After nearly two decades of carrying freight across the ocean, the colorful steel containers are scooped up by specialty construction companies to enter “retirement” as pools, coffee shops, apartment buildings, and tiny homes.
Demand for structures made from the converted containers has soared in recent years, Loni Greff, a managing partner at Tangle Pools, told Insider. Since the pandemic, container pools and backyard offices have proven especially popular, he said.
While the supply-chain crisis has made it difficult for Tangle Pools to stock up on container inventory, Greff said the public’s current fascination with shipping containers has prompted consumer intrigue in the industry.
“I think partially it’s their aesthetic, how simple they are, and how influential they are in our world,” Greff said. “The idea that these can be used to ship cargo and have such a rough life sometimes and then can be repurposed into something else definitely draws attention.”
Demand for backyard pools has exploded across the country as more and more people continued working from home.
The process of turning a shipping container into a pool can take six to eight weeks depending on the size, Greff said, as it includes cutting, welding, sandblasting, painting, plumbing, and installing automated tech.
In addition to recycling “retired” containers, single-use containers that are only shipped one way due to trade deficits can also be repurposed.
The rise of remote work has also led to a surge in demand for at-home offices, Greff told Insider. He said containers are particularly great for modular construction due to the innate strength of the structure designed to hold “75,000 pounds of cargo.”
Companies like Nevada-based Alternative Living Spaces specialize in turning shipping containers into livable spaces, such as one-bedroom homes, as Insider’s Brittany Chang reported last year.
The company’s ALT One Bedroom builds are created on 40-foot long by eight-foot wide by 9.5-foot tall shipping containers. And to make the homes mobile, the units are installed on 53-foot long by eight-foot wide by 3-foot tall trailers.
The simple structure is also popular among small coffee shops or food vendors.
Boxman Studios, a container-construction company that has worked with big-name clients including Nike, Redbull, BMW, and Oreo, says restaurants made from containers take “half the time it takes to build typical stick-and-brick structures.”