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Creative Ways to Grow an Economy with Shipping Containers

If there’s one thing every human being has in common, it is that every one of all 7+ billion of us Earthlings are connected by the supply chain. Virtually every good or service that is part of our day, many of the buildings we walk through, and many of the vehicles we drive around on the highway are delivered in shipping containers, are made of shipping containers, or are hauling goods in shipping containers.

creative way to grow with shipping containers

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All in all, we have a lot riding on shipping containers (pun!) to keep our economies growing, evolving, and adapting to change –and it all begins with the lowly shipping container’s ability to do the same.

Shipping containers really pack a punch in terms of monetary value; most of the uses of re-purposed shipping containers wound up saving the creative people using them in interesting and unusual ways a lot of money.

For example; a new business can thrive when overhead costs are low at the start –and because of this, many business ideas never even come to fruition because start up costs are so unbearably high. An office, restaurant, or even a custom home built out of re-purposed shipping containers is exponentially more economical than using traditional building supplies.

Wondering how cheap a used shipping container is? Real cheap.

A brand new one costs a mere $6,000 USD, and a used shipping container for re-purposing cost only a fraction of that at $1,200 USD.

In this article we’d like to highlight a the contribution to societies all over the world that shipping containers make; we will explore interesting shipping container facts, historical trivia, and some really great and inspiring uses for repurposed shipping containers.

A Little History of Shipping Containers

Did you know that right now there are millions of unused retired shipping containers sitting in lots around the globe collecting dust and serving little purpose other than making rust marks on the pavement?

A pretty sad way to go if you ask me, considering how much of a positive impact that the functional use of a shipping container can make –or has historically made.

The original ISO shipping container first came onto the scene back in the post World War 2 era –right when the economy began to heat up once again after a second tumultuous world war and a global depression.

Only recently has any change come to the shipping container’s standard format –a format it has used since the early days of the Panama Canal. And that same canal is leading the charge to the new size format for shipping containers today. Beginning late 2014 and early 2015, new shipping containers built to the new form factor specification have been crossing its locks in bigger ships, also made anew for the new format. This has probably been the largest form-factor change to take place in the history of the supply change –yet more people were talking about the change of iPhone screen size this past year.

Shipping Containers as Disaster Relief

Shipping containers also have a soft spot for people in distress; most recent devastating disasters both natural and man-made have been alleviated by the use of re-purposed shipping containers to serve as victims homes and shelters in their aftermath.

Countries such as Japan, the Philippines, the United States, and Europe have all turned to shipping containers to help people out of a tough spot.

Disaster victims aren’t the only ones finding reprieve within repurposed shipping containers, either. Initiatives all over the world have been looking at creating homes and shelters for the homeless out of them, too.

Shipping Containers as Cultural Centers

Museums, schools, libraries, and youth centers are all capitalizing on the affordability and adaptability of shipping containers for really outstanding architecture projects. The very act of using repurposed shipping containers have become a source of education, too.

This new generation of kids see where the tides are changing and they’re being introduced to the concept at younger and younger ages.

Pop-Up Businesses and Kiosks

For a fraction of the cost of traditional building materials and labor, companies are turning to shipping containers to house their businesses.

Popular eateries, schools, libraries, and offices are really leading the charge, and Pinterest is chock-full ‘o examples of excellent re-purposed shipping container architecture. Same goes for large public venues created by cutting-edge award-winning architects like Whitecrate, and Urban Space Management.

A lot of hospitality industry businesses are piling into the mix; holiday resorts, guest houses, motels, and hotels are all changing their minds on shipping containers. It’s strange to think business once didn’t see their potential and thought them ugly. My, how the times are changing.

Portable Homes and Urban Castles

In America, the Tiny House Movement has been breathing new life into using repurposed shipping containers in the construction of homes both on wheels, and not on wheels. Municipalities are clamoring to catch up with their archaic building codes and demand –all except for Texas– they never thought it very smart to tell people what or how to build something on their own property. (Good on you, Texas!)


Yes, that’s right. Bridges. Currently being constructed in Israel’s Ariel Sharon Park, a light vehicle and pedestrian bridge is being constructed to emphasize environmental ecology and sustainability.

Shipping Container in Art and Sculpture

Lastly, and perhaps most obviously, artists are all over it. In fact, they may have actually started the movement to begin with.

Early container homes in Germany created by artists in the 1970’s and 1980’s were new and interesting –colorful, vibrant, and urban. I used to pour over photography from this era, and it still piques my interest as much today as it did then.

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