Reusing Shipping Containers: What are the Advantages and Challenges?


Reusing old shipping containers after their expected life is over has recently become a worldwide architectural trend. The practice has been referred to as “container architecture or cargotecture.” Reused shipping containers have been turned into houses, hotels, storage units, stores, restaurants, food trucks, green houses, schools, libraries, and even art studios, by basically modifying them, and putting and sticking them together like legos. But what are the advantages and possible challenges of purchasing and reusing old shipping containers?

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages, and challenges, of reusing shipping containers.

Environmental Friendliness

Reusing shipping containers, and turning them into buildings, can prevent the use of bricks and cement as the production of cement is a major source of CO2. This is a good way to protect the environment against one of its biggest enemies. It could also help to reduce the usage of steel. Reusing a container could help to save about 3500 kilograms of steel. Yes, just one container.

Time and Cost-Effectiveness

One of the most significant advantages of reusing a shipping container is that they are very affordable, and can be built incredibly fast. Instead of building a house, renting a place, or investing in land, shipping containers can be bought for a much cheaper price, and can easily be moved, if needed.

Structural Durableness

Shipping containers are very durable, since they are designed to endure rough and unpredictable weather conditions, and intended to carry heavy cargo. Thanks to their steel structure, and light weight compared to cement buildings, they are much more resilient against earthquakes – which makes them very safe.

Possible Challenges to Reusing Shipping Containers

Insulation and Temperature

Controlling the temperature is one of the biggest challenges of reusing a shipping container, especially as a housing unit. As a result of being made of steel, containers easily absorb both cold and heat, which means the temperatures could easily get very low in winter, and too high in summer. So, insulation is a very important process, and needs to be done very carefully.

Rust and Corrosion

Containers are not corrosion or rust-proof, so they need continuous care and attention. The reaction between steel, water, and oxygen can cause rust, and corrosion, on containers. Climate conditions may speed up this process. The weather needs to be mostly dry, and not too rainy and wet, to avoid these issues.

Toxic Materials

It is extremely important to be aware of which shipping containers were exposed to multiple insecticides, lawfully, in meeting global import and export procedures. This can cause toxic exposure when repurposing. To be on the safe side, a container’s wooden floor must be removed, and the inside surface of containers should be covered with bare metal, and painted with nontoxic paint. These steps should be taken before refurbishing the used container.