14 Innovative And Unusual Uses For Shipping Containers

One of the main reasons human society has managed to make it this far is our inventiveness; the human mind has a tremendous creative capacity. When put to good use, it can come up with really interesting and practical solutions to the problems we face.

Currently, waste pollution is a problem that is only getting worse. As a global population, we make lots of stuff, and a large amount of that goes straight into a landfill, creating an environmental disaster in the meantime. To combat this problem, we must reduce the amount of waste we generate while recycling and reusing what we've already created. Most importantly, we must always remember that no effort is too small.

Although shipping containers themselves don't contribute too significantly to the global waste problem, they are a part of it. Because of the way they're built, people worldwide have come up with exciting ways to reuse them, demonstrating once again the power of humanity's creative spirit. Read on to find out some of the most innovative and unusual uses for shipping containers.

Why Reuse Shipping Containers?

Some of you may be wondering why someone would want to repurpose a shipping container. After all, it is a pretty random thing. However, it turns out there are a lot of different reasons why shipping containers are prime objects for being reused for something else, such as:

Innovate and Unusual Uses for Shipping Containers

Now that you can see some of the reasons why people repurpose shipping containers, here are some of the more innovative and unusual uses for shipping containers:


Although this might not be your first thought, one of the most popular ways to reuse a shipping container is to live in it! The durability of containers and their open design make them ideal living spaces, especially for those interested in small home living.

However, shipping container homes aren't just for those who want a tiny house. Since shipping containers are stackable onto one another, you can easily combine more than one to create a unique design for your home that gives you as much or more functionality than a traditional design.

Don't believe us, check out some of these shipping container homes. In some cases, you almost can't tell that the house is made from large metal boxes.

Source: Off Grid World


Because of their small size, shipping containers also make great hotel rooms. People worldwide are stacking them on top of one another to make truly chic hotels that provide guests with the once in a lifetime experience of spending their holiday living inside a shipping container.

However, as is the case with homes, guests might not even notice that these hotel rooms are made from shipping containers. In most cases, architects and designers leave some elements of the shipping container intact and exposed to show how these structures are built.

One of the most famous shipping containers globally is the Winebox Hotel in Valparaiso, Chile (displayed below). It's modern and unique design has made it tremendously popular, leading more and more people to adopt this design style.

Source: Orbitz


Education is one of if not the most important components of a good life. With proper education, people can put their ideas into action, find work, and deal with the challenges life brings. Unfortunately, though, many people around the world still lack access to basic schooling. Often, one of the reasons for this is that there is no physical school at which students can learn, and getting funds to build one can be a challenge.

Shipping containers have become an innovative solution to this since the building costs are virtually zero. Yes, the container itself costs money, as does the installation, but these expenses are considerably less than those that come with building an entirely new structure.

This use for shipping containers is still growing, but if it were to catch on more around the world, we could move one step closer towards making sure that each and every person on this planet has access to a decent education.


When one thinks of Swedish hot rooms designed to help you relax and remove toxins from your body, most of us probably don't think of shipping containers. Nevertheless, in reality, this is a fantastic use for them. First, since they are already air and watertight, you don't need to worry about creating something that's perfectly sealed. The shipping container already is.

Of course, the flip side of this means that to turn a shipping container into a sauna, you need to ventilate it properly, but this is a challenge no matter how you are repurposing a container.

In most cases, such as in the example below, people cut a shipping container in half and use that part of it as the sauna. This makes sense as it reduces the amount of air you need to heat up, reducing energy consumption and the overall cost to run a shipping container sauna.

Source: Gardenista

People have turned shipping containers into saunas for their personal use and as a business, showing that human creativity knows no bounds.


When running a company, often one of the most significant overhead expenses is office space. Real estate is not cheap, as we know, and so companies are often left in a pickle trying to balance between getting something nice and something they can afford.

However, companies can't be too frugal when doing this since employees aren't likely to feel comfortable working in a bad office environment, encouraging them to look for other employment, costing companies money.

One solution to this has been to build offices out of shipping containers. As in other examples, they dramatically reduce construction costs and can be placed together in unique and exciting ways to improve how space is used. Often, working in a cool, chic office environment plays a considerable role in someone's decision to choose one company over another, and an office made out of shipping containers goes a long way towards creating that vibe.


For us, this is perhaps one of the most fascinating uses for shipping containers, as it's probably one of the last things we would have thought they could be used for. In truth, this is still pretty rare; the only bridge in the world made out of shipping containers has yet to be built. However, the plans are in the works, and within a few years, Israel will have the world's first shipping container bridge.

This is such a good idea since it dramatically reduces the resources needed to build a bridge. Using containers helps reduce the amount of steel and concrete used, which means less waste and a quicker construction time. Plus, they have the potential to help make some really cool looking bridges.

Workshop or Shed

If you take one look at a shipping container and think about how it could be reused, we bet that one of the first things that come to mind is a shed or workshop. Their size, shape, and durability make them perfect for putting outside and using as storage for tools and other machinery, as well as for doing all sorts of projects.

You could take things in another direction, though, and turn a shipping container into a "she-shed," the female equivalent of the mancave. Either way, the design of shipping containers and their easily customizable open design makes them perfect for this type of use.


Got a large container that doesn't leak water or air? Why not turn it into a pool? It turns out, lots of people have thought of this and used shipping containers to build in-ground pools. You could turn it into an above ground pool, but given the size of these containers, this might not be all that practical.

Shipping containers can make really cool pools, but this is a bear of a project. You need to dig a hole that will fit the container, and then you need to insulate it and fill it. However, it can still be a fair bit cheaper than building a pool from scratch since doing this would require you to construct something that could hold the water. With a shipping container, you already have this.

Here is an example of a neat-looking shipping container pool:

Source: Good Home Design


If there's any industry out there that's always on the cutting edge, it's the restaurant business. Providing people with unique places for people to dine is a big moneymaker, and there always seems to be a push to be the one with the funkiest, newest design.

As a result, it should be no surprise that shipping containers have become quite popular in the restaurant world.

However, what is interesting is to see the wide range of purposes that shipping containers are being used for within the restaurant world. For example, you can have bigger, more intricate designs intended to play down the shipping container, such as the restaurant Wahaca from London has done.

You can also get more modest designs, examples of which are below. In the first image, some smart entrepreneur used a shipping container to create an outdoor cafe that can be closed up when it's time to call it a day. In the second image, the container was mounted onto the back of a vehicle and turned into a food truck.

Source: Mobilbox

These are just a few examples, but there are many more out there. Keep your eyes peeled when you travel to new places to see if you can find any cool restaurants designed from shipping containers!


If it can be made into a restaurant, then it can be made into a store! Another industry where presentation matters, retail has caught onto the shipping container trend and stores worldwide are being built using old containers. In many cases, this leads to a modern, unique design that can draw in the crowds. Once again, using a shipping container helps reduce construction costs, which means more people can open businesses and contribute to the economy's growth.

Here's a city block in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, where several stores have been built using shipping containers:

Source: Small Biz Survival

Medical Facilities

Like the situation with schools and education, one of the biggest challenges we face in ensuring that people have access to quality healthcare is making sure there is a facility for them to get the treatment they need. As mentioned, building something from scratch can often be too time and resource-consuming to be practical, so a shipping container can be a perfect solution.

Shipping containers are also an ideal solution in emergencies where there simply isn't enough time to construct a hospital. Usually, tents are used in these cases, but they have their obvious drawbacks. Also, shipping container medical facilities can be moved from one place to another relatively easily, reducing the need to build new structures when working in a new area.

The medical field is one area where shipping containers have considerable promise to help people while also reducing the resources we use from the Earth.


Photography enthusiasts surely had this thought the first time they saw a shipping container being used for something other than moving goods. That's because they make perfect darkrooms! After all, they're perfectly air and watertight, meaning there are no spaces for light to get in.

For those who don't know, a darkroom is where one develops old-fashioned photos. Film is damaged by white light, and so it's necessary to have a dark area where only red light is used to develop film into photos.

Of course, there are cheaper ways to get a darkroom, but if you've got the funds and want to be the coolest old-school photographer around, then a shipping container darkroom might be perfect for you.


Are you willing to do a little work to cut some holes in the container and replace the empty spaces with windows? Then you can turn a shipping container into a pretty neat greenhouse or nursery. Of course, remember that these things are airtight, so when doing this, make sure you ventilate the space so that the plants can breathe.


We already discussed how shipping containers can be turned into homes and hotels, so why not mount them onto a trailer and repurpose them into campers? This way, you can have a portable home that allows you to sleep wherever you want.

For most, this will be a wonderful way to enjoy the benefits of having a camper without having to absorb the exorbitant price that comes with buying one from the major manufacturers.

The Cost of a Shipping Container and How to Get One

As you can see, there are many different ways that a shipping container can be repurposed, and we only focused on the ones we thought to be the most innovative and unusual. If you were to drop this requirement, we could come up with many, many more ways for a shipping container to be repurposed.

At this point, you may be wondering if you can get your own shipping container. In reality, it's easy to get one, but turning it into something that resembles what we've shown here are two very different things.

Here are some of the key things to know about getting a shipping container:

One other item to consider is insurance costs – see how your insurance company would treat and cover such a structure on your property – as well as building codes. There may be limits to what you can do with a shipping container on your property, or you may need to get special permits.

The Sky's the Limit

As you can see, there are countless ways in which to reuse a shipping container. We've presented fourteen ideas that we consider to be the most unusual and innovative, but we hope that after seeing this, you've realized that there really is no limit to what you can do with a shipping container. While you might not be ready to go out and get one for yourself, you will hopefully see just how much can be done to reuse materials already in existence and make progress towards correcting the tremendous waste problem that currently poses such a strong environmental challenge.