Shipping Container Uses

Shipping containers, which were originally designed to transport goods across vast oceans, have evolved beyond their original function. Today, their durable structure and modular nature have led to many innovative uses. 

Beyond cargo shipment, these steel boxes are now transformed into homes, offices, pop-up stores, and even art installations. This adaptive reuse reflects a sustainable approach to construction and design. 

In this detailed guide, I will look at 15 popular shipping container uses and varied applications of shipping containers, revealing the adaptability of simple structures in our evolving world, along with their advantages.

#1. Homes

Homes

If you’re looking for an innovative way to carve out your own space, consider the humble shipping container. Even better, these aren’t just for the new-build crowd; used shipping containers can serve the same purpose. These unique homes are not only budget-friendly and completely customizable, but they can be thrown together in record time since you’re cutting back on traditional construction materials and labor. 

However, just be aware that because you’re walking off the beaten path with this housing choice, you might encounter some stumbling blocks along the way: 

Advantages:

  • Cost-effective: often cheaper to build compared to traditional homes.
  • Customizable: Can be designed to owner’s preferences.
  • Durable: known for their strength and longevity
  • Sustainable: Reuses old shipping containers, reducing waste.
  • Quick construction: requires less time to build compared to traditional homes.

Approximate Cost: Prices range from $10,000 to $185,000 depending on size and design, with per square foot costs between $150 and $350.

Drawbacks

  • Permit Pains: Due to the unorthodoxy of container homes, you may hit some snags when trying to adhere to local building codes and securing necessary permits, especially in regions where these homes are a new concept.
  • Insurance Hikes: Your insurance bills might see an uptick because of the non-traditional materials used in your home’s construction.
  • Insulation Hurdles: The metal used in shipping containers is a conductor of heat and cold, so properly insulating your container home to maintain a comfortable living temperature is crucial and might prove to be a formidable challenge.

#2. Office

Office
Source: Triumph Modular

If you’re searching for an affordable, portable, and customizable office setup, consider the marvel that is a shipping container office. These spaces are repurposed steel containers transformed into workable offices. This innovative solution is a boon for emerging businesses, temporary project sites, or anyone in need of a mobile office. 

Here’s a quick rundown: 

  • When it comes to cost, shipping container offices are a bargain compared to traditional office buildings. Expect to fork out between $1,400 and $5,000.
  • Choosing to convert a disused shipping container into an office is a thumbs up for sustainability, as it lessens the need for brand new construction materials.
  • Fit to survive harsh sea weather, these structures are sturdy and can stand tall for about 25-30 years if you take good care of them.
  • A bonus feature? These container offices can be effortlessly transferred to diverse spots, ideal for those who need to switch up their workspace location regularly.

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are a few matters to keep tabs on: 

  • It’s worth noting that reused containers might contain some residue of toxic substances that were previously stored in them.
  • Obtaining the right paperwork might be a little tricky as container offices are fairly new on the scene. Making sure you comply with local building regulations is absolutely vital.

Approximate Cost: A shipping container office can cost between $1,400 and $5,000, depending on the quality and specifications required. 

#3. Apartments

Urban living has undergone a revolution with the advent of shipping container apartments. These modern homes combine innovative design with affordability, making them a great solution for budget-conscious city dwellers. The key selling point of these chic abodes is their economical nature; the use of pre-made parts speeds up the construction process, making them a wallet-friendly alternative to traditional apartment units. 

Apartments

Furthermore, the architecture of shipping containers lends itself to customization, presenting unique design possibilities. On top of this, they’re eco-conscious – their use diverts potential waste and reduces environmental harm. 

The Flip Side: Though shipping container apartments are appealing, they do have their limitations. The internal dimensions, specifically the ceiling height and width, can feel a bit restrictive, potentially putting a damper on the living experience. Along the same line, installing insulation can be a bit complicated due to the absence of wall studs, requiring extra work to secure a cozy living space. 

What about the Cost?: The starting price for a shipping container fluctuates between $1,800 for a secondhand unit to approximately $5,000 for a brand new one. Just bear in mind, you’ll also have to account for delivery, site readiness, and setup costs.

Approximate Cost: The initial cost of a shipping container can range from $1,800 for a used container to around $5,000 for a new one, with additional costs incurred for delivery, site preparation, and assembly​​.

#4. Garage

Garage
Source: EMS

If you’re looking for an economical and innovative solution to your storage or workspace needs, then shipping container garages are worth considering. The prices are wallet-friendly, ranging from $1,400 to $5,000 per container. These garages are a breeze to set up, demand minimal upkeep – just a rust check now and again – and lend themselves to easy customization. This means you can tweak them to work perfectly as a single or multiple vehicle garage, or even as your personal workspace. 

Of course, like anything else, they do have a couple of quirks. You might find the interior space too snug for your liking, which might necessitate tweaking the design or using several containers together. Insulation can be tricky in colder or sweltering climates. However, the simplicity, wallet-friendliness, and the opportunity to reuse existing materials make these shipping container garages an attractive choice for many.

#5. Car Storage

Car Storage
Source: Conexwest

Imagine having a cost-effective car storage solution that effectively guards against harsh weather and potential theft. Picture that in the form of shipping containers, available in standard sizes of 20 or 40 feet. You’re looking at a price range from about $1,400 to $5,000 based on the container’s condition and size. Think of it as a personal safe space for your everyday car, holiday vehicle, or even your recreational vehicle, especially if you’re short on garage space. 

What makes these containers a favorite is their sturdy build, minimal upkeep, and customizable nature. But, you may want to add a few tweaks here and there like insulation, electrical fittings, and a firm base for a smoother long-term experience, and for better ease of access. While the upfront costs of these containers are usually less than constructing a traditional garage, you might want to factor in the extra expense and effort required for such modifications.

#6. Pool

Pool
Source: Realestate

If you’re looking for a cool, unusual, and eco-friendly way to beat the heat, a shipping container swimming pool might be just the ticket. Essentially, these puppies are old shipping boxes that have been reimagined and decked out with a pool liner and a filtration system. Sure, they’re not your average dip in the pool, but they’re far more affordable – they’ll cost you anywhere between $16,000 and $39,000, compared to your typical $49,000 backyard pool. 

Of course, funky shipping container pools do have some downsides. You may find their size and design options a bit restricted, and there might be some potential issues with rust and insulation, which could ramp up heating costs in chillier climates. But hey, they’re still way cheaper, super easy to install, and super environmentally responsible. And here’s a real bonus – if you ever move, you can take your pool with you!

#7. Classroom

If you’re looking for a quick and economical fix to accommodate growing educational spaces, shipping container classrooms may be your ticket. Not only are they a bang for your buck, costing just about half of what traditional classrooms do, they’re also a breeze to set up, taking anywhere between 4 to 10 weeks, a stark contrast to the 6 months or more that traditional buildings typically require. Just keep in mind the budget could approach $150,000 if you’re aiming for larger, more personalized touches. 

While these repurposed containers are a practical solution, they do come with their own set of limitations. Your creative design aspirations might hit a roadblock due to the container’s rigid shape. Still, when it comes down to cost effectiveness, ease of relocation, environmental sustainablity, and durability, these unconventional classrooms serve as a practical choice – particularly for schools operating under tighter budgets or those housed in temporary locations.

#8. Greenhouse

If you’re into urban farming, you might want to consider shipping container greenhouses. Sure, there’s an upfront cost, but they’re totally worth it in the long run. You’ll save heaps on water and barely have to bother with pesticides. Plus, it means you can farm all year round, pumping out fresh, organic goodies that didn’t travel thousands of miles to get to you. Depending on all the bells and whistles you fancy, you could be looking at anywhere from $2,350 to $8,600. But if you’re a bit of a handy type, you might even save a buck or two doing it yourself. 

Now, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. You’ve got to keep close tabs on the greenhouse environment and make sure you’re getting a solid container – because trust me, you don’t want to deal with a dodgy one. Choosing between DIY and getting a customized greenhouse straight from the manufacturers can also sway the budget. Sometimes, manufacturers might get you better deals thanks to their bulk material costs.

#9. Backyard

With a bit of creative repurposing, shipping containers are fast becoming the go-to solution for outdoor and backyard storage. These robust containers present a cost-effective and durable alternative to traditional storage sheds. With more room per dollar, outstanding weather-resistant steel quality, an extra layer of corrosion protection thanks to industrial paint, and increased security for your stored possessions, they’re an excellent choice for your storage needs. 

While the price of a shipping container may initially appear intimidating, a closer look reveals a different story. The average cost per square foot is far more wallet-friendly compared to wooden sheds from major retailers, cementing shipping containers as a thrifty and savvy selection for backyard storage.

#10. Gym

Transforming shipping containers into gyms is an economical solution for anyone looking to establish private or commercial workout hubs. The price range for these versatile units hovers between $1,500 and $10,000 – a stark contrast to the hefty $50,000 price tag required to set up regular gym facilities. You can conveniently turn any outdoor spot into a dynamic fitness nexus, perfect for commercial training, university sports, and more with these containers. 

Tight on space but big on value, these container gyms are customizable and movable. And while there might be some concerns regarding space utilization, design adaptability, and insulation, the benefits of these budget-friendly gym alternatives are undeniable. Shipping container gyms present a cost-effective approach to satisfy fitness demands in diverse settings.

#11. Coffee Shop

If you’re an ambitious entrepreneur looking to dip your toes into the coffee industry, you might find a perfect ally in shipping container coffee shops. Known for their hip, distinctive design and eco-friendly appeal, these container cafés can be a cost-effective way to kickstart your caffeinated dream. Depending on the level of customization and the number of containers you fancy, the conversion could set you back anywhere from $25,000 to $200,000. 

Not only do they offer an eccentric and eye-catching space for your cafe operations, but their mobility also adds an extra layer of convenience. However, like everything else in life, they present their fair share of challenges. Think insulation issues, temperature control puzzles, and the fun of getting permits for a mobile business. Nevertheless, for those of you keen to put a modern, sustainable spin on the traditional coffee business, these shipping container coffee shops could be an innovative and affordable option.

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