12 Innovative Repurposing Ideas for Shipping Containers

Repurposing ideas

Did you know that there are more than 17 million shipping containers in circulation today? Probably not. Most people don’t realize that there are tons of shipping containers in customers’ hands not being used.


If you’ve got some steel shipping containers on your hands and aren’t sure what to do with them, there are a few ways that you can repurpose them. Repurposing gives you a way to make use of your old metal storage containers.

So, are you ready to get to work upcycling your steel storage containers? Here are a few repurposing ideas to get you inspired!

1. Theaters

One trend that’s on the rise is using shipping containers as theaters or as open-air bistros. The containers work great for unique outdoor theaters where guests can relax and watch a show or a movie.

If you’re thinking of repurposing shipping containers into a theater it’s important to note that you can’t use them this way for a long period of time. You’ll need to put them away during harsh winter months.

However, even though they don’t work as a year-round solution, they do make fun entertainment spaces in warm weather conditions. They’re a great choice if you want a creative and unique outdoor entertainment space.

2. Schools

There are some locations around the world where it’s just not possible to build a traditional school structure. Sometimes it’s due to cost limitations and other times it’s due to infrastructure issues.

The good news is that administrators are getting creative and building schools from shipping containers. They can either be stripped down and used for materials or can be used as structures themselves.

For example, some administrators place multiple shipping containers in a single area. Each container then becomes a separate classroom, making it easier to separate out students throughout the day.

3. Restaurants

If you’ve spent some time on Instagram you might have come across some pictures of shipping container restaurants. These innovative and trendy spaces use shipping containers to create bistros and dining venues.

What’s great about using shipping containers this way is that they can create space where there is none. They make it easy for restauranteurs to set up shop even if they’re limited by small square footage.

There are several famous examples of these types of restaurants. SnackBox, located in Times Square in New York City is one of the better-known shipping container restaurants you’ll find around the globe.


4. Homes

Another unique use for metal storage containers is to actually repurpose them into homes. These are fantastic, eco-friendly ways to build houses that save space and recycle old materials.

In fact, there are cases of entire communities being built out of shipping containers. The resulting homes are surprisingly spacious and make for great homes for singles and couples.

Better yet, it’s easy to mount solar panels on top of the roof of a shipping container. That’s a great way to benefit the environment by saving power and using a natural resource to fuel the home.

Many modern construction companies have started investing in repurposed shipping containers as dormitories and apartment building solutions. When designed correctly, they can make for spacious and aesthetically pleasing housing solutions, especially for young working professionals.

5. Offices

Another creative way to use Conex boxes is as office spaces. These boxes work well as office solutions, especially for companies that don’t have a whole lot of space.

Many times, when businesses use shipping containers as offices, they stack the containers. The stacked design creates a spacious and productive office building that’s easy for companies to make use of.

Plus, businesses can stack the containers as high as they need. That makes it easier than ever for them to utilize every inch of square footage available to them.

6. Emergency Hospitals

Recently, metal shipping containers became a popular choice for emergency centers. The containers provide just enough space for doctors to successfully operate while still being small enough to fit into urban spaces.

Shipping containers are especially common for COVID-19 testing centers and vaccination sites. They’re easily transported, which means that doctors can set them up in multiple locations without a problem.

It’s not uncommon to spot shipping containers in parking lots at pharmacies and shopping centers. There, doctors provide vaccination and testing services to patients in a small yet convenient mobile clinic.

7. Portable Toilets

This repurposing idea isn’t new, but it’s still a great way to reuse shipping containers. For years, businesses have used shipping containers to set up portable toilets.

Shipping containers make it easy for you to maintain proper hygiene. And, they’re large enough to accommodate several stalls, making them more practical than a single port-a-potty.

You’ll most often find portable toilets at outdoor events and venues. Many county fairs, pop-up markets, and other special events use repurposed shipping containers as portable bathrooms.

8. Stores

You may also find retail stores that are built out of repurposed shipping containers. Shipping containers are large enough that they can provide enough space for a small retail store to set up shop.

On top of that, retailers can place horizontal shipping containers next to each other. That creates an even larger space and makes for a unique, urban shopping experience.

What’s more, the smaller size of shipping containers makes them practical for businesses that work in cities that don’t provide enough space for larger, permanent structures. They’re a great workaround for those with limited property for their business.

9. Studios

Artists and other creative individuals may find that shipping containers are the ideal size for a personal workspace. Since shipping containers are about the size of a small room, they’re ideal for a spacious studio.

What’s more, artists can clear out the shipping container for use as a gallery. That makes it a great way to show off their work and introduce the public to their art.

Or, you can simply place the shipping container on your property for use as a private office or studio space for your own personal use. Either way, these are great additional studio spaces to use to your advantage.

10. Disaster Shelters

Emergency organizations often use shipping containers as disaster shelters. Since shipping containers are easy to move and large enough for a few people to stay in at once, they make for practical solutions for housing displaced people.

On top of that, shipping containers are extremely durable. Since they’re so reliable, they’re a great choice for emergency professionals working in hazardous zones. They can count on the container to stay upright and protect displaced individuals no matter what.

Shipping containers are also stackable. That means that it’s easy for disaster relief professionals to install multiple shipping containers in a small amount of space in order to house large numbers of displaced individuals.

11. Swimming Pools

This repurposing idea is one of the least common on our list. However, that’s not to say that it isn’t worth looking into!

Sometimes, families or communities will use shipping containers as swimming pools. Some of the larger shipping containers provide enough depth that they make for a great repurposed pool.

On top of that, since shipping containers are made out of metal, they’re highly durable structures. That makes them great for repurposing into a lasting swimming pool whether it’s in a backyard or a community park.

12. Laboratories

Just like how shipping containers make great mobile medical offices, they also make great laboratories. They offer enough space for doctors to run testing laboratories.

Shipping containers can either be used for medical or educational labs. They’re the ideal size for doctors to set up equipment for blood drives and other types of labs.

One example of how shipping containers can be repurposed into laboratories can be seen in the Grimshaw Covid-19 labs that popped up in New York City. These laboratories are crafted from shipping containers and provide full examination rooms as well as labs for running analysis of Covid-19 tests.

Put These Shipping Container Repurposing Ideas to Work

As you can see, there are tons of ways that you can reuse old shipping containers that you no longer need. Any one of these repurposing ideas is a great way to get unwanted metal shipping containers off your hands and put them to good use.

If you don’t have shipping containers yet and need a few, our team can help! Get in touch with us and we’ll hook you up with Conex boxes for any need!


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