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7 Creative Ways To Use Shipping Containers In Architecture

Many of you might have heard about the shortage of shipping containers during the Covid pandemic due to rise in demand for cargo and shipments. Consequently, more was produced. Well now, the opposite is happening- there's too many containers, with less space to store them.

That's not the end of it though. Shipping containers produce gas emissions and have biocides like antifouling agents in their paints. Both are really, really bad for the environment.

How Can We Help Solve This Issue?

As architect, you might wonder how you can contribute to this. An efficient way to solve this crisis is to reuse the containers. 

  • Considering how humongous these containers are, we can easily fit small houses or commercial spaces in them
  • Their strength and water-resisting properties make them even more ideal as building materials
  • The containers also have a very aesthetic metallic look
Shipping Containers

Size Of A Shipping Container

Shipping containers are huge. Huge enough to have no place for them to be stored properly (the irony).

  • The average container is 20-40 feet in length
  • The standard width is 8 feet
  • The standard height is 8 feet and 6 inches

There's plenty of space to fit inside a container that can fit inside a small building.

7 Innovative Ways To Reuse A Shipping Container In Architecture 

  1. Homes
  2. Cafes and Shops
  3. Swimming Pools
  4. Mobile Architecture
  5. Facades and Reuse of Cut Pieces
  6. Container Gardens
  7. Refugee/ Emergency Shelters

1) Homes

A tiny and cozy compact home with only the necessary elements like a bed, toilet, and kitchen counter can fit inside a shipping container. The metal can be cut out to make windows and doors. Additionally, unlike in an actually built house, there is more freedom to modify the shape, size, color etc. of the container.

Another method is to use multiple containers by stacking or arranging them to make a big comfortable home.

The Blue House, Pune by Studio Alternatives

Exterior Of The Blue House
Interior Of The Blue House
  • The house is made of two containers which are 20 feet length and 8 feet wide
  • The entire house took only 3-4 months to make, including flooring, insulation, plumbing and kitchen services
  • The house is portable as well and has been moved to 4 different locations since it was built

2) Cafes And Shops

Since it is easy to modify and customize the container easily, they can be perfect for setting up small cafes and food joints.

Kora container food street, Chennai

Kora Food Street
  • The containers are stacked on top of each other to have more than one floor
  • The shops and their kitchen are inside the containers
  • The seating areas are on the first floor, above the container space
  • Sides of the container is cut open for service
  • The facade is painted, but left as is for aesthetic look

3) Swimming pools

Shipping containers are built resistant to water and rust. This makes them an ideal choice for building structures that hold water, like swimming pools. 

Modpools, USA and Canada

  • Top of the container is cut
  • Can be fitted anywhere, according to client's preferences 
  • In some cases, sides are cut and fitted with glass to make it more aesthetic

4) Mobile architecture

Another innovative use for shipping containers is to be modified and fitted on a vehicle. They are great for food trucks and moving shops.

They are also good options to make portable buildings.

Walkingboxes, Berlin

  • Walkingboxes is a startup in Berlin, specialising in converting old shipping containers into portable trailers
  • The boxes are cut and customised as per the client's preferences
  • It is then fitted with an engine and wheels

5) Facades And Reuse Of Cut Pieces

Shipping containers have a unique appearance which is very rustic and metallic. For this property, it can be cut and reused for façade treatments and other similar purposes.

This is a great way to put damaged shipping containers to reuse.

6) Container gardens

Container gardens are growing plants or crops in pots or other containers instead of the ground. Shipping containers are the perfect place to keep them protected from the weather and other undesirable factors. 

Containers can also be used to make outdoor garden elements like pergolas and outdoor seating.

PodPonics, Atlanta

  • Local food production is done by growing local crops
  • 1 acre worth of crops are grown inside a 40 feet container
  • Food production happens all year round regardless of weather conditions
  • Uses way less water than traditional farming
  • Highly energy efficient- fitted with LED plant lights and solar panels

7) Refugee/emergency shelters

Wars and disasters happen fast. Hence, the main requirement for a refugee or emergency shelter is that it should be built immediately, taking as little time as possible. What more can be an ideal choice than using shipping containers? Their strength and water resistance make them even more desirable for this.

Resettlement Camps, Athens

Resettlement Camp
  • It is a refugee center for war and disaster victims
  • They are assembled within a week
  • When the refugees no longer need them, they are disassembled and parts are used for other projects
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