On-Trend Buildings from Shipping Containers

One of the most ideal locations in the United States for purchasing shipping containers is in the Pacific Northwest, which is known for being the setting for the popular “Twilight” movies and books. Fans of the series, based on the novels of author Stephanie Meyers, may remember the opening scene in the third film of the “Twilight: Eclipse,” in which errant Forks, WA student Riley Biers (Xavier Samuel), haplessly exits a bar, only to be taunted, by a (literal) pushy supernatural force, who edges him onto a rainy, dark, wooden pier. Situated on that and many other docks are cargo ships that transport many of the shipping containers for sale.

Pacific Northwest Pier

To go even further, you might remember the television series “Here Come the Brides,” also Washington-set, about the three Bolt brothers (all honeys) who were loggers. So whether the frame of reference for the Pacific Northwest is contemporary or historical (“HCTB” was set in the 1870s), it’s nearly impossible to separate the state from the sea. And for those of us who consider such things, you can’t separate the sea from shipping containers.

In the course of time, and as international travel develops and grows, several substantial shipping container companies have taken their business to the busy port cities in Washington and Oregon, and cargo containers can be purchased for the original purpose or, in the increasingly popular world of eco-friendly living, as homes, offices, shops, schools.

The first step is to look for shipping containers using the popular term CONEX, which is short for Container Express – you have several options available, as a quick Internet search will demonstrate. An example of the most standard sized containers and two sizes conex containers available at Port Containers USA or any of the more popular shipping container resellers and manufacturers across America:

  • Smaller – 10, 20, 24 feet long X 8 feet wide
  • Larger – 40, 48, 53 feet long X 8 feet or 8 feet 6 inches wide
  • Standard ISO Height – 8 feet 6 inches
  • High Cube – 9 feet 6 inches

Choose the type of container you wish to purchase based on what you’d like to do with the containers. You can purchase a new storage container and customize that, or you can reuse, repurpose and recycle and opt for a second- (or third- or fourth-) hand storage container.

It doesn’t matter if the original container once carried semi-finished products, like lumber, wood chips, paper, raw logs, beef, petroleum, sand and gravel, cherries, petroleum or bulk chemicals. You may not get a pristine container, but one with plenty of “life” in it and one that can provide you with exactly what you need for a fraction of the cost.

Many locations offer onsite storage containers for sale, throughout the region. Typically made from steel or aluminum, the containers are easy to acquire. Most are examined closely for quality and are cleaned thoroughly.

Office Space

A storage container is a fantastic idea for a home office, an additional space in your backyard or your side yard. Several units together can create a fully functioning office in which considerable staff can work. A container-base office can be a temporary or long-term situation. Generally, most businesses choose either the 20 ft. or 40 ft. mobile office. They provide a substantial storage space or working environment on existing property. They are easily transported and delivered. Winds and water-tight storage units ensure that items within the office are kept safe and dry. Be comfortable keeping computers or other electronic appliance clean, dry and safe.

For a business, you’re starting with walls and ceiling trim with wood framed fiberglass insulation, an A/C window unit, a 100 AMP electrical panel, 110V (two-plug) outlets (one dedicated to the A/C unit), overhead florescent light and switch, and entrance/personal door with deadbolt, handle lock and drip edge, as well as a painted interior. Upgrade to exterior paint, a 1500 WATT baseboard heating unit, “Swing Arm” security bar installed on the side door for additional security, and add your own custom touches.

A trend for offices today is to transform former warehouse buildings. When one former-warehouse office space wasn’t equipped to accommodate private offices, and it wasn’t economical to keep the interior climate-controlled, the company, MVP, a local printing company opted to use shipping containers as offices.

ShelterKraft Cargo Cottage

photo credit: Heath Ashli


Particularly intriguing for many are the infinite possibilities of transforming shipping containers into homes. Particularly, there are local opportunities for shipping containers. In 2014, The Seattle Times reported on Seattle architect Kai Schwarz, who, in 2011, coined the phrase “cargotecture.” Schwarz has perfected the creative alterations and turns old shipping containers into homes that range from £22,500 to £46,300. Schwarz’ smallest, dubbed “The Cargo Cottage,” begins with a 20 ft. It features modern stainless-steel appliances, hardwood floors, tiled bath with shower and a queen-sized bed. A person with outstretched arms, standing in the center, can almost touch both sides. The Cargo Cottage retails for £22,500 and the largest home, which Schwarz calls “Cargo Haus”, is a double 40-ft. container and 640 sq. ft.

Building homes with storage containers has proven tremendously successful, with homes created with one to up to more than 40 containers, designed with green living and creativity in mind.

Even existing homes benefit from storage containers transformed into guest homes.

Other Trending Structures

Other facilities developed from storage containers include hotels and connected cafes. Sleeping rooms, bathrooms and showers are easily crafted from containers, as temporary housing or lodging.

For the doctors without borders types, storage containers are an excellent source for a medical clinic in a remote area, because containers can easily be partitioned into reception, consultation, examination, and laboratory rooms.

Opportunities for retail facilities: storage containers can be transformed into shopping malls, with stalls and vendors selling different wares and offering services. Containers are an excellent way to sell short-term or seasonal wares.

Schools throughout the world have built additional classrooms and storage facilities.

In the growing world trend towards data centers and call centers, storage containers are an excellent way to quickly build offices.

The possibilities for new and recycled storage facilities are endless, left only to the creative minds of the designers and builders.

Cover photo credit: Chris & Tina Pfeiffer / Flickr


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