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Used Shipping Containers In Sustainable Urbanism

The Benefits of Used Shipping Containers in Sustainable Urbanism

As cities seek innovative solutions for more sustainable urbanism, used shipping containers have emerged as a popular solution to provide practical infrastructure for a variety of projects. With a growing emphasis on environmental consciousness in city planning, your city’s urbanization processes must align with eco-friendly practices, ensuring a sustainable future for your residents. It is for this reason that shipping containers can play an important role in reshaping city spaces. In this blog post, we examine the benefits and creative applications of shipping containers as sustainable solutions for your city or organization.

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Why Shipping Containers for Sustainable Urbanism?

Used shipping containers offer many advantages when it comes to sustainable urban planning. Here are a few reasons why they’re an excellent choice for cities and organizations looking for more affordable, sustainable solutions.

1. Ready-Made Solutions

Traditional construction projects can take a considerable amount of time and money, whereas converting or modifying a used shipping container for a specific purpose can be a faster process. This means that if your organization needs immediate solutions such as pop-up retail space or temporary facilities for a community event, you can get the infrastructure you need faster than if you had to build something from scratch.

2. Sturdy, Durable, and Secure Structures

Constructed from CORTEN steel, shipping containers are designed for enduring structural strength. They can withstand stacking, transportation stresses, and modifications without compromising their form or function. Resilient to extreme environmental and weather conditions, these containers resist wear and tear, making them suitable for repeated use and various applications. The incorporated locking mechanisms provide a secure enclosure, deterring theft, and unauthorized entry, and protecting valuable assets.

Used Shipping Containers modified for sustainable urbanism

Examples of modified used shipping containers.

3. Portability at Your Convenience

Designed to be easily transported, used shipping containers offer unrivaled flexibility to meet the changing needs of urban spaces. Their portability facilitates the rapid installation of markets, sports accommodations, and temporary events, promoting the dynamism and adaptability of communities. This ease of relocation enables cities to respond effectively to seasonal or short-term needs, enhancing urban life and community engagement.

4. Customization Freedom

One of the key advantages of using shipping containers in sustainable urbanism is the vast array of customization options available. Containers can be modified and customized with doors, windows, skylights, shelves, and even entire glass walls to suit any needs. Because they come in standardized dimensions, used shipping containers can be stacked or combined to create larger structures or multi-level facilities. This flexibility allows for the creation of unique, functional spaces that can be tailored to the specific requirements of a project. Additionally, shipping containers can be painted or treated with various finishes to align with aesthetic preferences, making them a versatile choice for urban development projects.

combined used shipping containers

Assembly of several used shipping containers.

5. Eco-friendly Solutions

The adoption of shipping containers for urban development also offers the opportunity to incorporate eco-friendly features that enhance sustainability. Green roofs, for example, can be installed on containers to provide natural insulation, reduce urban heat island effect and promote biodiversity in urban areas. Solar panels can be mounted on containers to make the structure fully electrically self-sufficient, while rainwater harvesting systems can be incorporated to collect and reuse rainwater for landscaping, toilet flushing, or other non-potable uses. These features not only contribute to the environmental sustainability of shipping container projects, they also deliver significant operating savings over time.

6. Rent or Buy Options

When it comes to choosing a shipping container, you have the flexibility to decide between renting or buying based on your specific needs and budget constraints. Purchasing a container is a long-term investment that facilitates customization, allowing for a sustainable infrastructure solution that aligns with your goals. This option not only provides the freedom to modify the container as needed but also the versatility to repurpose it for different uses once its initial purpose is served. On the other hand, renting a shipping container is ideal for projects with changing space requirements, offering adaptability and scalability without the commitment of a large initial investment. This flexibility is especially valuable for temporary projects or when demand fluctuates, ensuring efficient use of resources and space.

How Cities and Municipalities Can Use Shipping Containers

City planning thrives on innovation, and the versatility of shipping containers offers a blank canvas for cities to bolster communities and maintain a beautiful cityscape. In addition to offering secure storage for materials and equipment, here are a few ways your municipality can harness the full potential of used shipping containers:

  1. Urban Spaces and Structures: Use shipping containers to create modular structures and vibrant public gathering spaces such as pop-up parks and pedestrian places. Explore applications such as public restrooms, food stalls, container café, and other amenities like parklets and electrical bicycle charging stations, showcasing the limitless possibilities of container usage in urban environments.used shipping containers as parklets - urban structures

    A parklet in the Côte-des-Neige – Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough. Source: Facebook.

  2. Shelter and storage for sports and recreational activities: Utilize shipping containers for safe and weather-resistant storage solutions for sports and leisure equipment or use them as shelters near recreational areas such as skating rinks and skateboard parks.
  3. Art Installations and Exhibitions: Elevate public spaces with container-based pop-up art galleries, artisan markets, and street art initiatives, including container murals and performance spaces that infuse creativity into urban areas.used shipping containers as art display

    A mural street art installation on shipping containers.

  4. Urban Gardens and Green Spaces: Transform containers into urban greenhouses to cultivate plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetables, or create vertical gardens, maximizing greenery in compact city spaces for healthier communities.
  5. Tourism Welcome Centre and Ticketing: In areas frequented by tourists, establish container-based tourism hubs for information dissemination and ticket sales, creating welcoming entry points for visitors with all necessary resources and guidance for exploring the city.
  6. Summer Market and Retail Booths: Foster entrepreneurship and local commerce by setting up container-based summer markets or retail booths, offering spaces for showcasing products and supporting small businesses.Used shipping containers for summer and winter markets

    Christmas Market in the Old Port of Montreal.

  7. Community Centres and Libraries in Underserved Areas: Address the gap in access to educational resources by converting containers into community centres or libraries, particularly in underserved neighborhoods, ensuring that knowledge and culture are within everyone’s reach.used shipping container as community structure

    A space for teenagers in a park in Notre-Dame-de-l’ïle-Perrot. Source: Facebook.

    In Conclusion

    Used shipping containers represent a transformative approach to sustainable urbanism, offering cities and organizations versatile, environmentally-friendly solutions in a wide range of applications. Whether creating dynamic public spaces or providing secure, weatherproof shelter, these sturdy structures embody efficiency, adaptability, and durability. Their ease of customization and potential for integrating eco-friendly features such as solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems further enhance their appeal as a cornerstone of innovative urban development. Thanks to shipping containers, municipalities can contribute to the long-term sustainability and resilience of urban environments while fostering the development of their communities.

    Conterm has over 50 years of experience in used shipping container sales, rental, and conversion. You can count on us to answer all your questions and help you find the best container for your project. Using our shipping container modification services, you’ll be able to transform your container to perfectly suit your needs and budget. Contact us for more information on our services.

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