The Incredible Versatility of Shipping Container Buildings

The need for more sustainable construction methods is becoming increasingly urgent. Fortunately, shipping container buildings can offer a viable solution. These sturdy steel boxes were the brainchild of an American trucker who spotted the need for a faster way to load and unload marine cargo. His idea revolutionised the shipping industry. More than 65 years later, Malcolm McLean’s invention is disrupting another vital industry.

The rectangular design of a shipping container is similar to that of a simple hut, consisting of four walls, a ceiling, and a floor. Rather than leaving them unused for years, innovative engineers are now modifying new or used shipping containers to create container homes, office containers, and other prefabricated buildings.

Containers come in standard sizes, predominately 6 or 12 metres long, with uniform heights and widths, making them the perfect starting point for modular constructions. They can be joined in multiple configurations, like LEGO blocks, to provide endless possibilities.

In addition to being a more sustainable option than a concrete structure, modular, prefabricated buildings are cheaper, often transportable, and far quicker to erect.


Some Innovative Shipping Container Buildings

It seems the only limit to the versatility of the shipping container is one’s imagination. The following are just three of many incredible examples:

  • Hospitals
    A company in the Netherlands specialises in rapid hospital deployment. Its standard “Hospitainer” is a surgical hospital assembled from six, 12-metre containers and includes an operating theatre, recovery rooms, and sterilisation and staff units connected by a central lobby.
  • Student Accommodation
    A Danish startup is tackling the country’s shortage of affordable accommodation by leveraging the buoyancy of shipping containers. Urban Rigger has achieved a world first with its floating student hostel built from nine containers to provide 15 living spaces, a rooftop terrace, and other shared facilities.
  • An Eco-Friendly Bridge
    An award-winning architectural firm in Israel has designed a 160-metre covered bridge by connecting shipping containers to span a river and provide a gateway to the Arial Sharon Park in Tel Aviv. The bridge is intended for pedestrians and cyclists but also features special vehicles to offer a park-and-ride shuttle service for motorists.


Less ambitious but equally valuable shipping container buildings include garages, workshops, office containers, libraries, classrooms, laboratories, container homes, and ablution blocks. In a nutshell, whatever you can conceive, someone can probably build from containers.


Shipping Container Buildings for South Africa

Gauteng-based Absolute Containers is the nation’s leader in designing, manufacturing, and installing customised prefabricated buildings. We develop high-quality, affordable, and innovative structures that meet specified needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more details or to discuss container homes or other modular building requirements.