Reuse & Repurpose Shipping Containers

Author: Leah Cooper

Shipping containers have been a significant component of sustainable construction in the recent decade due to their availability and customizable structure. At General Tools & Equipment (GES), we sell used Shipping Containers at greatly discounted rates as part of our business model to promote sustainability and reuse within the industry. With the concern over lumber shortages and the cost of raw metal becoming all too real in 2021, we encourage our customers to think of environmental and economical alternatives to traditional resources. We know you are interested in shipping containers to benefit your business, your next project, and even your home. Read on for our list of some of the most ingenious reuses of shipping containers.


1. Storm Shelter

GES is headquartered in Simpsonville, South Carolina, along the southeastern coast of the United States. You may be surprised to know that seasonally tornados are pretty common in our area and nearby states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama— such as the tornado that tore through Birmingham this March, devastating the residents of the Eagle Point community.

Read the full report from NBC 29 News here.

Tornado safety is a paramount concern for many Americans; however, in-house Tornado shelters—the best safety method during violent storms— are not always possible. In upstate South Carolina alone, the expense and challenge of building basements into poorly draining red-clay foundations mean tornado-safe basement shelters are uncommon. Access to public shelters may also become impossible due to the sudden appearance of tornados en route. If you live in a trailer park, in a ranch-house style, or on a concrete slab-based home, a separate storm cellar is your next best option.

Shipping containers can be reinforced and repurposed into storm shelters. Reinforce the walls of your container, anchor it to a concrete footing, then partially bury. The solid steel frame means structurally shipping containers are, even above ground, safer than sheltering in a mobile home but not recommended without proper anchoring from storm specialists.

Utilize shipping containers for your disaster management needs, whether it be a storm cellar for tornadoes and hurricanes or even an underground bunker. Get inspired with Container Addict’s in-depth blog on the fundamentals of constructing Shipping Container Storm Shelters.

2. Portable Businesses

Everybody knows a good food truck. The food truck craze rolled in with the 2008’s and hasn’t stopped moving yet. It has been fascinating to watch these mobile gourmets dominate street corners; for others, it has inspired their own foodie enterprises. But with a profitable and saturated market comes truck scarcity. Beat the inflated prices for a kitchen-on-wheels and surprise your customers with something far from common: shipping containers can be retrofitted into modern-mobile kitchen trailers that can turn your existing pickup into a hipster business. Park your container on a coastal strip or rental space at the local fair for a unique pop-up restaurant opportunity.

Pictured is the Tiki Tako modular restaurant designed by Britten, a container design company specializing in commercial models. Britten’s price range of $50,000 - $275,000 in customizations to your existing container presents a more affordable option in big cities. However, price-savvy mom-and-pop startups looking to start selling grandma’s famous recipes can simply apply a little ingenuity and elbow grease to their own containers. Buy the container and rent the tools you need for your DIY project at GES today.

Create the perfect snack shack or a graphic design office with shipping containers. Mobile workspaces are no longer the territory of freelancers alone. Made more popular by the pandemic and certainly predicted to continue afterward, mobile offices allow businesses to proactively reach out to their target clientele. Artists, Tax Return Specialists, and even Pet Spas can take advantage of flexible office spaces. Shipping container offices allow us to imagine restructured work-life: travel, advertise locally and cut back on the costs of maintaining a permanent office.

3. Modular, Economical, & Sustainable Building

Traditional building materials aren’t getting any easier to find. These days we are looking to a sustainable future with recycled composite waste materials, mushroom bricks (yes, it’s a real thing), and even potato cork. Just take a look at Haute Innovation, an agency, and website dedicated to documenting and disseminating the latest information on sustainable innovation and technology. But for a more accessible resource, try shipping containers. Save on material cost with shipping containers: their durable steel and consistent sizing have made containers a reliable base for tiny homes, apartment units, and public buildings.

StructureNow Social Solutions calls their container classrooms “the instant classroom solution for Turnkey Projects.” Based in Africa, StructureNow exemplifies the versatility of shipping containers as one-room buildings. Their classrooms are ideal for transporting remote and low-income communities where building from scratch is not financially feasible. The pictures above are from StructureNow’s existing projects. For communities where children commute part-time due to seasonal floods or treacherous terrain, container classrooms can be relocated as needed. Even charter schools in the states can take advantage of “pop-up” classrooms for interactive learning.

In another case, we can consider the needs of student housing. Student housing causes a steady rotation of residents around universities throughout the states. To meet the expanding demand for dormitories, shipping containers create modular and modern living spaces. Apply this concept outside of academic dormitories, where you will find the standardized sizes of these containers simplify architectural planning across the board.

Low-cost and sustainable container homes can supplement crowded cities or offer an alternative to underserved homeless communities. Architect Arnold Stalk took advantage of the low-cost simplicity of shipping containers to create Share Village in Las Vegas, Nevada, housing more than 1,800 homeless and displaced individuals. Today Share Village is planning to expand to new locations. All too often, we associate shipping containers with the tiny home industry. Ultimately, modular designs achieved through container builds offer more than just eclectic spaces: container homes have a lower cost and carbon footprint compared to traditional construction, allowing homeowners and the occasional philanthropist, like Stalk, to put roofs over more heads.

4. Maximizing Storage

Containers can be used for the unusual and surprising: swimming pools, saunas, greenhouses, and music studios. It gives versatility within its highly customizable space. But that does not mean that storage, its typical manufactured purpose, isn’t one of its most remarkable functions. When it comes down to it, shipping containers make excellent garage ports and double as covered vehicle transport. They make wonderful garden sheds, extra-large pseudo-Knaack Boxes on construction sites, and have a secure storage capacity that makes rental agreements at CubeSmart unnecessary. Move your study steel box with a trailer or crane or make it a permanent structure. Punch through the metal to create additional doors or windows; weld shelves or hooks to the walls to accommodate your knick-knacks, heirlooms, and industrial equipment. The possibilities are near limitless if it fits.


Interested yet? Continue to explore the many possibilities of shipping container construction for your future projects. Businesses and do-it-yourself-ers alike will find benefit from this non-standard building method. Especially in today’s economy, with sustainability becoming equally a necessity as an ethical choice, shipping containers can be your practical go-to or creative medium.

BACK TO TOP