An apartment block made out of shipping containers

Shipping containers were invented in the 1950s and revolutionised the way goods were transported all around the world. While millions of containers still perform this function, a new revolution has been taking place in recent years where other uses of shipping containers have been found.

We thought we’d share some of these innovative uses of shipping containers which showcases some great ingenuity and creativity.

1. Container homes and housing

The development of shipping container homes and housing has grown to a point where it is now an important part of the tiny homes movement. With the cities and lifestyles becoming increasingly cluttered, more and more individuals and families have chosen to downsize their living. The container home solutions that have evolved from this have been quite remarkable and have shown people how much they can do with small amounts of space.

At the other end of the spectrum, others have used multiple shipping containers to create large and lavish homes complete with all the mod-cons found in a brand new build. Shipping containers have also been used in apartment-like configurations and for social housing too showing just how versatile they can be.


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2. Retail shops and malls

Another recent trend has seen shipping container retail shops and malls emerge all around the world. This has been for both temporary pop-ups and permanent fixtures alike. While many large brands have jumped on this bandwagon it has also been a great, cost-effective solution for specialised and boutique stores with smaller product ranges and budgets.

Some great examples of this include the Boxpark malls in the UK and Common Ground in Seoul, the largest shipping container mall in the world made from 200+ large shipping containers!


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3. Pop-up bars and cafes

As good as they are for retail shops, they are arguably even better for pop-up bars and cafes. A 20ft shipping container is almost the perfect size for baristas and/or bar staff to operate behind and can be easily modified with side opening doors etc to serve their eager patrons.

Not only that, they can be fairly easily wired and plumbed for all your catering needs and some even reinforce their roofs to create a nice rooftop seating/dining spaces. Their transportability means they can be easily picked up and moved from place to place.


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4. Workplaces and offices

Going to work in a shipping container five days a week is a bit of a strange thought but it is something a few organisations are turning into a reality for their employers.

As with most decisions to do with business, the main appeal comes down to the bottom line with shipping container sites seen as an affordable alternative option. One of the most well-known examples is the Box Office in Providence, Rhode Island built from 32 up-cycled shipping containers. It caters specifically to startups/entrepreneurs and small businesses and has proved to be a highly successful enterprise.


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5. Portable cinemas

A great example of a fun and ingenious use of shipping containers are those which have been turned into portable cinemas. In its travelling form, they look like any other shipping container that you’ll see on the back of a truck.

Some of these remain in this form with a projector fitted inside the container with seating facing towards the screen at one end. In the more elaborate versions, a push of a few buttons sees the shipping container completely transform, with its sides expanding out to allow for much more space, almost exactly like that of a small cinema. Either way provides for an enjoyable and unique movie-going experience.


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6. Portable toilets/Ablution blocks

If you’re organising a big event, festival or project the one thing you don’t want to overlook are the toilet facilities, for obvious reasons. In days gone by, the main choice would’ve been the portaloo (or equivalent) but the experience of using one can often be less than desirable.

Shipping containers, however, have provided a new accessible alternative, with the capacity to be fully plumbed with actual toilets and basins offering a more satisfactory experience. They are also typically much more sanitary with hygiene being a very important factor these days that should never be ignored.


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7. Medical Clinics

The portability of shipping containers has made them an excellent option for getting much-needed services to people living in particularly remote areas. This includes medical services with shipping containers being modified and transformed into mobile medical clinics which can be easily picked up and moved from one place to the next.

This has been especially useful in Third World countries where access is a real issue and remote healthcare and clinics are the only way to get people the medical attention they need. They have also been used in areas afflicted by disaster, natural or otherwise, where existing services have been damaged or destroyed and emergency healthcare is required.


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Some great uses of shipping containers

As you can see, there’s a wide range of uses of shipping containers with these just being the tip of the iceberg. As specialists in shipping container sales, hire and modification – we’re always happy to explore these ideas and more with our customers so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to know more!