10 Usage of a Shipping Container

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They populate the highways at off-peak hours. They go by the names Maersk, Cosco, ACL, and Evergreen, among others. They move slowly. They’re shipping cargo trucks, carrying items from all over the world. Shipping is one of the best ways to transport products due to how inexpensive it is. Its repository method, the shipping container, is spacious and safe, providing excellent storage capability to cargo while it journeys on to its intended destination.

Shipping containers are used not only for large, bulky wares, but even small goods can be moved about in these boxes of steel. The innovator of the shipping container is Matthew McLean, who came up with this method in 1930 as an alternative to the break bulk system where goods were transported in individual pieces. Shipping containers come in different sizes and varieties, depending on what they’re needed for. A general purpose container has four walls and two doors. An open top container is similar to the general purpose container; however, it does not have a proper roof, but uses heavy tarpaulin that can be removed as desired. This type of container is best used in transporting items that are high in stature. Another container type is the refrigerated shipping container, which is commonly used for the bulk transport of perishable goods like vegetables, fruits, meat, and other food items. The flat rack container is used in for extremely large items such as machines and yachts, consisting of a flat bottom flanked by collapsible walls. Nowadays, shipping containers even come equipped with special features like GPS communicability, and computer chips that allow the cargo to be tracked from on shore. Other shipping containers can be folded up once they’ve done their job, and in the event of shipwreck, are capable of floating on the water.

Unfortunately, most shipping containers are no longer fit for service after five years. Due to the sheer number of shipping containers being utilized worldwide, this means that thousands of containers are disposed of daily. The vast majority are merely left at ports and docks. The ecological movement of today, however, looks to turn this wastefulness around. Shipping containers are durable, flexible, lightweight, and abundant. This makes them great construction material. Here are some interesting ways in which people have been reusing shipping containers:

Housing. This is one of the most popular ways to recycle shipping containers. From single rooms to whole apartment complexes, the container parts have been broken down to create quirky, hip living spaces. It has become a great option for students and artists looking into low-cost property. But it isn’t just for the cost-cutters–there are those who have even used shipping containers to build summer homes. London has even come up with Container City–a section of the city dedicated to shipping container condos.

Mobile units. Because of the portable nature of shipping containers, another option is to convert them into moving domiciles like traveling stores, food trucks, and mobile homes. These units do not deconstruct the container as much, and often the original shape is maximized in the storefront and house layouts. These units can be folded up, and are easily transported from place to place. Puma, the sports brand, opened its first mobile branch in 2008. Made out of 24 shipping containers, this store now travels the world on a cargo ship, as it once did in its past life.

Office spaces. Rather than spending on decor and expensive interior design, some businesses are opting to build their workplaces using shipping containers. Not only does it add to a company’s sense of corporate social responsibility, it also allows owners to consider putting up offices in unexpected places. Palotta Teamworks, a US company, has its headquarters in a warehouse stacked with shipping container cubicles. The Box Office, a three-storey corporate building located in Providence, Rhode Island, is made entirely out of 32 shipping containers, has no shortage of lessees for its 12 office spaces.

Cafes. Italian brand Illy turned heads in 2007 when it partnered with Adam Kalkin to create the Push Button Café–an architectural wonder that seemed like an ordinary shipping container box but folded out with the push of a button into a fully-functional coffee shop complete with kitchen and dining area. Not to be outdone, a Seattle Starbucks converted shipping containers into a drive-thru branch made entirely out of recycled material.

Hotels. The Travelodge hotel in England is made of 86 squares of shipping containers put together like building blocks, with each square being furnished prior to stacking. 25% quicker and 10% cheaper than typical hotel construction, it inspired the idea of “portable hotels”, especially as the 2012 London Olympics brought in crowds of tourists. It also inspired plans to turn other shipping containers into ocean resorts located on the Gulf of Mexico.

Rest rooms. Shipping containers don’t just serve big construction projects. A block of portable toilets in New Zealand is made out of renovated shipping containers. Australian shipping-container company Port Container Services even offers specialized bathroom construction services, complete with showers, sinks, and mirrors.

Emergency shelters. The durability of shipping container material comes into play here as it is able to withstand the elements, like harsh weather and earthquakes. In 2010, a team of researchers from Clemson University proposed the use of shipping containers as shelters in the wake of the Haiti earthquake.

Studios. Being an artist doesn’t to come at such a heavy cost anymore. Spark 1 Container Studios creates professional-level mobile recording studios from shipping containers, reducing the need to rent commercial space. Some entrepreneurs, like Canadian jewelry designer Judi Patson, renovate shipping containers themselves based on the specific needs of their art, and set up shop there.

Museums. The Nomadic Museum in New York City was conceptualized in 1999 as a traveling exhibit complex made out of recycled material, one of which is the shipping container. The 45,000-square-foot structure utilizes the flexibility of the container to showcase art such as paintings and photography, and it can be deconstructed and reassembled as necessary. The Container Art Project takes it one step further–the shipping container is also used as the backdrop for performance art.

Storage areas. A shipping container’s storage capabilities aren’t limited to the road. Due to its space, enterprising folk are restoring old containers for renting out as storage areas. It is a lucrative business, especially in a world where people and products are increasing but room is decreasing.

Shipping containers are dynamic assets that can be used for so much more than what they were made for. With its stable structure, and convenience, it is one of the best recyclable materials out there. And with the right design, it doesn’t have to just be functional, it will also look great.

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