The global conversation on climate change and sustainability are becoming more urgent. This has caused people to seek out solutions to reduce negative impacts on the environment. A great way to become more sustainable is to repurpose existing materials. One increasingly popular trend is the transformation of old shipping containers.
These containers are built from high strength steel, made to withstand the harsh conditions of the high seas. Their industrial appearance may seem off-putting, but there’s something charming about an object taking on a second life after it’s already travelled around the world. The shipping container is a symbol of recycling, but can also be transformed into something unrecognisable.
Here are some examples of how they can be repurposed:
Shipping containers are the perfect size for a café, restaurant or food truck. They don’t require much alteration and can be opened up for a great indoor/outdoor space. Mozza & Co., an Italian eatery in Paris, use a container as a kitchen while customers dine on picnic tables outside. London’s Wahaca Southbank uses eight containers for a multi-level Mexican restaurant overlooking the Thames River. Toronto’s Market 707 is a community project which uses salvaged containers as stalls for a street food market.
It’s equally important for businesses to choose sustainable furniture for their spaces. By working with sustainable commercial furniture suppliers, businesses can help support forests and local communities.
Because they’re easily modified and portable, shipping containers make ideal exhibition spaces. One example is GAD in Norway, a multi-level gallery which can be disassembled, moved and reassembled in only a few days. Another is ArtBloc, a crowdfunded gallery and performance space in New York which combines two shipping containers into different configurations.
Pop Up Stores
The retail industry is also using shipping containers to create pop up stores. The containers have the benefit of being portable and cheaper than a traditional building. The New Zealand city of Christchurch even built an entire pop up mall from shipping containers after its devastating 2011 Earthquake.
The tourism industry has a variety of negative impacts on the environment. This is why many hoteliers are taking steps to become eco-friendly. Hotels have taken advantage of the versatility of shipping containers to create inspiring designs. Australia’s Hougoumont Hotel makes use of the containers’ naval industrial appearance to fit in with its port town surroundings. The fabulously colourful Hotel WineBox in Chile uses salvaged containers and repurposed furniture for a unique hotel/winery experience with a focus on sustainability.
One ingenious use of shipping containers is for agriculture. Australian company Sprout Stack uses containers for vertical farming. Chief executive Hugh McGilligan says their farm uses 95% less water than traditional farms, and they reduce food miles by only selling to local businesses.
Unlike traditionally constructed classrooms, repurposed shipping containers have the advantage of being sustainable and affordable. They’ve been used to support underprivileged communities, like the DigiTruck project in Africa, which converts shipping containers into mobile IT classrooms.
It’s hard to imagine a house being made from an industrial container, but there are an amazing variety of living spaces which have been created from old containers. A family in Ohio used containers to create a sustainable cabin-style home in the hills, known as The Box Hop. Two architects in California repurposed containers to build stylish fire-resistant houses in response to the 2018 California wildfires.
Another creative idea for shipping containers is to convert them into swimming pools. Not only are they the perfect size, but they’re also easy to install and have the advantage of being transportable.
There are many benefits to transforming shipping containers. They provide an excellent and affordable alternative to traditional construction. They’re durable, portable, and incredibly versatile. Shipping containers are an ideal solution for creating sustainable spaces.
Maia Fletcher is a freelance writer from the sun-kissed city of Gisborne, New Zealand. When she isn’t writing, Maia enjoys travelling and reading books on a vast array of topics. She carefully plans her trip to reduce her carbon footprint as much as possible. Read more about Maia on her blog.