Shipping Container Offices: The New Trend in Office Design

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Shipping containers are no longer just for cargo. They can be used to build swimming pools, hospitals, schools and even office spaces with all of the inside space being customizable!

For example, shipping container offices are perfect for construction sites because they’re portable; you can move them around or stack them on top of one another as needed. They also provide great privacy due to their dividable space, so it doesn’t matter what type of company you have – whether its freelancers working from your own office or larger companies with multiple employees – these versatile boxes will help meet all needs without breaking the bank.

Aesthetic appeal aside, the conversion of shipping containers into living and work spaces has its perks. You can save both time and money when compared to building a structure from scratch or using prefabricated materials.

If you’re thinking about building, buying, or renting your own shipping container office, here are some important considerations to keep in mind.

What Are Shipping Container Offices? 

shipping container office

Shipping container offices are a type of modular building that can be repurposed for any business. It’s a cost-effective way to start out small and grow over time, as well as an excellent choice for those who want flexibility in their office space.

Compared to traditional office space, shipping container offices are often a better choice for start-ups and small companies with tight budgets.

Benefits of Shipping Container Offices


An office container can be used to create any size office space, making the shipping container office an excellent way to grow your company as you go along without having expenses pile up from excessive overhead or unused space.


The cost of renting or purchasing a used container office is often much more affordable than an equivalent space in a traditional office building or retail shop.

They cost around $25 per square foot, and this does not include any construction costs because shipping containers come pre-built with all necessary wiring and plumbing

This makes shipping container offices a great option for small businesses who cannot afford to take on too much overhead or unused space in their budget. Your traditional office space can also be expensive when it comes time to build out your office.

Traditional offices are often designed to be beautiful but the cost of upgrading your office space can quickly get out of control. Shipping container offices help keep costs low so you don’t feel as though you’re sacrificing too much for a professional looking workspace.

Mobile and Transportable


Shipping container offices are mobile and transportable, so you can relocate it without having to worry about renting out new space elsewhere. This also means that container offices provide the ultimate level of flexibility for small businesses who may need to move around from time.

Decreased Construction Time

You can often have a container office up and running in just a couple of days. This is because containers are pre-fabricated, so they come with all the necessary wiring and plumbing already installed.

Environmentally Friendly Choice

A major benefit to using shipping containers is because of how environmentally friendly they are. With container offices, there is no need for building a foundation, so you don’t have to worry about using up land or harming the environment.

Same Interior Design Choices as Traditional Structures

Even though they are cheaper and often come pre-built, you still have plenty of customization options when it comes to container offices.

Building Sizes and Design Options

New vs Used Shipping Containers

The first thing you need to decide on is if you want to use new or used storage containers. Most businesses opt for used containers because they quality is still good, but they are much less expensive.



In order to make your container office work for you, it is important that the size of a shipping container fits in with your business needs. Standard containers come in 20′ and 40′. However, many modular units can start out as either one or two levels at 8ft wide by 9’tall.

Spaces in a shipping container office can be reconfigured to meet the needs of your business. For example, you might stack containers on top each other or place them side by side for extra floor space. Containers are also available as linked units that maximize space and storage opportunities even further!

Interior Finishes

There’s plenty of interior finishes you can choose from for your container office. Things like office furniture, paint color, and flooring are all customizable.

You’ll want to make sure you understand that if you choose a container office built from new shipping containers, it will cost more because they have been brand spanking new for the entire duration of their life thus far.

  • Walls and Flooring – Container walls can be finished with wood or metal studs, drywall, insulation and paneling. It’s also possible to install plywood flooring if you’re looking for a traditional look.
  • Office Furniture – You can borrow or rent furniture for your container office space from a traditional interior design store. Additionally, you could purchase used containers to use as an office desk with the intention of recycling them after they have served their purpose in your shipping container office.
  • Windows and Doors – Modular offices can be customized with several types of windows to create a bright, airy office space that your staff will love. Shipping containers come in single or double pane glass doors and also metal door options for the perfect fit!
  • Proper Insulation – Shipping containers are made with a high level of insulation to keep the cargo items cool or warm for as long as possible. No matter what your reason for renting a shipping container, it’s important that you make sure they’re properly insulated before installation.
  • Lighting – You can easily hang lights on the exterior walls of your container office space using chains and
  • Heating and Air Conditioning – Shipping container offices are often equipped with heating and air conditioning to keep your employees in the office comfortable.
  • Rooftop Gardens – Want to give your shipping container offices a green touch? You can install rooftop gardens on top of your container
  • Security – It is essential that you make sure all entrances are secured as soon as possible! The last thing you want is equipment or inventory being stolen from your office space

Exterior Finishes

There are many different exterior finishes you can choose from to make your shipping container stand out.

Steel is the best exterior finish you can choose from for a modern look. It has been used on many commercial buildings in recent years and will mimic that appearance perfectly! You may also want to consider using vinyl siding or metal siding, both of which provide a similar texture with different colors available.

If you are looking to add a finishing touch on your container, consider environmentally friendly finishes. They not only help the planet but they won’t harm when adding it in too!

Stucco is an option for exterior walls that may require more maintenance than other types of coverings. Spray foam insulation can be applied before or after painting and will keep your office warm enough even if you live somewhere cold where there’s all seasons change frequently.

Examples and Uses for Container Offices

Sales/Leasing Offices

Using shipping container sales and leasing offices, management can place office units wherever there is space available. Potential customers will stop in at the store due to a fashionable and unique container-based structure. You can use the customization options to make your organization’s interior and exterior reflect the identity of your company.

Construction Site Offices

Due to the ease of office placement as well as the additional security and privacy, shipping container offices are often preferred by construction managers on job sites. With minimal site preparation, construction companies can temporarily relocate their offices on-site. Corten steel containers, made of 16-gauge steel, are a safer, more durable alternative to travel trailers.

Retail Container Office

Businesses that utilize shipping containers for retail stores can depend on the durability of the containers, which are guaranteed to last for many years. The structures create an environment that is inviting and eye-catching, which encourages customers to enter and enjoy the space.



The healthcare industry often use office containers in order to store supplies or to handle patient overflow. Sometimes they opt for combo containers due to their specific needs.

DIY Office Containers – Things to Consider

If you plan on going the DIY route for your office needs, then there are some things that you should consider before purchasing shipping containers for the job:

What is your budget? Depending on what type of container you purchase, prices can range from $2000 to upwards of $20,000 for new containers. Make sure to figure out how much money will be needed in order to make this project a reality.

Inspect the unit personally

Take a look at the unit to see its condition and see whether or not the dimensions fit your needs. In addition to determining whether any repairs might need to be made, the inspection can also assist in determining whether further fortifications or preparations need to be made in order to use the building for a container office. Remind yourself, this will become your new workplace. It is crucial that you are sure of its structural integrity.

Know building and zoning laws in your area

In terms of construction materials and guidelines, there will be different rules and policies for each community. Find out if your area has any requirements or restrictions regarding shipping containers. After all, it’s still an unconventional material for construction.

Plan Structure and Layout Ahead

Shipping containers are tricky to work with because, while there is some open space, it is not really all that much. You are also limited to a narrow flow of movement, unless you add another container or module.

It is therefore important to plan space usage properly. As long as they are properly stacked one on top of the other, you can stack multiple levels of container vans. When empty, shipping containers can be stacked 12 high. The alternative is to expand horizontally, but this will require ample land space.

You’ll also need to prepare for the plumbing requirements and the electrical connections. The plumbing chases should already be cut out of the van floors and ceilings, especially if you plan to have multiple levels of containers.

Plumbing and Electrical

If you want to turn a shipping container into a habitable office, you have to take into account its infill system. A container’s infill system includes the MEP system – Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing. Due to the unique design challenges of a container and the limited space compared to other building structures, this area requires significant consideration.

Several modifications have to be made inside the container when it comes to plumbing and electrical systems. Consequently, you must make sure that the plumbing and electrical components are supported by an internal framing system. Plumbing and electrical systems can only be installed after the frame has been installed. Aside from matters related to space, the installation process is the same as for a standard home or office.

HVAC system integration

A container office is no exception when it comes to its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) options. To determine which option will work best for you, you must first determine the size of the office where you want to control the temperature and climate.

Fortunately, there are several options available. You could, for example, install Window Air Conditioners in your office to regulate the temperature effectively. A container office divided into multiple sections could also be fitted with air ducts. Air flows freely from one part of the office to another through the air ducts.

Keep in mind that air ducts must be exposed. Rooftop turbine vents are another option. They are easy to install and do not require any power. Installing exhaust fans and fixed louver vents can also serve the purposes of ventilation and air conditioning.



You have to remember that shipping containers aren’t designed to be habitable; their only purpose is to transport. Because of this, you have to make various modifications to make them habitable.

Insulating the shipping container is one of the first modifications you should make to make it a habitable office. A container office’s insulation goes beyond its framing. In addition, make sure your insulation prevents vapor from entering your office, so moisture cannot develop.

Foam insulation and blown insulation are common methods of insulating containers. Insulation panels are another option. The downside to spray foam insulation is that it is more expensive than other insulation methods. Additionally, it is thinner, and you need to spray both the interior and exterior of your containers.

Painting Your Used Container

It’s possible that you’re thinking of painting your newly acquired container to fit your company’s theme. You need to keep in mind that the shipping container will have its original paint on, and you will need to follow a specific process to refinish it. A painted container can boost your marketing strategy or give it a fresher appearance. In addition to increasing its longevity, painting it will also slow down the rust.

Keep in mind that re-painting used containers is a much bigger project than painting new ones. Remove any markings from the shipping line if it has any. In order to remove heavy rust from the container, first wash it and once it has dried, grind it. Afterwards, you can either spray or roll paint on your container.


How much does a container office cost?

There are multiple factors determining the price of a container office, including the size and dimensions of the office, the number of containers needed, and their condition.

In general, if you want to construct a container with brand new components (or those that have been shipped overseas only once) the cost for each container will be roughly $3,000 to $6,000, depending on its size, features, and market price.

On the other hand, you can buy used containers for $1,000-$4,000. When deciding whether you should buy new or used containers, it is a good idea to consider how long you will be using the unit. Do you plan to use the office space permanently or semi-permanently?

Buying used may make sense. Your return on investment will be higher. Will it be temporary? Choosing used containers is probably a wise decision.

It’s easy to overlook essentials like delivery costs and add-ons (like interior finishing, accessories, electricity, etc.) when budgeting for a shipping container office. Keep in mind that you want to create a container office that is as comfortable as possible.

After all, it’s where you’ll be working every day! To get the most out of your new space, ensure you consider all of your options before buying.

Do you need planning position to convert a shipping container?

As local authorities have differing regulations depending on where you live, we can’t provide an answer on the point of planning permission, but a shipping container is generally regarded as a temporary structure, and therefore doesn’t require planning permission.

However, the permission requirement can, for example, apply in areas of natural beauty or conservation zones.

What do you put under a shipping container?

For several reasons, pier foundations are the most common choice for putting beneath shipping containers. Their construction is simple, fast, and inexpensive.

Pier foundations are constructed from concrete blocks. Concrete blocks are essentially rectangular containers and contain reinforcing steel inside for improved strength in tension. They typically measure 50 centimeters by 50 centimeters by 50 centimeters.



Shipping container offices are a great alternative to traditional office space. They’re affordable, customizable and offer mobility and versatility for the modern day business owner who needs it. If you have any thoughts about shipping container offices or want to know more please comment below! I hope this post has given you some insight on why they might be beneficial in your search for new office space.

Ryan Stetson

Ryan Stetson

Currently own two 20' and 40' containers converted into an office/workshop. Having worked in the shipping industry for 6 years, my goal is to share my personal experiences as well as connect potential container buyers with suppliers around the US.

Ryan Stetson

Ryan Stetson

Currently own two 20' and 40' containers converted into an office/workshop. Having worked in the shipping industry for 6 years, my goal is to share my personal experiences as well as connect potential container buyers with suppliers around the US.

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