Seven Surprising Uses for Shipping Containers

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Over the years, there have been some truly amazing uses of the humble shipping container. People are really beginning to see the potential for using containers as building material. 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! The first time you see one in person you will be amazed.

The pool pictured is Stefan Beese’s brainchild. Stefan is an architect based in New Orleans. The pool is approximately 20 feet x 8 fee,t so you can certainly get some decent exercise there. And imagine this, the pool can even be drained and transported to a new location if they ever move!

Beese started by sourcing a container, stating that it’s important to find one without rust or large dents, because these would be visible once the pool’s made. Once the container was onsite, it was cleaned and sprayed with anti-corrosive paint. The next step was to dig out a shallow hole to drop the container into. The hole was then lined with limestone to protect the soil. The container is then lined with half-inch insulation foam and a pool liner. The container was then dropped into the hole and clad with pine slats to cover up the steel. In total, the pool cost around $6,000, but Beese claims it could have been cheaper if he’d done the labor himself.

2. Hospital

Explore this incredible cardiac surgery center based just outside of Sudan close to the river Nile. The hospital was built in 2013 using old shipping containers. Its hot water is powered by an onsite farm of solar panels.
Local architects, TAMassociation Architecture, were designing the hospital and were told about the containers already at the hospital. They took them as inspiration and used them to construct the entire hospital. Over one hundred shipping containers were used in total. The majority were used for family and hospital staff accommodations providing for more than sixty-three hospital beds.

Each room has its own balcony looking out onto the hospital courtyard. The rooms are kept cool in the summer using a ventilated steel roof and bamboo blinds. The cardiac center has been operational for several years and now allows for over 1,500 surgical procedures each year.

Source: salam centre

3. Restaurant

Now how many of you thought you’d ever be eating a spicy Mexican burrito in a shipping container that was once used to send TVs from China all over the world? Wahaca, a Mexican restaurant based in London, launched a massive eight container pop up restaurant in Southbank Center. One of the shipping containers has even been modified into a street stall so you can grab your burrito to go!

Guests can either eat inside the shipping containers, which have huge glass windows in them providing views out onto the Thames, or diners can eat outside. The inside of the restaurant was decorated with recycled benches adding to the up-cycle theme.

The pop up restaurant was used in a street art exhibition back in 2013 and fit in perfectly with other tourist attractions at Southbank, including the roof gardens at Queen Elizabeth Hall and the world’s largest solar panel bridge.

Source: wahaca

4. Hotel

Check out a hotel in Hong Kong called Hive Inn which is made entirely of steel beams and shipping containers. It’s designed by OVA Studio’s.

The Hive Inn will be a modular design. Rooms can literally be swapped in or out by the crane which will be based at the very top of the Hive. This allows the hotel to adapt and get bigger or smaller depending on the amount of containers that are currently stacked.

OVA Studio has also indicated that their design, on a smaller scale, lends itself to emergency housing. The modular design could be used to give quickly build up containers within the ‘hive’ structure to provide housing.

Source: Daily Mail

5. School

Another interesting use for a shipping container is this school classroom made for Vissershok Primary School in South Africa. The classroom was funded by three companies in South Africa. The classroom has received significant press coverage and has inspired numerous other similar initiatives.

The shipping container is now the classroom for 25 first graders who live in impoverish conditions in Dunoon, Cape Town. The classroom even doubles as a library in the afternoon for the entire primary school!

The container has a huge roof which acts as a sunshade for the children in the warm summer heat. It also allows air to blow through the top of the classroom and cool them down. In addition to this, there are several windows on the side of the classroom that allow air to blow through the classroom to cool it down.

The classroom was built under budget. The rest of the sponsorship money was spent on creating vegetable patches nearby where the children grow their own vegetables!

Source: archdaily

6. Art Studio

It’s not often that you find an art studio that is arguably as good as the art inside of it.  Fittingly called the container studio, it is 840 square feet and was made out of two high cube 40-foot shipping containers.

This stunning building was designed by MB Architecture, based in New York. Andrea Shapiro, the artist who lives in Amagansett, New York, wanted an affordable but spacious solution to house their artwork. The final product is a two-story art studio. It was built using two shipping containers above ground and a dug-out basement which was concreted serves as the main studio.

Their total budget was $60,000 and the picture art studio was delivered under budget for $58,000. Each of the containers cost around $2,500 and this includes the delivery costs. The art studio was completed in 2010 and is now open and is located in the forests within Amagansett, New York.

Source: gizmag

7. An Office

Royal Wolf hires and sells shipping containers, so it seems fitting their company offices are made out of them! Back in 2013, they approached Australian architects, Room 11, about their plan.

The offices are made using both 40-foot and 20-foot containers. They are arranged in a giant rectangle which creates gaps in the middle of the office to make room for four courtyards. Nearly all the rooms within the office can see out onto a courtyard.

The ends of the 40-foot containers have been cut out and replaced with incredible glass windows. These really allow a lot of light into the offices. The ends were then used to double skin the walls to give the office more insulation. Paying tribute to the shipping container, Royal Wolf  left the ceiling of the containers untouched so you can still see the exposed corrugated steel.

The offices were built in 2013 and are still a great spectacle and conversation piece for everybody who visits them.

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.

  1. Bernie

    Outstanding site Tom. I am currently thinking of buying 12 and 1/2 acres on the outskirts of Colden, New York. Southern most part of Erie County in Western New York. The temperatures range from the eighties-nineties in the summer to 0-30 in the winter. Obviously the outside would have to be clad. I’m thinking of buying a forty foot and a twenty foot container and joining them to make a two bedroom get-away. Price not being a factor what kind of insulation would you use between the cladding and the container? And would you also insulate the inside as well?



    • Discover Containers

      With price not being a factor, we would spray foam both internally and externally using a closed cell foam.

  2. Joann Brosnan

    My dad has been lobbying for container re-use since his retirement from customs in the 1980s. One of the uses we brainstormed is a 20′ combination HVAC center and tornado shelter. The container would be divided into a utilities portion and a shelter portion, before delivery to a site. It would then be anchored centrally and the house would be assembled in connection. Access would be at a moment’s notice.

    • Discover Containers

      Hi Joann,

      It sounds like a great idea.

  3. JJ

    I have seen a Starbucks drive-thru made out of containers! It was really awesome!

  4. Michael

    Looking forward to getting our own place and having this as a man cave

  5. Jeannie Grace

    I see that shipping containers can be used for pools! Wow!

    I might be moving to upstate NY near a lake, where there is lots of snow and rain. What about wear and tear on the container? Will it have to be replaced at some point?


    • Discover Containers

      Hi Jeannie,

      Yes- they can be used for pretty much anything these days!

      Containers are designed to survive brutal ocean voyages and are quite resilient. But they do require maintenance as the elements will eventually start to wear away at the exterior paint coating. As long as you keep them well-maintained (like you’d have to do with any other house), they are very durable. Another option is placing exterior cladding on them, which disguises the fact that they are containers, offers you the ability to insulate on the exterior, and keeps the corrugated metal siding away from the elements.

  6. jeremy

    AWESOME!! I am looking to do a container pool that either will be double the width (2 containers somehow) or have 2 containers stacked and have the top container with the pool and then have a cantilever shade over it.

    • Discover Containers

      Sounds great Jeremy! Keep us posted on your progress.

  7. DongDao

    Thank you for sharing. I was amazed on the pool. Never thought it could be possible. I was wondering can it be used as a koi fish with lotus flowers pond. My understanding digging any grounds more than three feet needs permit. Do I use the pool permit or something else?

    • Discover Containers

      Hi DongDao,

      I’m glad you liked the pool!

      That sounds like a great idea- it depends where you live, each area has their own building code so you’d need to speak with your local planning department.

      Let us know how you get on.