The Many Uses for Old Shipping Containers

Steel is one of the most widely used construction materials in the world, including its many alloys, and steel is lighter and stronger than iron. Among its many uses is the manufacture of steel shipping containers, and most people have seen these distinct metal boxes either in person or on TV. Such steel containers are loaded onto ships to deliver to ports all around the world, and several million are in current use today. But not all of them are; countless containers are also sitting around in storage, doing no good to anyone. Fortunately, some creative entrepreneurs have realized that shipping container cafes, shipping container studios, and even shipping container booths can be made from them, if they aren’t simply melted down for raw steel first. How can modified shipping containers be fabricated, and what is there to know about shipping containers as a whole?

All About Shipping Containers

If every shipping container in existence were laid end to end with the others, the chain would go around the entire world twice, and there are about 17 million total. They also vary somewhat in size; many are eight feet wide and 9.5 feet tall, and vary in length from 20 to 40 feet. But some of the largest are several hundred feet long, to store many items at once A typical steel shipping container may last for 25 years if used properly, and they can be melted down into steel when their useful life is over. Just one typical container can be melted into 3,500 kilograms of steel. But take note that while six million steel shipping containers are currently in use, this means that around 11 million more are sitting idle in storage. Many would agree that this is a real waste of their materials and potential, so shipping container modifications have been done since the early 2010s to reverse that trend. Many companies today are more conscious than ever about recycling and resource management, and that extends to shipping container cafes and container booths, too.

Shipping Container Cafes and More

The idea of reusing old shipping containers is fairly new, but it is gaining ground rapidly, and a number of shipping container cafes and coffee shops recently appeared along the American west coast. In 2011, the shipping container store trend launched with a Starbucks in Washington state, inside a 450 square foot shipping container. Needless to say, the idea took off, and some shipping containers are used in entire groups this way. In Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas, an area of 19,000 square feet with 30 different shipping containers and 41 multi-functional modular cubes can be found, mostly forming a perimeter around the place. It may also be mentioned that several shipping containers of similar size can have some of their walls removed, and the containers can be combined to form larger amounts of space inside. Two or four containers can be combined this way to form a larger structure, and a second floor can be added, too. For stairs, an additional container can be set up diagonally by the side, and stairs are installed inside.

Pop up shops are a big business by now, and that industry is still growing, often among small companies. Right now, the concept of pop-up shops has a market share of some $50 billion USD. A steel shipping container is a convenient pre-made set of walls, floor, and roof for a new structure, and holes will be cut out for the windows and for utilities. Professionals can then add anything from prefab walls and lighting fixtures to carpeting, plumbing, electricity, and cooking stations and a counter (with a register). All this makes for a fine coffee shop or fast food restaurant.

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