Off the grid: Chiropractor challenges himself to build shipping container home prototype

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Larry Waldroup stands outside a shipping container house, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, in Kirtland.

KIRTLAND — Farmington chiropractor Larry Waldroup became aware about the lack of affordable housing and infrastructure like electricity and water on the Navajo Nation while serving clients.

Waldroup said he travels with a motor home and that gave him the idea of creating a small, off-grid house that could be built off-site and delivered to locations on the reservation. Shipping container houses caught his attention as a possible solution.

He decided to build a prototype on a parcel of land he owns in Kirtland a short distance off of U.S. Highway 64.

“We just worked on it and it’s been an interesting project,” he said. “And I think it really has a place.”

Solar panels and a small wind turbine are located on a shipping container home in Kirtland.

This project is nearing completion and includes solar panels, batteries and a 300-gallon water tank. It is designed so wastewater from the shower and sinks can be sent to a gray water tank for use on landscaping while water from the toilet would flow into a septic system.

It’s a small home. The container measures 8 feet wide by 40 feet long and the living space is less than 400 square feet.

Homes:Could shipping containers be the answer to a lack of affordable housing in Bloomfield?

Waldroup hopes his experience building the container house will help him create more in the future that he can sell to people living on the reservation.

“I probably won’t sell this one,” he said. “I’ll just use this one as kind of a demo.”

The bedroom of the shipping container home is pictured, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, in Kirtland.

His plans for the shipping container homes are similar to hopes expressed by Bloomfield City Councilor Ken Hare. Hare decided to invest his own time and money into building a demonstration home in Bloomfield this year using shipping containers. Hare’s plans call for a larger house than the one Waldroup has constructed in Kirtland. Hare hopes to create a home that a family can live in while Waldroup’s small container home is big enough for a single person or a couple with no children.

Development:Farmington's Gateway West Development solicitation draws just one response

Like Hare, Waldroup sees the shipping containers as alternatives to trailers.

“Trailers they buy, they fall apart,” Waldroup said. “These things are going to last forever.”

Larry Waldroup stands next to the door to the shipping container home, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, in Kirtland.

The shipping container itself cost Waldroup $4,000. After purchasing the container, he worked with contractors to complete the project. That involved cutting out windows and a door, installing framing, spraying foam insulation, installing sheet rock, installing plumbing and other tasks needed to complete the home.

The front door leads into a small kitchen with a stove, sink and refrigerator as well as cabinets. The living room is to the left of the kitchen. A pocket door separates the area from the bathroom and a second pocket door separates the bathroom from the bedroom.

New Mexico legislative session roundup:'Red flag laws' create a stir; rally planned

Waldroup said the big challenge will likely be financing, especially on the reservation. He anticipates selling the completed houses for about $65,000. That price includes the solar panels, propane generators, water tank and appliances.

A fuse box is located inside the bedroom of the shipping container home in Kirtland.

But he is optimistic.

“There’s an answer to everything,” he said. “It’s just a matter of figuring it out.”

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

Support local journalism with a digital subscription: