Seven Surprising Uses for Shipping Containers



Over the years, there have been some truly amazing uses of shipping containers outside of just the transport of goods. People are really beginning to see the potential for using containers as a building material from which a variety of things can be created. From swimming pools to art studios, the uses of containers are only limited by what you can imagine. Here are seven surprising uses of shipping containers that you might be surprised to see.

1. Swimming Pool

How cool would it be to have a pool in the backyard and, better yet, know it’s made from a container! Unlike typical above-ground pools that are flimsy, a shipping container pool is strong, durable, and yet able to be transported (with water removed) just like regular shipping containers.  The long, skinny shape also makes them great for swimming laps.

Container pools are typically outfitted with an applied sealant or dropped-in liner in order to keep water from contacting the steel walls.  There is obviously some typical pool equipment involved likes pumps and filters, though some of this depends on the type of pool chemicals and system you want to use.

It’s also possible to possible or fully bury a container pool, although that presents some of the similar to challenges to burying a container for other reasons.  Some owner instead choose to provide an elevated deck around their container pool, which provides the same benefit (walking area level with the water) without the problems inherent with burying.

2. Medical Compound


Source: TAMassociati

The Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery is based just outside of Khartoum, Sudan close to the Nile River. The facility has 63 patient beds and 300 local staff and is build with traditional construction.  Nearby, a housing area for international staff was made with 90 20-foot containers, and each room uses one and a half containers.  There is also a cafeteria area made with seven 40-foot containers.

Originally, the containers weren’t even part of the design, but the architects saw the empty containers that had been used to bring building materials to the construction site and felt inspired to utilize the containers as part of the facility.


3. Restaurant

wahaca mexican food

Wahaca, a Mexican restaurant based in London, has numerous locations across the city.  On in particular, based in Southbank Center, caught our eye because it was constructed with eight shipping containers.  One of the shipping containers has even been modified into a street stall so you can grab your food to go.

The restaurant, which seems to be an anglicized version of the Spanish word Oaxaca, is known for authentic Mexican flavors, and now, exceptional architecture and design.  Guests can either eat inside the shipping containers, which have huge glass windows in them providing views out onto the Thames River, or eat outside. The inside of the restaurant is decorated with recycled benches adding to the up-cycle theme.

4. Hotel


The Container Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia makes no secret of its origins.  Shipping containers are front and center in the design of the property and are the building blocks for many of the hotel’s rooms and facilities spanning several levels and spaces.

If you’re interested in other container-based rentals, check out the Visit section of our website for hundreds of other options.

5. School

Finished Shipping Container School

Source: Montessori La Milpa

Another interesting use for a shipping container is a school. Montessori La Milpa is a school in Ensenada, Mexico on the Pacific coast of the Baja California peninsula.  The school is built with shipping containers for durability and ease of maintenance.  With close proximity to the ocean, the school is able to take advantage of a cool sea breeze and a mild climate.  For more information on this particular school, read our interview with the founder.

6. Art Studio


Source: Andrea Shapiro Art

It’s not often that you find an art studio that is arguably as good as the art inside of it.  Andrea Shapiro had this 840 square foot art studio built adjacent to her home in Amagansett, New York, as a way to both create and display her work.

The space is two-story and makes use of two 40-foot high cube shipping containers set on top of a concrete stem wall that forms a partially buried basement.  It was built for just under $60k and is a striking contrast to the forested grounds that surround it.

7. An Office


Source: Pallotta Team Works

Pallotta Team Works is an event management and production company in the Los Angeles area that helps charities with fundraising activities.  Their growth led them to expand into a large warehouse, but their budget prevented them from doing a typical office interior build-out.

Instead, they used shipping containers inside the warehouse as offices and used tents anchored between the containers to contain workspaces for the various departments.  The tents also funnel conditioned air to these workspaces, meaning that the open areas of the warehouse are not climate controlled for serious savings on their utility bills.

If you like the bold design of this container office, definitely check out our feature with tons of additional container office examples.

8. Bonus: Starbucks!


Source: Starbucks

Yes, even everyone’s favorite coffee cafe has got into the shipping container game, with over 45 locations made with shipping containers! We featured one of the first Starbucks locations in a shipping container, and they have since built numerous other locations.  Perhaps there is one near you? The companies rapid adoption of shipping containers is no surprise, as they allow for quick construction and a small footprint on building sites that may otherwise be too constrained for a traditional building.

We hope you’ve been surprised by some of these fantastic uses of shipping containers and can take some inspiration from them!

If you’ve seen any other great uses of shipping containers, be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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