5 Surprising Ways People Are Modifying Shipping Containers For Purposes You Never Imagined

Over the last decade, modifying shipping containers and building portable structures out of shipping containers has become more and more common. While this practice has just recently become mainstream in Canada, BigSteelBox Structures has been modifying containers for years, having created more than 1,000 modular structures for a wide variety of clients.

For BigSteelBox Structures, the most popular modular buildings we construct range from adding a window or door, to modular offices and living quarters, but you might be surprised just how easy it is to get creative with shipping containers.

Here's a look at five truly unique ways people are using modified shipping containers:

Pop-Up Businesses

Shipping container storeVendors who sell their wares at local fairs and festivals — or even retail or food-related businesses — are often left to set up tents or trailers each time they move from place to place. You can sell anything from handmade jewelry and vintage clothing, to spices and herbs from a shipping container pop-up shop!

Some of these vendors have begun to modify shipping containers into small shops, because this option makes them mobile, while still having the durability and security of a steel structure. These container buildings can be moved by truck, forklift or crane.  

Inside, a modified container can be fitted with shelves and racks to hold items, and desks to compete transactions. There can be a walkway for customers to browse through the container and air conditioning and heating systems can also be easily added to keep the space comfortable year-round.

Some pop-up container businesses even have tables and chairs permanently mounted to the custom ramps. When the ramp is pulled down to open the shop, these tables provide seating space outside the businesses. When the ramp is closed, the tables and chairs are neatly tucked into the structure.

When the vendor is ready to move to a new location, they can shut a few drawers or lock a few cabinets to secure their items, and then have it moved to a new location.


Finding space to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers in some cities can be tough, but some businesses (and even private residents) have begun turning shipping containers into greenhouses for this purpose.

The shipping container can be fitted with a glass ceiling which allows plenty of sunlight to shine in. The walls can be constructed from sliding glass panels, allowing them to be opened up in warmer weather and closed when it's cold.

You can maximize the growing space in a shipping container greenhouse by mounting growing trays and baskets directly on the walls. Adding a ventilation system in the ceiling will ensure adequate airflow. Plus, you don't have to worry about the strong, steel structure allowing in pests that might be harmful to the plants.

Mobile Labs

Mobile lab build from a shipping containerWhether you're in the oil and gas industry, the medical field, or the environmental field, it's important to have a safe and secure place to keep your laboratory and testing equipment. Finding secure space on a job site or moving the equipment and setting up in a new location , can be a huge burden. A shipping container modified into a mobile laboratory can simplify the process.

BigSteelBox has created several mobile laboratories. Each is customized to the industry and customers’ needs with top-quality equipment like stainless steel sinks, safety showers, and customized venting systems. You can store everything you need in one place, and there's plenty of space to work inside. Lab technicians don't have to adapt to a new setup in each location since you can transport the whole unit along with you from job site to job site.

A steel shipping container is perfect shell for a lab since it is rugged, fireproof, easy to clean and can be easily modified to meet blast safety standards. Not to mention it’s easy to move to a new location whenever necessary.  Plus, you can choose the size mobile lab you need, from smaller 10-foot containers, to larger 20-foot or 40-foot labs at custom widths.

Portable Kids' Playhouses

Kids love to have their own space to hang out and play. Tree houses and club houses have always been popular, but today's generation will soon discover shipping container playhouses. Smaller shipping containers (8 or 10 ft) are great for residential use, while larger, multi-container models are the perfect addition to playgrounds and apartment communities.

There's so much room for creativity when creating a playhouse out of shipping containers. From kitchens, to craft rooms, to kids' theater rooms with a television and child-sized lounge chairs, the possibilities are endless. We've even seen playground-like structures where the kids can climb up through a tall structure made from several containers, and then slide down a metal slide mounted on the outside.

Shipping containers are watertight, so you don’t have to worry about leaks in the ceiling. Plus, you can even add spray foam insulation to the walls if you want to add panelling to the interior walls to keep it cool or warm throughout the year.

One great thing about smaller, residential playhouses is that they can be brought along when you move. A towing company can easily move the playhouse to your new home so your child doesn’t have to leave their special space behind.

Fire Training Centers

Fire training facility built from shipping containersSteel shipping containers are perfect for fire training facilities since they are already heat- and fire-resistant. BigSteelBox Structures has already created custom fire training structures for fire departments and training academies looking for safe structures where they can conduct fire fighter training, practice rescues and hold experimental burns. The structures can be scaled up or down based on needs. Typically, several steel containers are stacked to create a tall structure.

Fire training centers made from shipping containers are pretty high-tech, employing exhaust systems to let heat escape from burn rooms and smoke generation systems to simulate a real fire situation. Exterior staircases, steel shutters, and movable partition walls are other popular features that make it easy to create customized training scenarios. And, because they are constructed of quality steel containers, they will last a long time.

Modified Shipping Container Experts

When it comes to shipping container modification and modular buildings, we often tell customers "if you can dream it, we can build it".  In addition to custom builds where we work with customers throughout the research, design and building process, BigSteelBox Structures offers a growing line of standard products such as offices

Contact us to discuss your ideas and start your project today: 1-877-373-1187.

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