin. This video captures what makes this build unique from an extreme energy efficiency perspective.

To view the full article, please visit Green Energy

Completed Construction of Sea Container Cabin

In Fall of 2014, we completed construction of Sea Container Cabin model OCTOPOD, our 1400 square foot space project in the outskirts of Toronto, Canada. Here are some images:

Sea Container Cabin Finished Front View

FRONT VIEW: From water’s edge, completed construction of Sea Container Cabin OCTOPOD model, powered by off-grid solar panels.


SOLAR PANELS: Powered by Canadian Solar. This cabin is off-grid using only clean renewable energy.


SAUNA – Material is BC red cedar. Wood fired, constructed in the wedge between two containers with easy access to the water’s edge.


GREAT ROOM: Wood fired stove with in-floor heating.


SEA CONTAINER FLOORS: Wide custom pine tongue and groove boards, stained grey.




What we’ve realized is it’s a bit tough to capture the look and feel of the space without physically walking through the experience yourself. So we’ll take a video to give you a better sense of what it feels like to live in this space. And post some pictures of the final interior decorated by Rebecca Purdy from HGTV’s House of Bryan, Leave it to Bryan and DIY Disaster. If you have any questions regarding this build, or any others we’ve been involved in, please send us a comment or you can always contact us.

Internal Framing – Summer 2014

The local construction team specializes in framing and once you see the finished product, you’ll notice their attention to detail. As of October 2014, the Shipping Container Cabin – Project Octopod has been completed. Building officials have signed off on the inside, outstanding is the landscaping but we’re now in winter so it’s a matter of waiting until the snow melts before we raise the grade.


View of centre of ceiling in Great Room. It’s beautiful, I hate to cover up the workmanship.


Centre of Great Room looking out of the main entrance at water


From main deck looking into main entrance. Walls of shipping containers will be cut creating entrances into rooms.


From inside centre of Great Room looking up at big timber internal framing and brackets.


Framing for upper windows


Internal framing – looking up at upper windows


Internal framing of walls going up


Floors are in. Custom made by our sawmill tongue and groove pine planks.


Now that the inside is buttoned up, the Internal metal walls are getting cut out.


Internal framing of upper great room walls.

If you have any questions regarding the progress of our Shipping Container Cabin, or any specific questions about techniques and materials used in our kits for sale, we’d love to speak with you so contact us!

Framing of the Shipping Container Cabin Project – Summer 2014

Here’s a look at the external framing pictures from early summer of 2014. Internal framing pictures can be found in our next posting!


Framing of the centre great room – Front Entrance of Shipping Container Cabin


Framing of the centre great room – Driveway Entrance of Shipping Container Cabin


Side view from Boat dock of Kitchen and future Sauna


Perspective of Shipping Container Cabin project Front Entrance from Granite rock face


Shipping Container Cabin – View from parking area of Side Entrance


Future Master Bedroom Container


Gazebo in progress for outdoor breakfasts. Will also house our Canadian Solar Panels when we install our Off-Grid Power System.


View of the forest from Floor to Ceiling Second bedroom windows


Deck to Shipping Container Cabin Main Entrance


Scoping out the framing progress and construction site


Bundles and Bundles of Plywood


View of a framed wedge – soon to be covered space to store toys and firewood


Finishing the roof framing of Shipping Container Cabin


Overhead view of construction site


Expansive 3000 square foot roof


Big timbers and galvanized brackets


One of many piers poured to support the Shipping Container Cabin structure

If you have any questions regarding the techniques or materials we have used in this project for sale in our DIY kit, please contact us.

Summer progress for the Sea Container Cabin

Construction on the 7 Sea Container Cabin Project has taken off in full steam since our BIG crane day. Time has passed quickly but this is the start to sharing our summer progress with you.

Sea Container Cabin photo timeline:


 The big crane on site to place the shipping containers into position.


Shipping containers cruising in the air to their final positions.


 Placing shipping containers neatly on the pier foundation to form the 7 Sea Container Cabin.


First 4 shipping containers placed into position.



Posts and Beams on site waiting their turn to be resurrected in place.


A surprise visitor watching the progress of our build.


 Post and Beam brackets custom engineered for our project.

Do you need some help vetting ideas for your own Shipping Container Cabin? We can help you traverse this “off the beaten path” type of construction. In fact, if you would like to experience the Sea Container Cabin, we will be booking rentals for those of you who are looking for an off-grid adventure.  Our final inspection has been booked and once the building permit is closed, we can officially say we have built the first permitted cabin of its kind in Ontario.

Some more exciting Sea Container Cabin news:

We are growing! Over the summer, many folks have been walking by a busy downtown Toronto corner wondering what was the newest addition to Scadding Court Community’s Market 707 Business out of the Box (BOB) program could be. We are happy to announce the first public/private partnership with the City of Toronto’s Scadding Court Community Centre BOB program. Our new Sea Container Cabin Urban Model showroom is the smallest model we offer at 20 feet long. This is a special high cube with side openings. Located at Bathurst Street and Dundas Street, we built this showroom to  give everyone a feel for what it’s like living in a Sea Container Cabin and more imporatantly, we used this showroom to test out our materials, their quality, ease of use, appropriateness for metal, and finishes at the Sea Container Cabin Urban before we applied our favourite features to our 7 Sea Container Cabin Showcase.

If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area, please book an appointment and visit us at our new Urban showroom! We’d love to show you around.

The BIG Crane Day

The BIG crane day is the single most exciting day of this project as a lot of visual progress is made in a few hours. In this post, we show you photos of the containers being placed on their foundations, and share  some of the considerations and options available for completing this step in the construction process.

In this project, all the shipping containers were on site for several months as a means for storing furniture, construction materials, and tools. The containers were siting on wooden blocks, awaiting to be moved to their final resting places.

foundation panorama

Panorama shot of the final foundations after backfill and grading – click to enlarge

4 options for placing shipping containers

In order of price, but also lowest flexibility we have listed some options for placing containers below:

  1. Tilt and load flatbed trucks: These are the trucks that typically deliver 20′ containers and are the lowest cost option. They have the flexibility of unloading a container without any assistance of forklifts or cranes. On the down side, they are limited to dropping the containers and need a 60′ straight run way from the container unloading position. In this project, the land around the OCTOPOD is tight with natural drop offs and water, and therefore this method will not work.
  2. Off road forklift: Heavy duty forklifts capable of lifting containers and traversing soft and uneven gravel terrain. Again, given the limited ability to traverse around the foundation area, this was not a practical option for this project. However, in other projects with wider lay down area, an off road forklift can be used as long as the forks are wide enough and long enough (8′) to fit into the container fork lift pockets. If using this method, the forklift is limited to lifting the containers from the 20′ long side only.
  3. Small crane: Smaller cranes are lower to hire per hour in cost than large cranes but have limited reach capability and may take longer to complete the job if they need to move and reposition themselves for a second lift of the same container. When lifting containers or any other heavy objects, many cranes can lift them straight up but as you reach out, the laws of physics kick in and have the effect of requiring larger lift capacities to perform the work.
  4. Large crane: Larger cranes cost the most to hire per hour but have the greatest reach and can complete the job in less time and with ease. In this project, we wanted to be able to reach almost 100′ away from the crane location for the furthest container placements.  After being set up, the seven containers were moved into place with safety and precision in a few hours. 


Large 90 ton Crane for BIG Crane Day


Shipping container being craned into position


4 of 7 Shipping containers placed on foundations


All 7 Shipping Containers Cabin sitting on foundations

Click Time Lapse VIDEO of the BIG Crane Day!

Optimize the benefits of building with shipping containers.

We have figured out the tricks to building homes out of shipping containers in cold environments while meeting Ontario building code. Contact us for your DIY shipping container kit so you can prepare yourself to build your very own permanent shipping container home.

Minimizing Foundations Work with Shipping Containers

In Building Foundations for a Rocky Landscape, we completed the footings and now we will share how we completed the foundation work and our reasons why we poured concrete for the octagon in the centre of the Sea Container Cabin.

Replacing standard foundation building methods with piers

If you want to minimize foundations work with shipping containers, you can skip the standard foundations used in traditional building methods and use piers instead resting the corners of your shipping containers instead of having to support the perimeter of your structure. With a clean set of footings to build on, the forming of the outer box piers and the centre octagon takes place. The centre octagon has structural box piers located at each of the octagon points that hold one end of the containers. There are 20 outer box piers that hold the outer ends of the containers and supports the outer posts and beams for the roofing system.

Choice of floor construction for the great room

In the Concept & Design section, we describe the features of our centre octagon great room.  This great room could be designed with a suspended wood floor system, or with an elevated concrete slab on foundations. We selected a concrete centre hub for the following reasons:

  1. Permanent long term durability
  2. Invincible to damage from beneath from insects and animals (carpenter ants and porcupines love to eat wood!)
  3. Ability to heat a thermal mass with in floor radiant heat piping in an insulated concrete slab
  4. Superior weight load capabilities for heavy wood stoves
  5. Waterproof for winter gear drying in front of a fire, and in the event of a leak from the interior water tower there’s a floor drain in the centre

 Images Capturing Step by Step Foundations Work

sea container cabin foundations 1

 Centre octagon forms with structural box piers and concrete curtain walls

sea container cabin foundations 2 centre octagon

Structural box piers with embedded steel welding plates

sea container cabin foundations 3 box piers with steel welding plates

Centre octagon after concrete forms removed

sea container cabin foundations 5 centre octagon finished walls

Rebar floor ties inset into octagon foundations (Picture 1)

sea container cabin foundations 6 octagon floor ties

Rebar floor ties inset into octagon foundations (Picture 2) 

sea container cabin foundations 7 with airbook

Outer box pier concrete forms

sea container cabin foundations 8 outer box piers

Centre octagon backfilled, compacted, and insulation laid

sea container cabin foundations 10 back filled and insulated octagon

In floor heat piping installed before concrete floor is poured

sea container cabin foundations 11 in floor heat piping

Completed foundations, great room octagon floor, backfilled, and graded

foundation panorama

 Panorama of Sea Container Cabin site – click to enlarge

Optimize the benefits of building with shipping containers for more than foundations work

We have figured out how to optimally build homes out of shipping containers in cold environments while meeting Ontario’s building code. And after we figured it out, we wrote about it. Contact us for your DIY shipping container kit so you can experience what’s behind building your own permanent shipping container home.

Sourcing Timbers and Brackets for our Post and Beam Great Room

This past winter was the coldest Ontario has seen in 20 years. Spring is officially here however the nicer weather hasn’t exactly arrived yet. After checking in with our builder, it appears we’ll need a little more patience before the roads dry up allowing us to get back into the construction scene.

During our planned sea container construction downtime, we have been busy preparing for our next steps.

1. Source big timbers

We believe in local sourcing to support the community and to reduce shipping costs. These savings will ultimately reflect in our final construction costs so we searched for a nearby sawmill with the capacity and capability to mill up dimensional timbers as large as 10″ x 10″, and some as long as 26 ft.  Sure enough, just one concession road over from the project site, our friendly local sawmill was up for the task.  Timbers of this size require a long lead time. Our order was placed months ago in order to align with our spring construction period.

2. Source heavy steel brackets

Another long lead time item are the custom heavy steel brackets for connecting the post and beam timber works.  For ease of on site assembly, and for the beefy rustic look, we decided to go with heavy steel brackets instead of custom fit hand carved joints.  Once the final dimensions of the rough sawn timbers were confirmed, design and engineering of the brackets were finalized, and off they went into the fabrication shop for manufacturing, and over to the finishing shop for a hot dipped galvanized treatment.

Now we wait for the ground to dry up.

Once we mobilize the crane, the containers will be placed on their foundations. Then we start building the great room.

The following preparation and progress has occurred while the site lay in winter hibernation:

  1. Post and beam timbers sourced and cut, ready for delivery
  2. Manufacturing of enormous engineered brackets and hot dip galvanizing, ready for delivery
  3. Researching off-grid power and determining requirements of the cabin, keeping us busy –  interesting findings on the latest energy storage technologies post to follow
  4. Documenting interior design requirements so that a furniture, electrical and lighting plan could be created to optimize the living space. We have an exciting interior designer engaged – deserving of her own dedicated post.
  5. Did we mention we’re hoping to have the sea container cabin project filmed for a TV series?  Film producers are excited about the rich content of this project, so we’ll see if they can keep up with the speed of the build this summer.

white pine timbers for sea container cabin

First load of timbers for the great room are waiting to be delivered.

If you would like greater detail on any of these topics or just want to hear more about our experiences, contact us or leave us a comment below. Your interests do influence our future community blog topics. You can also follow us on our journey by signing up for our emails.

Building Foundations for a Rocky Landscape

Old man Winter was finding its way quickly into Southern Ontario and we were knee deep in building foundations for our shipping container cabin. The Bobcaygeon area is known for rocky terrain with a clear presence of cambrian and pre-cambrian geology. The entire foundation area was excavated and scraped down to the granite bedrock. Due to the uneven rock terrain, we decided bringing in surveyors to accurately locate the centre octagon points and outer piers would be a worthwhile investment. After all, it isn’t exactly easy to undo concrete work.

Concrete forming commenced for the footings, with some crafty carpentry work to follow the natural granite. Rebar pins were drilled into the granite for all footings. Rebar reinforcements were inserted into concrete footings and with projections for foundation walls and piers to come next. Let’s just say these piers are securely fastened to mother earth and we won’t have any concerns for foundation settlement, that is for sure. And just in the nick of time with winter settling in!

 excavated area

Excavation of shipping container cabin site

survey pins 2

Construction plans for shipping container cabin

surveyors 1

Surveyors to accurately locate piers

surveyors 2

Measurements and anchoring to the rock foundation

survey pins

Straightening metal spikes from the disassembled barn for transformation into markers

surveyors 3

Marking our locates

footings 2

Crafty centre octagon form building

footings 6

Initial octagon cement pour

footings 7 done

Aerial view of future Octopod

Do you have any questions regarding building foundations in our project? We’d be happy to share our learnings. In fact, there’s been so much interest in our project we are putting together a free of charge sneak peek of our Do it Yourself Shipping Container Cabin kit. Sign up for our blog if you’d like to be the first to know once it becomes available. Or leave a comment.

Demolishing the old to make room for our new shipping container cabin

Demolition time has arrived.

The excavator and our seasoned contractor George are making quick work of what is otherwise a mountain of carnage.

The old cabin was rotted from beneath, but it was built tough. Demolishing the old revealed that this little cabin had multiple layers of material in every part of its construction. The floors were composed of steel beams, joists, tongue and groove subfloor, SM foam, plywood, and finally topped with hardwood flooring. The walls were tongue and groove pine on the interior, studs, fiberglass insulation, tongue and groove board exterior, tongue and groove wood siding, topped with an extra layer of cedar board and batten. The ceiling to roof was composed of tongue and groove pine ceiling, studded partially vaulted ceiling, fiberglass insulation, roof rafter joists, tongue and groove board roof sheeting, asphalt shingles, wood strapping, steel roofing. The amount of material to dispose, recycle, reuse and burn was equivalent to 2 or 3 such structures.

Looking forward to starting our foundations next.





If you have any questions about our demolition experience, please contact us or leave a comment below. You can also follow our project and be the first to know what’s going on by signing up for our blog.