Shipping Container Uses: 26 Ideas to Try
Demand for shipping containers has skyrocketed in recent years, acting as a lower cost, more environmentally friendly building solution for personal, professional, and public use. From housing to business space and beyond, it’s clear why shipping containers have become such a popular pick.
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Benefits of Repurposing Shipping Containers
- Cost-efficiency: Storage containers generally require fewer construction materials and lower labor costs than a typical build. Customizations can range in price depending on how you plan to use the space, but DIY work can help cut back on expenses.
- Flexibility: Storage containers come in many sizes and types, from 20-ft. and 40-ft. boxes to open top, double door, and beyond, meaning you can choose the right unit to fit your project needs. They also act as a blank canvas for any customizations or styling you may want. Best of all, containers can be grouped in endless ways to create a unique space fitting whatever size you need.
- Durability: Shipping containers were, of course, originally built to transport cargo – often large and heavy cargo – long distances, so it only makes sense they are built to withstand weight and weather. In fact, manufacturers typically use corten steel in their construction, a material known for its ease of maintenance and longevity.
- Mobile: Shipping containers can make great permanent residences or business spaces, for businesses or events on the go, the ease with which these containers can be relocated compared to traditional structures can make them a perfect choice for your business or project.
Storage Container Uses for Businesses
- Restaurant or Cafe Shipping containers make fantastic spaces for restaurants, not only because they are cost-efficient and sustainable, but because they bring a modern, industrial edge to any space. Many have already begun repurposing shipping containers in this way, from small eateries using single containers, to larger restaurants combining multiple storage containers to create a roomier dining area.
- Hotel The main idea behind shipping container hotels is to offer guests the most basic comforts of home for a reasonable price. These lodgings are ideal for everything, whether you’re looking for a beach hotel in India, a roadside motel for traveling business people who need somewhere to rest before their red-eye flight back home, or a 5-star hotel for the demanding traveler — there’s something for everyone!
- Art Gallery Shipping containers can be repurposed to act as funky art galleries, whether permanent structures or pop-up galleries. Containers allow these spaces to be built efficiently and provide the perfect blank canvas for artists to make the space truly their own. One of the most famous examples is the GAD Mobile Art Gallery, made from reclaimed shipping containers stacked together.
- Commercial Office Another common container-based trend in business are offices and co-working spaces built from repurposed shipping containers. Not only does this provide durability, but in the case of single containers (vs. stacked), the office space can be mobile, providing additional flexibility for your workforce. If your workforce is expanding, more shipping containers can be added later to scale with your team.
- Bar Similar to restaurants, storage containers can act as fantastic spaces for bars, particularly when part of one or both wide sides of the container are cut out with stools placed on the outside for guests to sit, while staff makes drinks inside. Once again, the durability, flexibility, and potential mobility of these spaces means they can fit a variety of business models and needs.
- Bank When a bank is designed within a container, it is not just about the exterior. It’s also necessary to think about the interior layout, security features, and climate control. By using shipping containers, you can create an attractive and secure bank that will meet all your needs.
- Retail Space/Stores From small shops to big-box stores, just about any type of store can be housed in a shipping container. With some creativity, you can design a retail store that is both attractive and functional. And since the cost of using a shipping container is relatively low, this may be the most economical way to open a new store.
- Apartments Shipping containers have become extremely popular in the construction of apartment buildings, where they can be grouped and stacked together to make unique and economical spaces. Once again, durability is key. Shipping containers are strong enough to withstand even the most extreme weather conditions, which means they’ll last for years without needing repairs. Containers have even been used as homes for displaced people after major disasters. Whether they are temporary or long-term options, shipping containers can make budget-friendly living spaces.
- Movie Screen Backdrop How awesome is the idea of putting together shipping containers to make a huge screen for an outdoor pop-up drive-in movie theater/cinema? The containers can be used for any of the ideas above – a restaurant, a hotel, etc. – and do double duty serving as a backdrop for a big screen for movies for guests.
- Bicycle Repair Shop Our 40ft shipping containers are the perfect versatile option to create a bicycle repair center! There is enough space in our containers to add shelves, display cases, and other fixtures to make your shop unique and inviting for cyclists.
- Event Space
Storage containers make excellent venues for many types of events, including concerts and parties. They are easy to build, can be finished within days (if not hours), and also offer functional spaces at the same time. They can handle the weight of a band on the upper level, and the weight of partygoers on the lower level, without breaking a sweat. A shipping container is an ideal venue for large outdoor events because it can hold so many people. If you are thinking about where to hold your next event venue, shipping containers may be perfect for you because they can be transformed into whatever type of space you need them to be.
Shipping Container Uses for Communities
- Toilet Whether in public spaces, on worksites, or beyond, it’s no secret that bathrooms are non-negotiable. Storage containers provide the same portability as porta-potties, but with an added layer of comfort and durability.
- Schools Shipping containers are often used as temporary classrooms for schools when influxes of students create overcrowding in the main building(s). However, there are other possibilities as well, thanks to the flexibility of these containers. For example, a shipping container can be turned into a more permanent science lab, art room, or even computer lab.
- Hospital/Medical Facility Storage containers can provide much-needed extra medical space for communities in need, particularly during global health crises like COVID-19. During the pandemic, these containers were often set up in the parking lot of pharmacies to conduct testing, both to add more space and keep potentially contagious patients away from other shoppers. These containers can also be used to increase bed capacity without putting other patients at risk.Shipping containers are also an affordable way to construct clinics in developing countries where resources are scarce. By using these sturdy metal boxes as the main structure, you can save money that would otherwise go towards labor costs or materials. Shipping containers also have other benefits like being easy to transport and assemble on-site with minimal tools required!
- Library or Book Fair Whether pop-up or permanent, shipping containers can make great spaces for libraries or book fairs, as shelves can be easily inserted or constructed inside and personal touches added to create a charming reading space.
- Student Housing
At the University of Amsterdam, shipping containers are being utilized to create temporary housing for students. The prefabricated houses can be put together quickly and are inexpensive to construct (only €3,000 per unit). They’re also small enough that you don’t need a construction crew or permissions–anyone with some free time and simple tools can build a shipping container for a student home.
Shipping Container Uses for Homes
- Houses Of course, one of the most common uses of containers over the past decade (alongside rising housing costs) is for homes. Recent interest in converting old shipping containers into residences has emerged as a result of their low price and mobility. Some people have even added them to existing structures, adding more space and converting them into bedrooms, studios, or offices.
- Greenhouse When it comes to shipping container uses, greenhouses may not be anyone’s first thought. After all, greenhouses needed light to function properly, and the all-metal exterior of shipping containers doesn’t exactly lend itself to that. However, greenhouses can be placed on top of an open top container to let in light, or the container can act as a frame for the greenhouse with glass taking the place of much of the metal exterior.
- Workshop A shipping container workshop is a perfect option for the person who wants to be green while still having a functional workspace. Repurposed shipping containers are also hardy and able to withstand many types of work or repairs you might be utilizing the space for.
- Swimming Pool If you’re looking for a swimming pool that will make a big splash, look no further! Shipping container swimming pools are all the rage. They can be made in any size and shape, and they’re perfect for people who want an eco-friendly pool that’s also low maintenance. All you need is a watertight shipping container, some chlorine, and a filter, and you’re ready to go.
- Hunting Cabin The shipping container hunting cabin can be a great idea to make if you want the convenience of having power, yet want minimal amenities. The main advantage is that there’s no need to get permits or deal with building codes because it’s not considered a permanent structure. The metal exterior also adds an extra layer of safety from the elements and any animals outside.
- Garage Do you need a place to store your car or motorcycle? A shipping container garage might be the perfect solution! Not only are they weatherproof and secure, but they’re also an affordable option. You can even customize your garage to fit your specific needs.
- Vacation Home Not ready to use shipping containers for your main abode, but interested in a more budget-friendly option for a holiday home? Shipping containers can be used to construct a tiny home as your perfect getaway. Looking for something larger, but still cost-effective? Some of the most interesting ideas include constructing a two-story container with balconies, a four-bedroom house with an outdoor kitchen and even putting a pool in the backyard.Best of all, shipping container shelters often do not require a building permit because they are considered an “accessory structure.” They can be built anywhere on your property including the garden, potting shed, or secure storage rooms.
- Sauna Do you need a place to relax and rejuvenate? A shipping container sauna might be just what you’re looking for. With some simple modifications, you can create a sauna that is perfect for your needs. Whether you want a traditional sauna or something more unique, a shipping container is a perfect option.
- Disaster Shelter Shelters are one of the most prevalent demands today, owing to natural catastrophes like earthquakes and floods. Shipping container shelters might help protect you while also allowing you to make the most of what you have or buy in bulk for cost savings. The ideal answer for emergency shelters is shipping containers. They may be transformed into a variety of different emergency housing solutions, including interim camps, emergency caravans, and anything else in between.
- Camper Think of this as a tiny home on wheels! 20-ft. shipping containers can be converted into campers to provide you with plenty of space on-the-go for your future adventures. Best of all, the containers act as a blank canvas, so you can make the space truly your own.