At the end of 2015, when the refugee crisis was at its peak, thousands of refugees were coming into the city of Hamburg which created the threat of homelessness. The authorities made the smart decision of buying thousands of repurposed containers to create a housing solution for the refugees. Another alternative solution is the tiny house movement which is a phenomenon and a minimalist’s dream. These houses are helping people beat the real estate markets, as they are cheap, portable and highly customisable. These repurposing projects expand the lifecycle of containers, create a sustainable economy and help container traders like you make good revenue by extending the time of the containers at the end of their lifecycle.

The shipping containers are made of Corten Steel have an average life cycle of 15 years carrying cargo. After its many years of carrying cargo, it is then sold for storage purposes or to be repurposed which easily extends its life to another 10 years. While there are no perfect records on the unused containers, one can approximately calculate considering there are 23 million containers in the world and each having an average lifespan between 8-12 years, would mean there are millions of ex-service containers in storage or in other forms somewhere in the world. Usually, container traders buy their equipment for cheap in Asian countries and move them – per one-way move – to where they have their customers to benefit from the difference in pricing between the two locations.

a house built out of containers

In the last few years, shipping containers have been used as homes, office spaces and so on. Put to the right use the shipping container can be an eco-friendly alternative for spaces and objects. The conversions can be small such as re-painting, insulating, or just minor changes on the appearance of the container, or it could be significant changes such as lining it with hard-wood, adding electricity or plumbing connections, regulating air conditioning. They can be modified into absolutely anything, as the possibilities are endless. We have created a list of possible container transformations that can serve as inspiration for container traders to change up their daily business and find ways to make new revenue by separating themselves from their competitors.

Did you know that you can create a bridge with shipping containers? Browse through the following container conversions and offer more than just a simple container to your customers.

Living/Working spaces

Containers can be effortlessly turned into living spaces or working spaces.  They are considered as affordable, sustainable options for small families, or as vacation cabins. With some creativity, they can be transformed into offices, wine cellars and much more as we have explored below.


Converting a Container into a house 

As we have already established the safety and durability of shipping containers, it is safe to say that shipping containers are a good place to start with if one is looking to build a new affordable home. One might have many questions such as whether the container would rust, is it legal to have a container home, does one need permission to build a container home. 

A shipping container is made from the special Corten Steel and coated with ceramic coating it is rust-free, mould-free and is antiseptic. Ceramic Insulation paints ensure that the container home is not a hot oven. If you find the container structurally unattractive, they can be transformed in many ways using wood, vinyl, stucco and it can be designed to look however you want it to look. Container homes, in general, don’t need a license across the world as they can be easily put together and taken apart. If you are interested in building a container home, can help you make an informed decision, recommending you the right tools, plans and resources.


Converting a Container into an Office 

Having already covered how shipping containers make cosy homes, it is no doubt they can be transformed to make dynamic workspaces. It could be a go-to solution for individuals who work from home and need a change in the surroundings, or an office for a start-up. With the right architects and designers, container offices can be designed on a larger scale as well. It is practical and affordable than paying a hefty lease for a building. The insides can be designed to make more space and the outside can be designed to fit in with the surroundings. 


Converting a Container into Datacentres

Datacentres are usually built in a controlled and safe space for smooth functioning. They have to be kept at certain temperatures and humidity level to keep the systems running. But with advancing technological developments, datacentres can now be maintained in higher temperature and humidity levels. Tech giants Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook have been experimenting with shipping containers to run their datacentres owing to many factors. Its mobility allows to have low real-estate costs, requires limited cooling and temperature controls, if the power goes down it can simply be moved to another power source. The Container data centres can be filled with the best equipment and sent anywhere. Google has also discussed the idea of placing such data centres near barges and offshores to take advantage of the cooling wave energy from the ocean. This can be a constant source of power for the datacentres. One of the companies that can help you set up a container datacentre is Schneider Electric


Converting a Shipping Container into Wine Cellar

This is an interesting project for someone who wishes to have to build a wine cellar but not burn their pocket. To start with, you need to first inform yourself if the local government allows you to build basements and underground shelters. Start digging a hole that fits the dimensions of your container. The container should be then dropped in. Insulate the container properly and fit it the right air conditioners, especially if you live in a warm region. The container should be covered with earth and build the stairs that go down to the container doors. At this point, you can customise the looks of your wine cellar inside. Carolina Containers help remodelling containers in wine cellars and much more.


Art and Lifestyle 

Shipping containers don’t just make comfortable homes, it can serve the purpose of brick and mortar businesses and portable art galleries. Be it big brands or small brands, they have taken advantage of this idea to open pop-up restaurants, brand promotion through food trucks, and also serves a solution for small businesses. 

Converting a Container into a Restaurant/ Café/ Food trucks

Jumping on the trend of container homes, restaurateurs have taken this idea to transform containers to restaurants. They don’t just serve the purpose of cooking and serving food, but they have also become a place for creativity and realization of art. Many big brands have used this concept, such as Starbucks. Starbucks has established 45 of its locations using shipping containers. These restaurants/cafés don’t have to be a permanent solution, they also serve as temporary pop-up restaurants as an advertising campaign for your restaurant and you have the flexibility of using it in multiple locations. When one cannot afford a physical establishment, container food trucks are the way to give yourself a kick-start. For more insights on food trucks, find more information here Food truck Empire.



Converting a Container into an Art Galleries

Repurposed containers can be beautiful stationary or mobile art galleries. Artists from different parts of the world are unleashing their creativity through shipping containers. They see the walls of the containers as large canvases. Shipping containers are refurbished as art exhibition spaces and it is quickly becoming a part of the urban art culture. Big Box Containers are there to help you create a trendy office or a space to hang your art.



The characteristics of containers such as being watertight and airtight allow it to be transformed into solutions such as saunas and swimming pools. Shipping container helps you get luxury home additions in an economical and sustainable manner. 


Converting a Shipping Container into a Sauna

Everybody enjoys a relaxing time at the retreat centre saunas. What if we could create the possibility of relaxing in the backyard instead of having to drive miles to a retreat centre.  The shipping containers can be refurbished into a sauna also known as the ‘Sauna Box’. The containers are lined with cedar and a wood-fire stove. Depending on whether the region is warm or cold the outside material of the container can be customised. In order to generate electricity, roof-top solar panels can be fitted. This Canadian-based design studio called Castor can help you design the Sauna box with an iPod stereo, a guitar hook-up, and lighting.


Converting a Container into a Swimming pool

Swimming pool made from shipping containers is a great alternative to traditional swimming pools. They are eco-friendly as they help extend the lifeline of a shipping container by turning it into an innovative, fun solution. They are less expensive to construct and can be customised to fit the dimensions of your home. The normal shipping container sizes are 20ft and 40ft, but they can cut down to a smaller size for a swimming pool. The container can be reformed with another layer of steel from the inside to make it more watertight and adds weight to the pool. It is an excellent, cost-efficient and sustainable option for a family. If you are looking to install a re-purposed swimming pool, experts at Boxxpool can help you. 



Converting a Container into a Farm

In the growing trend of shipping container conversations, next on the list is Container Farms. It is a wonderful modern alternative to farming which helps to bring fresh produce to local communities everywhere. Farming can be very tricky, and many new farmers struggle to keep up the farms. Investing in a container farm can be successful if done right.  Firstly, it is very easy to transport. The manufacturers of such container farms can send it ready-to-farm wherever needed. Secondly, one does not need a dedicated land or building space. It can be placed near residential areas for immediate sales or behind restaurants where the fresh produce can be consumed immediately.

An interesting project from Freight Farms is The Greenery. They bring together LED technology and dynamically moving isles with vertical plant panels that help to boost production and gives a smooth operational performance for the farmer. If this futuristic farming idea inspires you, Freight Farms can help you set up one. 


Bridge: Yoav Messer Architects in Tel-Aviv designed a 525-foot long bridge which was the winning entry in the competition to build a gateway for Ariel Sharon National Park.


Furniture: Parts of shipping container have been broken down to make furniture for storage cabinets. Such as here


Laboratory: The shipping container is also attractive to scientific institutions to have portable labs that they can use for research in remote areas. Barry Kosloff from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine created tuberculosis (TB) lab in Zambia, which is a first in the region.