Cool Structures Built with Shipping Containers

Creative builders and architects are recycling containers into everything from tiny homes to trendy bars.

A bunch of shipping containers walk into a bar. . . Scratch that. A bunch of people walk into a bar made of shipping containers.

The Container Bar in Austin, Texas, describes itself as “seven stacked shipping containers, great vibes and a new way of space.” It’s notable for its bright colors — red, yellow, blue and orange — and its balconies that overlook the street.

bar made from shipping containers

Image Credit: North Arrow Studio

One indication that shipping container buildings have gone mainstream: HGTV now has a show, “Container Homes,” that features builders who transform shipping containers into box houses of every shape and size.

But today’s container buildings aren’t just small-scale projects. As part of its bid to host the FIFA World Cup international soccer competition in 2022, Qatar recently announced that its event stadium would be built from recycled shipping containers. The modified containers, placed within a steel frame, would hold 40,000 seats plus corridors, stairways, concessions and restrooms. Once the competition is over, the modular building could be dismantled and the shipping containers reused for other projects.

stadium made from shipping container

Image Credit: Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy 

In the United States, builders and architects are using shipping containers as building materials because there are so many of the boxes available. (We import a lot more goods than we export.) The upfront cost is fairly low — about $2,100 for a used container — but they do need a fair amount of rehabilitation to make them usable.

Some of the most recent shipping container projects include:

The Carroll House - Brooklyn, New York

This 5,000-square-foot home was constructed from 21 stacked shipping containers that were cut diagonally along the top and bottom. Designed by LOT-EK, the home includes a garage, media room, living room, dining room and kitchen, plus floors devoted to children’s bedrooms, play areas and a master suite.

The Boxyard - Tulsa, Oklahoma


Image Credit: Tulsa Boxyard

Built from 39 shipping containers, The Boxyard provides retail space for 19 different businesses. Stores range in size from 320 to 640 square feet.

Cargominiums - Columbus, Ohio

The non-profit housing organization NISRE is currently building Cargominiums on the east side of Columbus, Ohio. The building will feature 25 two-bedroom apartment units for low-income residents. Each 640-square-foot apartment is made with two 8-foot by 40-foot containers transported from New Jersey. Project developers said the $2.3 million project cost 30 percent less than a conventional structure would have.

Other storage container structures include hydroponic farming setups from Freight Farms, pools and jacuzzis from the Canadian company Modpools and pop-up stores featuring brands like Nike.

shipping container pool

Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.

Top Image Credit: Tulsa Boxyard

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