5 Unique Ways to Reuse Shipping Containers

Over the last decade the popularity of cargotecture – shipping container architecture – has grown as architects explore the seemingly endless possibilities of construction with shipping containers.

Rather than being abandoned at shipyards for years on end, second-hand shipping containers are being repurposed into all kinds of useful buildings such as incredible homes, fun restaurants, edgy museums, pop-up shops and more.

1. Malls

Every week it seems a new shipping container mall ‘pops up’ somewhere in the world. Developers have certainly cottoned onto the fact that that stackable nature of second-hand shipping containers makes them an ideal way to showcase a wide variety of retail shops. Some of the very first pop-up container malls to come on the scene were Boxpark in Shoreditch High Street, London and RE: Start Mall in Christchurch, New Zealand, built after earthquakes devastated the inner city.

(ReSTART Mall, Christchurch. Photo by Murray Hedwig).

2. Libraries

An educational way of reusing shipping containers is to turn them into libraries. The modular shape of containers lend themselves to being perfect storage vessels for books, and since they’ve been designed to go on the back of a truck, they can also be easily transported if you’re using just one shipping container, as the mobile BiebBus Libraries in the Netherlands. Others, like the colourful Amin Library in Batu, Indonesia, has been constructed from seven shipping containers and houses 6,000 books.

(BiebBus Mobile Library, Nertherlands. Photo via inhabitat).

3. Grow Rooms

Traditionally refrigerated shipping containers (aka reefers) are used to transport fruit and veggies around the world. But these hardy vessels are now being used as miniature gardens in their own right. Grow rooms and shipping container farms are becoming a reality as the need for sustainable produce increases around the world. As long as there are a power and water supply, grow rooms allow users to provide food anywhere no matter what the climate. Even remote wintery regions such Alaska and Antarctica can enjoy fresh lettuce and other vegetables all year round thanks to shipping containers.

(Freight Farms, Boston. Image via Agriculture Corner).

4. Microbreweries

From the UK to the US, microbreweries housed in shipping containers are cropping up in backyards and as stand-alone outfits for pubs, cafes and restaurants. These microbreweries are perfect for people that wish to scale up brewing but don’t have the room on their premises for constructing extra buildings. The beauty of a microbrewery is that if you decide to cut back or stop brewing, you can easily take the container away or sell it to another brewer.

(4 Hands Brewing Co., St. Louis. Photo by Judd Demaline).

5. Churches

Who says that a church has to be built from a traditional building material? Their low cost and versatility, not to mention ease of transport, means that you can find shipping container churches in such remote locations as Antarctica. The Chilean Chapel of Santa Maria Reina De La Paz, on King George Island, has been constructed from shipping containers, and modified to withstand the harsh Antarctic conditions. Luckily for church goers, the modifications feature heating and insulation.

(Santa Maria Reina De La Paz Chapel, Antartica. Photo by Carlos78chile, Wikimedia Commons).