Think Inside the Box: Creative Uses for Shipping Containers

Our modern global economy often requires that goods manufactured in one country make a trip around the world. To enable this transportation of goods, more than 17 million shipping containers exist today. That’s a lot of steel!

You may have wondered what happens to all those storage containers once they are retired. Do they go to waste? Luckily, all those shipping containers are a reusable resource. Modern engineers and designers are tapping into the possibilities offered by shipping containers to design innovative homes and businesses.

If you are interested in embracing this trend, maybe it’s time to start thinking inside the box. Take a look at the following innovative ways others have created spacious offices, luxurious homes, and much more using shipping containers.

For Your Business

So—you’ve always wanted to start a little corner coffee shop in the heart of your city. Or maybe you’ve imagined owning a food truck. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of selling your art as a street vendor. Building your business out of shipping containers will give you a unique edge that will attract customers.

Your building plan should go as follows:

  • Decide whether you want your business to be mobile or not. This will affect what kind of business license you’ll need, the size of shipping container you’ll use, and the design of the space.
  • Obtain at least one shipping container.
  • Hire an artist and a contractor.
  • Design a funky little shop to be constructed and painted.

Once your business has been designed and painted, set up shop and get to selling!

Having a hard time imagining it? Here is a list of innovative container businesses in existence today.

  • For Food: Not only are containers being made into urban food trucks, they’re also the site of many full-scale restaurants around the world. London is home to fully functional restaurants like The Movement Cafe and Wahaca. Numerous street-side vendors in Denmark, Finland, Toronto, San Francisco, and Germany also use these inexpensive and environmentally friendly containers to serve culinary delights.

  • For Drink: Italian coffee company illy embraced these versatile shipping containers to launch its mobile coffee stations. Starbucks followed suit, opening a shipping container drive-thru in Tukwia, Washington in 2013. The store was such a hit that Starbucks plans to build more of these innovative drive-thrus in cities like Chicago, Illinois; Casper, Wyoming; and Virginia Beach, Virginia.

  • For the Office: Modified shipping containers have been used for decades as an alternative office space, and the trend is growing. Entrepreneurs see shipping container offices as cool, eco-friendly, and cost-effective. Some companies have moved shipping containers into existing office spaces, opened them up, and modified them as cubicle spaces and offices.

Now that you know your business can benefit from shipping containers, you may be wondering about your house. Don’t worry, there are shipping container solution for your home, too!

For Your House

Some of the most modern, innovative, and stylish homes are being made from shipping containers. And they don’t have to be small. Though any home is customizable, you can let your imagine run wild as you design and build your shipping container home.

Additionally, contractors have used shipping containers in London and Amsterdam to create full-scale apartment buildings. Amsterdam is home to the Keetwonen complex, which houses 1,000 apartments in former shipping containers.

In London, you can visit–or live in–an entire shipping container city full of affordable and stylish container apartments and homes. They are popular with artists, students, and those who support green initiatives.

For Much More

Shipping container architecture isn’t limited to homes and businesses. Here are a few additional ways shipping containers are being used creatively around the world:

  • For Play: German designer Lars Behrendt is currently constructing a 55-container treehouse in Stuttgart, Germany for pure enjoyment. Stacked tall with swings, potted plants, and plenty of decks to look out across the horizon, it will be like a playground for grown-ups.

  • For Science: Korean designers built a public observatory in New Songdo City, South Korea using three shipping containers. Each of the three containers rest at a different angle, creating unique views of the sky from each container. People visit the observatory, often referred to as OceanScope or ContainerScope, to overlook the city’s ports and to stargaze.

  • For Relaxing: German artists teamed up with Spanish architects to build the Badeschiff in Berlin. The Badeschiff is a floating swimming pool constructed out of recycled cargo containers. It floats on the river Spree and can be covered in the winter.

Governors Island in New York City is home to picnic huts that allow New Yorkers to momentarily escape the fast-paced city. The shipping containers huts provide people with a quiet space to relax—whether anyone takes the time to do so is another question.

With so much flexibility to modify containers and design them as you wish, the question isn’t why design with shipping containers–it’s why not?