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Tour Kevin Copeland's CARGO By KVN Shipping Container Home in Atlanta

Builder Kevin Copeland's "hybrid house" proves that a shipping container can have more than one purpose — and could be an innovative housing solution. Tour the house and learn the story behind CARGO By KVN.

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Photo: Tomas Espinoza

The Big Idea: Start With a Box ...

It was a simple idea: Build a house using empty shipping containers, those house-size metal boxes used to move cargo and goods across the country and across oceans. Atlanta builder Kevin Copeland had ample time to study them. With sturdy metal walls, 8-foot ceilings and more than 300 square feet of empty space, he could imagine that a container would be big enough to live in. Outfitted with windows and doors, he realized that big metal box, 40 feet long x 8 feet long wide, could be the start of something bigger, a move toward affordable housing that is currently not available to a large segment of the population.

To that end, Kevin founded CARGO by KVN, a development company focused on repurposing used shipping containers. His most recent project is a three-story home in Atlanta’s Pittsburgh community, using shipping containers to form the bottom floor.

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Photo: Tomas Espinoza

... And Turn It Into a Home

The new house in Atlanta has a living room/kitchen/dining area, three bedrooms, a flex room that can be used as another bedroom, an office or "anything you want," two and a half bathrooms and three decks with views of downtown Atlanta.

But that’s getting ahead of the story. It all began in Portsmouth, Virginia, where Kevin grew up and graduated from high school.

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Photo: Kevin Copeland

Growing Up With an Eye on the Future

Portsmouth is an industrial city across the Chesapeake Bay from Norfolk, where there was a Ford manufacturing plant, now closed, and the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. “It was a regular childhood,” says Kevin. “Outside all day, come in when the street lights come on. I had a great upbringing, very supportive family.” In hindsight, it wasn’t the easiest, he says. “It made me understand that it actually made me tougher. Pretty much built me for what I’m doing right now.”

But opportunities in Portsmouth were limited, he says. “Working at the Ford plant, going into the army, or if your family could afford it, going on to college. The only opportunity I saw for myself was to get a good job, go to work, save the money and buy a house.”

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Working On a Plan

At age 22, Kevin joined the US Merchant Marines, the seafaring fleet of commercial ships and civilian mariners that transport cargo between nations. “I saw it as the most viable option to get paid a lot of money for doing hard work,” he says. As a mariner, he worked on container ships, transferring goods from around the world — “Belgium, Germany, the Middle East, China, everywhere — and bringing them back to the US.” He was at sea, working for months at a time, but he had a plan. “The first time I came off the ship, I decided to teach myself how to build a house.”

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