The Definitive Guide To Shipping Container Uses

Shipping containers are useful, but we don’t think you know how useful they can be. Below we look at a definitive list of shipping container uses – we guarantee you’ll want one after! 


Shipping containers are containers that are designed to be strong enough to be shipped and handled whilst protecting the items inside. They can come in many different shapes and sizes – from large steel cubes designed to be shipped long distance, to corrugated boxes. They come in various different sizes and are commonly between around 20 and 40 feet and above 8 foot high. The doors are commonly double doors that are attached to one end and hinged for maximum access. Although self storage is extremely popular within the UK at the moment, shipping containers don’t get as much of a spotlight, despite having more uses than standard storage units.

A standard storage unit is supremely useful for storing anything from seasonal furniture to stock, but it is in a fixed location. Storage containers differ because you can move them around, and do so much with them.

Have you been tempted to invest in a storage container? Maybe you have never heard of them before, or perhaps you have a limited idea of what they can be used for. In this article we take a closer look at the many uses of storage containers, so much so, you’re going to get to the end of the article struggling to find a reason not to use one!


Common Uses


Shipping containers are commonly used within construction where temporary containers are not only useful, but necessary. Site storage can house equipment, safety gear like safety clothes and helmets. Site storage is extremely important to provide a quick and easy way to keep items secure and safely locked away from potential criminals, and to keep items safe from the weather. Generator storage is another important role of shipping containers on a construction site. Generators need to be protected from the weather, and from criminals. They also need to be put away for safety reasons. They may also be run from within the shipping container. Shipping containers are also commonly used as offices, training areas or staff areas where electrics, seating and other necessary items can be easily and safely housed. Construction is always temporary, but if the construction period is going to be anything from months to years, shipping containers are an easy way to provide housing and storage for various different reasons.

When construction is completed, the containers are simply returned.



Horticulture has a true home for storage container usage. As so much space is needed, and true buildings aren’t necessary, shipping containers provide a low cost way to provide storage or shelter in many different ways. Garden centres for example, may use a container to store stock, or to extend the premises of the building without actually building anything on the land permanently. Allotments may also make use of a shipping container for a shop or an office. The containers may also be used in this instance for meeting rooms for allotment staff or members. Large horticultural gardens, allotments, garden centres and perhaps extended landscaping jobs may use these temporary containers to store tools, or even more expensive equipment like chainsaws and lawnmowers. Lawnmowers held in shipping containers are covered under insurance as the units (check with your insurer!) count as secure storage.



Schools, colleges and universities have many reasons to use storage containers. This is particularly relevant at the moment because schools are running out of space, because our population is growing so quickly. These lockers have been used as emergency classrooms, and work really well as a temporary addition to help provide classrooms for pupil and avoid overcrowding in classes. School offices can also be purposed from containers, and schools, colleges or universities might also want to use them as changing rooms, disabled toilets or additional outdoor toilets for events, sports or equipment storage, or even as additional art or playroom extensions. Caretakers might find them useful for storing cleaning or repairs equipment, and the school admin could use them as useful on site document storage if a permanent archive storage facility off site is not convenient or appropriate at that time.



Farmers who are unable to, or who do not want to build additional outbuildings may find shipping containers extremely useful for various different reasons. Farmers aren’t short on space to place storage, but they might be short on time and manpower to create new buildings, and may not want any permanence to structures placed on their land. Clearly they provide an excellent form of storage for grains, equipment, biofuel for biomass, generators etc. All of which really can be costly if stolen or damaged, and farmers don’t have the capacity to be making losses these days, so secure storage is a godsend. Oil or fuel storage, chemicals for crops and even large scale farming equipment can be housed in storage containers. A farm may also want an office, or if there is a farm shop or cafe storage can be provided for supplies, or even a toilet for visitors depending.


Animal Care

Catteries, kennels and equestrian centres have many uses for additional storage. From cafes and offices, to tack and food storage. Horse yards inparticular will always need extra quick storage because they are ran very similarly to a farm. Busy day to day goings on revolve around the management of the animals and any investments in extensions will be for a better menage or better facilities. Hay storage is never the priority, and doesn’t need to be with storage containers. Catteries and kennels may find a storage container the ideal solution for storage away from their home to keep pet food, equipment, leads, blankets and cleaning equipment safe and secure.


Sports Clubs/ Associations

Sports clubs will have a multitude of uses for a shipping container. With so much land and equipment, it stands to reason that storage and shelter are a must. Storage for sports equipment like rackets, safety gear and mallets, or bigger items like quad bikes, bicycles and segways. Canoe and kayak storage is a common use for shipping containers. Clubs may actively use containers for things like changing rooms, disabled toilets, training rooms and offices. Need an extra safety training room or extension to kayak storage? Get a shipping container placed and you’ve got one. Need a training room for your parachuting business, a shipping container can provide that for you as soon as it is placed. Really, they are a godsend for organisations needing quick sheltered rooms.



Festivals have a wide range of usage for shipping containers. In preparation they may use the containers to house decorations and equipment for marquees, tents signage and leaflets. During the event containers might be used for things like disabled toilets, flyer or paperwork storage, staff break rooms, safety training rooms and equipment storage. They might also be used to store food, drink and related equipment like paper cups and plates. Festivals are temporary, which makes shipping containers ideal because they can be shipped in and shipped out. Most commonly you will see shipping containers used as onsite security or entry ticket points at festivals.


Offices/ Business

Businesses may use shipping containers for many different reasons. One excellent reason is as a recycling store, as it provides a cheap way to enable the business to improve on their green credentials. It may also work as a paper or file storage unit to clear room in the office. We pay a lot per square metre for office space so, it makes sense to make use of every inch as office space, keeping filing cabinets and unnecessary paperwork out of the office either in deep storage, or in this case, an onsite shipping container. Shipping containers may also come in handy to help with temporary toilets in the case of work being done in the main building, and as additional office space or training space.



Retailer may find use for creative space for a shop, or for storing seasonal goods like christmas decorations and other seasonal display items. The container could also help store additional stock and would happily serve as an external stock room if needed.



Offshore shipping containers have many uses for temporary needs, or for uses where permanent buildings cannot be placed. Helicopter or small plane waiting area or safety area, riggers storage, testing booths, training areas – they have many uses in these often testing conditions and scenarios.


Standard Applications

As well as different industry uses, shipping containers have standard applications in various different categories. Containers may be housed at permanent storage facilities as additional units. They may also be placed anywhere a person wants them either publically or privately and used to store a wide range of items including: household items, stock, furniture, collectables, non-perishable foods and liquids.

Containers are also commonly used for training areas, staff areas and offices, as well as storage for equipment and staff personal belongings.


Unusual Uses

Aside from the uses listed above, and many other conservative uses, shipping containers are quite well known for their more unusual uses. People get extremely creative and innovative with them, creating uses you might never have even considered.



Swimming Pools

In hotter climates you can find a range of homes who have embraced shipping containers in a truly fun way – as swimming pools. You can find a cargo container turned into a swimming pool where it has been cut in half and is actually much more durable than a standard non-sunken swimming pool. Sure there are a few bits to be added like a water filtration system, steps and general finishing, but there are companies who offer the pools fully finished, you just get to run laps in them and fill them with inflatables. Let’s be honest, it really is the ultimate eco-friendly option for a pool and you can guarantee no-one else in your town will have one right? They last about 25 years and cost upwards of £8,000, a snip of the cost of a standard swimming pool. Alternatively you could even build one yourself if you’re qualified and ambitious enough, although in this climate, we’re not entirely sure you would get much use out of it!



Shipping home’s are much more common than you think. From miniature ones, to huge innovative luxury eco style builds, shipping containers are pretty popular when it comes to accommodation. Like any new house build, there are upsides and downsides to container homes. They do offer amazing value for money of course, they are environmentally friendly, they can be super cheap to buy and do up, you can construct them off site then plant them on your chosen plot and they are very fast to build. The only issue is, there aren’t exempt from permits and building regulations and you will need specialist contractors to build the home. So it is an ambitious project overall because you’re building a house from scratch. Whether it is three containers or 45, there’s still a long process involved. But the examples of container homes are so mind blowing we can see it is totally worth the effort in terms of savings, environmental benefits and pure aesthetics.


Pop Up Businesses

Corrugated metal actually looks supremely cool and provides a trendy setting for pop up businesses. Restaurants inparticular work well in shipping containers, and theatres and music events benefit from the enclosed acoustics. Containers may be temporary or permanently used to house different or permanent businesses looking to provide a service to the public in an alternative setting.


School Classrooms

In parts of the world where money is extremely stretched you can find some stunning examples of solar powered shipping container classrooms, providing education to the local community in the most innovative way.


Street Food Carts

Street food is huge, and many of us are absolutely loving this revolution where we can pop out on a lunch break and enjoy anything from pulled pork steamed buns, to vegan sushi all within a few steps of each other. Containers are being turned into street food carts which can be used at festivals, in shopping centres, or in permanent residence in various locations.



Well, if shipping containers can be homes they can be hotels as well right? You might stay at an innovative shipping container hotel made from lots of shipping containers, or at a bed and breakfast where you might stay in one converted container. You might even find amazing versions on that well known ‘rent your home or spare room’ company as well. From one on a clifftop overlooking foggy mountain ranges, to conversions at the bottom of the garden with a shared pool, there are options everywhere for you to try this form of accommodation out.



Workshops might be a music studio, carpentry room, karate class space, or even a yoga studio. You can use workshops for anything you like, the fact they are made from a shipping container means that they cost you a lot less to install and run. So really they are ideal for hobbies and startup companies where you don’t have a lot of money to invest.


Bottom Of The Garden

This could be a shed, yoga studio, art studio or outdoor office. The point is, it is an easy set up at the bottom of the garden that you can use for whatever you wish. No need for DIY shed building or paying tons of money for a posh outhouse to be made. Shipping containers are eco-chic and practical – perfect for whatever you want to do at the bottom of your garden.


Temporary First Aid Or Hospital

At events, you might find shipping containers are run for first aid or paramedic services. At hospitals you could find you are having an MRI in a shipping container. At events it is because the units are so easy to install and easy to remove. With hospitals they act as easy additions to the building, without any of the costs. So patients can get access to the treatment or diagnostics they need.


Commercial Ventures

Because shipping containers look so trendy and eco, they are being used quite readily for commercial ventures. You are likely to see entire markets of shipping containers providing spaces for pop up shops. This is incredible for companies who want exposure and retail space, but they can’t afford a permanent residency in a shop. Ideal in expensive central locations. It also greatly benefits shoppers who have come to love individual, ambitious entrepreneurial businesses.


Art Galleries

Shipping containers are commonly used as art galleries, which look superbly trendy externally. The refurbished look on the outside reflects the art and creativity in the inside. Art galleries enjoy the easy extension of shipping containers to house new art installations that may actually need to be built around, or installed into a building, which wouldn’t be commercially viable with a traditional brick building.


Saunas/ Steam Rooms

Where previously these kinds of luxurious additions would be costly in any home, you could now add one yourself made from a shipping container. Usually embellished with the wood inside, these innovative designs are extremely cool and could easily be transferred to a new property if you moved home. Although, they would likely add value to any home should you leave one behind.


Quick Accommodation

When disaster strikes, commonly churches, sports halls and fields (with added tents) become the area to temporarily place those who have lost their homes. Shipping containers can provide quick and cheap temporary housing for people who may be displaced indefinitely or for a long time.


Bars/ Clubs

People really enjoy surprise clubs or bars that only get announced last minute, which are usually placed somewhere unusual. Shipping containers provide the ideal location for a bar, or club where you may want to quickly change the decor, or move the location of the bar or club around. People used to enjoy drinking in unusual settings at festivals only, but now, we like pushing the boundaries and would happily visit a temporary bar or club on a mountain top, in a forest, in an industrial estate, or on a beach. We all want the best Instagram pictures right?

Student Housing

In cities or countries where space is an issue, shipping containers can provide excellent student accommodation for very little investment. Often you will find them turned into buildings just like halls of residence, with specialist builders having quickly stacked the containers to create a fantastic solution for student accommodation shortages. Universities will be delighted at the savings they can make from opting for shipping containers.


Alternative Housing In Builtup Areas

In places like London, space is extremely expensive, hence the headlines discussing shocking accommodation stories like people paying over the odds for space under the stairs in someone’s home. Rooftops, alleyways and back gardens can provide excellent accommodation options for inner-city workers who may want to stay somewhere a bit different. Space is at a premium, and shipping containers can provide excellent accommodation options at little building cost.



In educational facilities laboratories may not be able to be created inside main buildings. The shape and structure of shipping containers makes them perfect for this use, enabling children and students to benefit from an external science laboratory.


How Can You Use A Shipping Container?

As you can see, there are many, many ways to use a shipping container. We are sure there are many ways they have been used that we haven’t listed. Innovation and creativity can turn these simple objects into amazing things, expensive things, things of value and of high use. The only question is, what could you use a shipping container for? Fancy a swimming pool? Shed? Bottom of the garden office? Food truck? Unusual home? Storage container? A shipping container could be the answer to many of your dreams, or just a great option for a practical problem. Either way, we’re sure you’re now pretty excited at the thought of an object you once thought nothing of!