Shipping Container Architecture

About Us

Container Nation is the brainchild of architect and developer JOEL M. KARR. Joel has been involved in the “Green Architecture” movement since before the concept of green building even existed. Seeing the environmental degradation caused by used shipping containers, Joel became intrigued by the notion of re-using containers beginning more than 20 years ago, with his entry to an “idea competition” sponsored by Tokyo Gas , in Japan, where he was living at the time. His entry proposed the use of shipping containers to store massive amounts of garbage produced by the Tokyo Megalopolis, and to collect the methane gas generated, for use in powering housing units built in front of them.

His interest grew exponentially from there. Subsequent competition entries, years of research and endless hours spent poking around shipyards, dumps, and container storage facilities have only served to increase his interest and knowledge base. Joel’s abiding interest in the area has also resulted in the winning of a competition sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Current projects include the Oakland Coffee Café (under construction), a project for transitional and homeless housing in Berkeley CA, and market rate “micro-unit” apartments.

Joel M. Karr is an architect, traveler, man of the world, explorer, and generally curious soul. His journeys have included periods of living in Japan and Paris, along with a stint on a research fellowship in the Negev Desert of Israel as well as extensive world travel. As an architect, his work can be found on three continents, spanning a period of 32 years.

With an extensive array of project types, his experience is both broad and deep, including everything from small interior renovation projects to industrial design products, to campus master planning for 1,000,000 square foot office parks. Generally, his work does not fit any typical description of a “style”. His personal passion is to “think inside the heads” of his clients, whether designing a beautiful light fixture or an office building.

Joel has background designing buildings with some of the world’s noteworthy architects including Kohn Pedersen Fox of New York, and Helmut Jahn of Chicago, as well as working in Tokyo for one of the largest Construction/Architecture/Development conglomerates in Japan for five years. He is active in political and social issues including various Sustainable Building forums and Building and Planning issues in the City of San Francisco and Nationally.

Educated at Oberlin College and UCLA, he holds a Masters’ in Architecture and certification with NCARB for practice in all 50 states. He has continuing interests including historic preservation issues (He was active with Los Angeles Conservancy and the New York Architectural Heritage Society) and music (he is an accomplished flutist, having made his solo orchestral debut at 13).