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Shipping Containers are Being Repurposed and Here’s How

Housing module made up of shipping containers

Around 226 million shipping containers are sent around the world each year. These are used to transport various goods, some of which are hazardous. Every year about 1,000 will be lost due to storms and conditions at sea.

In 2020, the global shipping container market reached $6.41 billion and is expected to grow impressively in the coming years. A CAGR of 12$ is expected until 2028. These shipping containers help to transport about 11 billion tons of goods each year. 

However, not all shipping containers get used for their intended purpose. New ones are being purchased today by creative minds intending to use them for many different reasons. And second-hand or used shipping containers are being completely repurposed. 

How are old shipping containers being repurposed today?

Shipping containers make a cost-effective, and affordable alternative to building various structures. They can be used creatively, and with just a few modifications can be turned into something quite unique and eye-catching.

A repurposed shipping container can become a simple but sturdy shed, or it could be turned into a swimming pool after some modifications. A container pool would require no digging and would be substantially cheaper than installing a regular swimming pool. 

The website Decor Fácil demonstrates some highly creative projects involving shipping containers, and below you can see how these rectangular steel boxes are being used now.

 Virus tester center made up of shipping containers

Temporary office space

The least creative but still practical use for a shipping container is as a temporary office. These are seen commonly on construction sites across the country.

Hotels and guesthouses

Somewhat better is the use of shipping containers to create unique hotels. In Haw Par Villa, Singapore, there are shipping container hotels that are nearly always sold out. The units can make surprisingly comfortable sleeping spaces, and are considerably less expensive than constructing a new hotel from scratch.

Another unlikely place to find a shipping container hotel is in Vang Vieng, Laos. Kong Resort has used bright colors such as fuchsia and cyan to make a striking hotel for tourists to stay in.


Adding a 20×20 family room to a house will cost on average nearly $50,000. Most extensions cost somewhere between $22,500 and $74,000. Using a shipping container instead would cost a fraction of these amounts.

And shipping containers can form part of many exciting home extension ideas as they can be altered and modified to suit. Windows can be added, and whole sides removed and replaced with glass for instance.


Depending on where you live you may need some type of permit or planning permission to build a home out of shipping containers. But, any of the US states that welcome mini-houses should also be amenable to a shipping container home.

Plus, a shipping container can be transported easily so you could learn how to live off the grid if you can find a suitable area of land.

 Interior of a house made from shipping containers

Commercial operations

The largest shipping container runs 40ft long so space is limited. However, these containers can make retail units depending on what products are being sold. They could also make perfect design studios or offices. 

Many structures using shipping containers combine several units, and these can make striking buildings, and increase floor space. Sports brand, Puma, used 24 containers to build Puma City, a mobile retail store that has so far been seen in Alicante, Stockholm, and Boston.

Food stands and bars

Ever fancied sitting down to design a stylish home bar of your own? Why not go a step further and put a container in the backyard and convert it into a bar?

One popular use for shipping containers is food stands, minibars and drinks vendors, and even food trucks. Being portable means that vendors can move to where the crowds are, and using a container as a food truck gives a striking look as well as mobility. 

Using a shipping container as it is to sell food still means locations can be switched without the need to end a lease or rent a new building. The container can be transported to a better location when the time comes.

How easy is it to purchase a shipping container?

There are a surprising number of businesses selling used and new shipping containers. A new container could run from $5,000 to $7,000, but a used one may be as low as $1,000. The cost advantages over brick and mortar are clear to see. And many companies offer modification services. For instance, shipping container swimming pools can be bought with pumps, a ladder, and filters pre-installed.

Sizes available are 10 ft, 20 ft, and 40 ft and they are around 8 ft wide. One container is all many projects will need, but joining several together can make a multi-storey building with a little work.


One of the more practical and unusual ways that shipping containers have been used can be seen in Tel Aviv, Israel. There, you can see and use a 160m bridge made from recycled shipping containers.

However, you don’t need to build a structure quite this big to gain the benefits of repurposing shipping containers. One could be used to create a simple but useful garden building for instance.