Buying Shipping Containers

Top 20 New and Innovative Uses of Shipping Containers

Can you imagine? A shipping Container of all things! Are these big steel boxes really being used for anything interesting or significant?

Well the answer is YES...and I'd venture to say cargo containers are being used for even MORE than you could have imagined. They're in fact becoming all the rage architecturally and there are more and more creative uses showing up almost daily. Here's some of our favorite applications. What can you imagine? 

1. Shipping Container Restaurants

Looking to set your brand on fire? Around the world, these "cargotecture" building blocks are easily adapted into the hospitality space. By the nature of their almost "out of place" presentation, they instantly become the centerpiece of conversation in the communities they land in. Considered cost and time effective, these structures do not go unnoticed. If you're into being bold, hip and cutting edge...shipping container structures make a big splash in every locale they grace.

Shipping Container Restaurant

2. Shipping Container Houses

Who wants to live in a cold steel box? Well you'd be surprised at the architectural gems that have been created with these  steel "lego" like building blocks. With a native aesthetic that lends itself to contemporary industrial design, its seems professionals and amatuer designers both love the challenge of making something interesting from these rectangle shells of inspiration. Their modularity seems to conform with the Tiny Home movement, and I'd venture to say we've only seen the beginning.

Shipping Container House

Shipping Container Home

3. Shipping Container Schools

Educational facilities are also experimenting with this notion, especially when building schools in poverty-stricken parts of the world because of how affordable it can be. The perks of working with this process is the minimal installation time, allowing the classrooms to be ready for the kids much faster than traditional building methods. 

Shipping Container School

4. Shipping Container Retail Stores

Perfect billboards for retail branding, shipping containers are wildly popular in the retail sector. Pop-up retail is certainly a driving force behind the rapid adoption. And while not always cheaper, Shipping containers allow for a quick building process that a new and upcoming business majorly benefits from. And don't forget the free publicity they almost always get from local publications that like to stroke the mavericks that dive into this amazing application of reusable and sustainable building material. 

Shipping Container Retail

Pop up retail

5. Shipping Container Bars

Ok...where can I get one of those! Pretty much the first words out of everyone who sees these amazing applications for the first time. While of course humans will make bars out of just about anything, using shipping containers as the foundation for your building allows you to transform any area into the trendy new "watering hole". As with many things fun and cool...just add alcohol and let the conversation flow.shipping container bar

6. Shipping Container Café

Well if Starbucks is doing it...shouldn't we all? Along with restaurants, Cafés also depend on their general aesthetic to keep things interesting for their consumers. Big cities, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, are known for their stylish and up to date cafés that attract a lot of attention from social media. Container coffee houses were early to the party, as this is honestly one of the most ideal applications for the steel shell to apply itself.

container coffee house

Shipping container coffee house

7. Shipping Container Hotels

Recently, houses aren’t the only living spaces being constructed out of shipping containers. They became resourceful to architects because of their size varieties that range from 10, 20, or 40 feet and the fact that they can stack easily to create multiple levels with little effort. The users are also able to add key lifestyle factors like lighting, plumbing, and electricity to keep their customers satisfied and wanting to return.


8. Shipping Container Movie Screen Backdrop

Shipping containers have also been introduced to the movie making industry to serve as backdrops for different settings during certain scenes. They are convenient in that they can be easily transported to different filming sites and the design of the backdrop can be constantly changed with simple painting, decorating, etc.


9. Shipping Container Student Housing

Shipping containers especially benefit certain places where housing for students is limited and lack of space is an ongoing problem. Shipping containers can be an affordable option and of course, easily built with the option of stacking for multiple levels and quick installation time.


10. Shipping Container Apartment Building

Along with housing and hotels, residential areas like apartment buildings frequently use shipping containers to affordably construct their building. They are easily stackable and have many design opportunities that allow you to develop your house plan however you want. You can also easily change or add the interior to anything you want ranging from tile to wood to brick.


11. Shipping Container Commercial Office 

Offices are commonly spacious which is why using shipping containers are convenient. Since they are affordable, you can buy many containers to stack and create levels as well as easily move around and change your layout. In addition, with multiple containers, you don’t need to cram as many people into one space.


 12. Shipping Container Art Gallery

Using a shipping container to present your art in the form of a gallery or studio is very effective and fashion-forward. The overall look is modern and will reflect your artsy vibe on the outside as well as the inside. The appearance itself will most certainly urge your customers to return, because of the artistic intentions displayed on the interior AND exterior.



13. Shipping Container Portable Toilet

Shipping containers are great alternatives for portable toilets. Venues of outdoor events are known to use some form of outdoor toilet for their guests, and a shipping container can be easily dropped at any location. They are much bigger and cleanlier than a basic porta-potty and you can add the basic features that a bathroom require in a more up to date fashion.



14. Shipping Container Pool

Using a shipping container is a very efficient way to create a swimming pool for your home, hotel, fitness club, etc. They are quick and easy to make seeing as they can be easily placed at any location, and if you chose, don’t require any digging or hard manual labor. If you do decide to have a traditional, underground pool, it just simply involves digging and lining with insulation foam and pool liners (no cementing). The containers are also deep and long which makes for a perfect pool, and needed features such as ladders, pool heaters, and underwater lights, can be integrated. In addition, if you decide to move, all you need to do is drain and move it your new home!


15. Shipping Container Indoor Garden

Believe it or not, shipping containers are also being used to replicate an indoor garden of sorts. The advantage that you gain from utilizing this design scheme is that you don’t need to have an abundance of acres to grow the amount of produce you want, as containers can be stacked. Using shipping containers is also considerably eco-friendly as they are constantly abandoned by previous owners, and by using it for alternative purposes, you are repurposing steel, which reduces materials like concrete or bricks.



16. Shipping Container Garage/Storage

Very common uses of shipping containers are for storage or alternate garages. Since they are easily transferred from place to place, you can either keep it at your house in the form of a garage, a shed in your backyard, or even move it to a yard to hold your storage container out of the way. You can also add vital features like insulation or refrigerant, and if you want to get creative, you can even turn your container into a wine cellar!


17. Shipping Container Hospital/Medical Facility

Hospital facilities have been recently following the trend of using shipping containers in order to sustain their needs in an inexpensive way. They are very helpful in poorer countries where the affordable prices are extremely convenient, especially since hospitals are needed everywhere. The short construction time is also advantageous in that they can save money by getting their business up and running as soon as possible


18. Shipping Container Library

Last, but not least, a shipping container can be used as a library to store and sells books in a way that isn’t overwhelmingly expensive to build. In fact, many have already looked into this creative idea and in March, 2013, a library clinic was opened in Batu, Indonesia called the “Main Library.” It has 5 shipping containers, and 8 rooms, which reflects the spaciousness of each container. Each room is also a different color with a different entertainment purpose and holds about 6,000 books for loan.



2 more uses thats serve as great structures when made with shipping containers:

19. Shipping Container Bank


20. Shipping Container Warehouse


Wanting to Try These New and Innovative Shipping Container Uses for Yourself?

Now that these creative and groundbreaking ideas have peaked your interest, it's your turn to take that extra step and get involved. Depending on what type of infrastructure you are looking into, make sure you do your research on sizing and costs. You can also find helpful tips on our website regarding installation and the building process itself.

If you're ready to buy your shipping container and start the process you can see our live pricing here, or download our free shopper’s guide to get insider information on getting the best deal: Buying Shipping Containers 101: The First-Time Buyer’s Guide. 

Need more hands-on guidance before you take the next step? We can personally recommend some leaders in the industry that do high end custom shipping container modifications including container homes, office spaces, retail structures, multi-unit housing, and commercial applications: 

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Written by Container Guru / November 19, 2018

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