The Ultimate Guide to Custom Containers

Shipping containers have come a long way from being just used as cargo and transport devices.

While they are still being used for transport, they can do so much more.

Containers are now being used as building materials, thanks to their durability, availability, movability, and low-cost points.

In this guide, we’ll explore the concept of “arkitainer” designs and their rise in popularity, along with some helpful insights including:

  • What is shipping container architecture?
  • What kinds of regulations should you know?
  • Examples of custom containers
  • How to get a container customized

Let’s start by explaining what the ‘arkitainer’ concept is.

What is Shipping Container Architecture


So what is shipping container architecture?

It’s basically the concept of using shipping containers as structural elements instead of traditional materials, like brick, concrete, wood, etc.

It’s also referred as cargotecture or arkitainer, a portmanteau of cargo and architecture.

The origins for this design concept have several starting points. The Insbrandsten Company filed a patent for an exhibition booth made from a container in 1962.

A UK architect in the 1970s named Nicholas Lacey wrote his college thesis on using shipping containers for housing.

This led Philip C. Clark to patent a method for converting steel containers into habitable buildings.

Container Structure Patent

Shipping containers have been considered more eco-friendly than other building materials, especially for those interested in sustainability.

The very foundation of arkitainer design is the repurposing of existing materials, making these recycled containers a sustainable alternative.

What makes them popular is how people and businesses are using these containers. Some of the more popular choices:

Custom containers are unique, as they are custom built for a particular project. Their uniqueness is just one reason why the trend is so fetching.

Take for instance the Qiyun Mountain Camp.

Qiyun Mountain Camp

Set within the mountains of Huangshan, Anhui in China, this large adventure and extreme sport park was built entirely out of shipping containers.

Qiyun Mountain Camp is the largest natural adventure park in the country, spanning nearly 75,000 square feet.

We’ll look at more examples of custom containers a bit later.

Now that we’ve narrowed down the term for this trend, let’s look at some of the regulations when it comes to building a custom container.

What Kinds of Regulations Should I Know About?


One misconception that shipping container architecture receives is that there are no regulations for building with containers.

That’s not exactly true.

In many places, shipping container architecture falls under the same requirements and restrictions that other buildings have.

While there are exceptions, it’s always better to check with not only your state, but your county and city requirements and codes.

Codes and Regulations

Some of the relevant regulations to consider include:

As mentioned, there are some exceptions to the above; one of those being whether your building is temporary or permanent.

If temporary, such as a pop up shop or a moveable facility, then a shipping container building may not have to meet the area’s regulations.

If permanent, then these will be things to investigate before starting building in the area.

Another exception is if you are planning to build outside of your city zone; however, regardless of type or build area, you should always check local laws for any building codes or regulations.

Examples of Custom Containers


We’ve looked at what shipping container architecture is and what regulations should be considered when looking to build with a shipping container.

Now we’ll look at some examples of custom containers and how businesses have been using them.

Custom containers are what make up shipping container architecture, as it allows for businesses to construct offices and environments that meet their vision.

We mentioned the Qiyun Mountain Camp in a previous section, but that’s not the only large environment that’s been built from shipping containers.

Revolutsia is the first shipping container mall in the large city of Wichita. The mall began with 36 stacked containers, eventually rising to 45.

Local developer Michael Ramsey had the idea after hearing about other shopping malls that had been made with shipping containers from his nephew.

As mentioned above, Ramsey had to seek permission not just from the city of Wichita, but also their District Advisory Board and the city council before building.

Revolutsia Courtyard

Restaurants are another industry that has embraced using custom containers for their buildings.

For some, this also borders on being considered a pop up shop.

We take a deep dive into what pop up shops are in our ultimate guide, but essentially, these shops are temporary store fronts that offer service for a limited time.

Singapore Takeout, for example, is a mobile restaurant that travels the world providing authentic Singapore food to the world.

Why have one restaurant when you can have several?

That’s the idea of Market 707 in Toronto, the Churchill in Phoenix, Detroit Shipping Company in Detroit, and Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas.

The Churchill Phoenix

All four offer a food court like setting, featuring various bars, coffee shops, and restaurants for customers.

And all four are built from several shipping containers.

In all four cases, restaurants are only part of their draw; they also feature various shops for shopping, live stages, and offices.

Food and entertainment aren’t the only businesses who have utilized shipping containers. Everything from hotels to schools to even hospitals have customized containers.

How to Get a Customized Container


In this article, we’ve looked at the growing trend of customized containers, discussed the considerations for building codes, permits, and regulations, and looked at some customization examples.

Customized containers can be a great way of showcasing your business’ distinctiveness, setting yourself apart from your competitors.

And best of all, a custom container can either be temporary shop or a permanent location.

Custom containers can be modified with options like:

  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Shelving
  • Insulation
  • HVAC
  • Flooring

But as we’ve detailed from the above sections, customizations can be done to shorten or lengthen a container to specific size.

Southwest Mobile Storage can handle any customization you need!

Container SMS Customization

Not only do we have a full engineering staff, including certified welders and electricians, we also have an onsite fabrication facility where we can create limitless customizations.

We have a wide variety of shipping containers to match every need and every budget. We have storage containers for renovation or construction projects and containers for mobile offices.

If you’re interested in a custom container, give our dedicated storage experts a call at 800.686.9114 or fill out the form below. We can help find you the right container to fit your custom design and project.