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Building with Shipping Containers

06.10.2014 - Posted by Updated On 06.10.2014    

Shipping containers have building components have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. Lots of people have a hard time envisioning how an ugly steel box could be incorporated into a home, office, or other similar structure, and without much thought it's easy to agree with them. However, before you skip over the idea let's consider five points that will give the idea some traction: Cost savings, durability, portability, eco-consciousness, and creativity.

Cost Savings: Labor, Time and Material

Modular construction started around the early 1900's and has grown and adapted since then. The general idea is that a constructing a building as parts, or modules, in one central location and assembling it on the final site will save labor and material costs. The workforce doesn't need to go to a new location every few weeks, and all of the materials can be delivered to one location. The cost saving is obvious, and shipping containers blend well with this in that, by design, they are block modules that can be filled in as housing, farms, or anything else that you can think of.


Traditional housing is built from wooden frames, and over time these frames can rot or decay and gradually sag, or even catch on fire. Shipping containers are framed out with steel posts and frames, and can take a great amount of pressure and stress, and won't rot or decay. Worst case scenario is that the steel components could rust, but the life span of a steel frame compared to that of a wooden frame is exponentially longer.


In terms of mobility and transportability stick build housing cannot be compared, and traditional modular housing provides some initial competition. However, todays modular housing is either constructed out of wooden or aluminium frames. This type of frame makes the components light, but it could compromise some of the integrity of the units as they're moved from the factory to the final site. The steel frame of a shipping container provides a rigid structure that can be moved, stacked, and welded together on site.

Environmental Considerations

As globalization increases and more and more products are transported around the world in shipping containers, the global community is going to need to address how do deal with them in a cost effective manner. Due to imbalances in trade, more containers will collect in certain areas and the financial and environmental cost of repositioning them to a location where they're needed could be too high. The alternative is to convert them into modular housing, storage or other similar ideas.


Creativity can be achieved through any type of architecture, but it takes a special eye to be able to start with several rectangular units and assemble them into an attractive living/working space. From South Africa to Denver, Colorado architects and builders are working with shipping containers to provide innovative spaces that are both attractive and functional.

Modular housing isn't a new idea, but building with shipping containers is. Shipping containers provide a natural expansion into the modular construction industry and expand its abilities to save money, provide both durable and portable housing, while adding on an additional layer of environmental consciousness and creativity.

If you would like to learn more about building with containers, or shipping containers in general, feel free to contact any of the sellers listed on the site, or contact the staff directly. With the ever growing network of builders, architects, retailers of new and used shipping containers, the staff at will be able to help make your project a success.

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