A family with roots in Cape Breton is planning to construct an unusual summer home: they're converting bulk shipping containers into a cottage.

Colleen Lashuk, an architect in Montreal, is designing the building.

Her husband is from Cape Breton and his parents still live there.

"We want to build a family cottage out of shipping containers and wood on Mira Bay," said Lashuk. "We've got three that are being used as bedrooms and one is used as the kitchen, one as a bathroom box, another one is a bunkhouse."

But that kind of building is currently illegal in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. There's a bylaw that prohibits using containers for dwellings. But CBRM is now considering changes to the bylaw.

"I thought that we would apply for a variance, you know, because for other projects that I've done in Montreal particularly when a project doesn't quite meet the zoning guidelines you apply for a variance and you know they make an exception to the rule. In fact, what the CBRM choose to do I think is much more forward thinking," said Lashuk.

A public meeting to amend the bylaw will go ahead the week of Oct. 14th.

li-draft of container cottage

A top down view of Colleen Lashuk's design for the container cottage on Mira Bay. (http://www.colleenlashuk.com/in-progress/)

Lashuk is hopefully the project will be approved.

"I think as an architect you're always interested in different ways of doing things and new ways of doing things. I've been eyeing shipping container buildings for a few years now." 

She said there can be advantages to using containers as well.

"There's a bit of a surplus in North America because we are receiving more manufactured goods than we are shipping out so there tends to be a bit of a collection of shipping containers in North America as opposed to other parts of the world. They are pretty amazing things you know they are watertight, they are made for the sea air, they are made to be very durable and they are these pre-made boxes that you can move into a spot and use as part of a building."

The containers aren't cheap though. A relatively new container can cost almost $4,000, while older containers with a few more kilometers on them cost around $2,000.

Lashuk said she most likely won't save any money by building the cottage with shipping containers.

"I'm not sure you save very much money because in the end you still have to insulate. You still have to finish at least one side of the box, either to have outside siding if you've insulated on the outside or to have dry wall or something on the inside. So there are lots of other operations besides just having the box."

If the municipality changes the bylaw, Lashuk hopes to begin construction of the container cottage in the spring.