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Here's How To Turn A Shipping Container Into An Office

08 December 2022

Starting a business is no small feat. Not only do you have to worry about the logistics of getting your product or service off the ground, but you also have to find a way to house your operation. For many new businesses, this can be a challenge. Office space is expensive, and traditional leases often require a long-term commitment. Today, we want to explore the idea of repurposing a storage container into an office space.

Previously, the idea of people living and working in shipping containers was not the most ideal But now, we have insulation methods and architectural approaches that make containers one of the most affordable real-estate options–which explains why the concept is picking up steam across the US and the world.

In fact, the 2022 edition of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar will feature the world's first stadium built out of storage containers. Stadium 974 (or the Ras Abu) is the world's first modular and transportable sports arena.

Storage containers are widely available and can be easily customized to meet your needs. Plus, they offer several advantages over traditional office spaces. First, they're more affordable. Second, they're more flexible; you can easily move or expand your operation as needed. Finally, they're more sustainable; repurposing an existing container reduces your environmental impact.

But before you take the plunge, let's cover all the bases, shall we?

Things to Consider Before Building Container Offices

In 1956, the global merchant marine industry started using shipping containers. Since then, standardized containers have made shipping goods worldwide much easier and more reliable.

Today, over 21 million containers are in use, and many businesses have found that repurposing these containers for office space is a great way to save money and create a unique work environment. When considering such a project, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

Structural Integrity of the Shipping Container

The condition of a shipping container determines how much you'll pay for it. It can also give you an idea of how much the renovations will cost.

Shipping containers come in the following categories:

Category A

These brand-new shipping containers have never been at sea or in storage facilities. They cost more since they offer the best structural integrity. You can start using them with fewer preparations.

Category B

These containers are only used once before being put on the market. So, they come in good condition and cost less than category A. Unfortunately, there's a high demand for such units – It may take a bidding war to get a favorable price.

Category C

Class/Category C shipping containers have survived multiple trips across the sea. This makes them cheaper to acquire. However, you may need to splurge on sandblasting, decontamination, and other refurbishments to make the containers worthy of an office.

Federal And State Building Codes

These codes can vary depending on the property's location, construction type, and the office space's intended use. However, failure to comply with these codes can result in costly fines or even the demolition of the entire office. In some cases, obtaining a special permit from the local zoning board may also be necessary.

But as long as you meet the basic requirements for safety and structural integrity, it shouldn't be hard to get the approvals you need.

Also, to avoid potential problems, it's always best to consult an experienced architect or engineer before breaking ground.

Container Sourcing

Most people prefer buying things from their closest vendor. There is nothing wrong with this when it comes to most common commodities, but it doesn't necessarily work for shipping containers. Therefore, window-shop far and wide if you want to get the best deals.

Inspection

Shipping containers are sturdy enough to survive rough trips across oceans. However, they still take a beating, so don't rely only on images when buying them secondhand. Insist on visiting the seller's storage facility so you can perform a thorough inspection.

Check the roof, walls, and corners for signs of chemical erosion, significant dings, dents, or rust. We're not saying the container should be perfect. It's secondhand, after all! However, performing this inspection can significantly reduce the cost of refurbishment and guarantee an extended life for your modular office space.

Refurbishment Cost

Buying the container is only the first step. The next step involves cutting up doors, and windows, insulating the interior, and other renovations that will make the container more hospitable. Below are a few things worth adding to this checklist:

Contactor fees

You'll need to engage a structural engineer or architect to help you place the container in a safe location. And a contractor to help you put it all together.

Customization cost

Shipping containers give you a roof, a floor, and four walls. However, you need to add the following things to make them function as an office space:

Wall paneling and insulation

Windows, doors, and stairs

Flooring and ceiling

HVAC and indoor plumbing

Cost of Installing Furniture and Other Fixtures

Next, you'll need to add lighting fixtures, internet, power, water, and other utilities. This gives your employees all the comforts they would have in a brick-and-mortar building.

Contingency Funding

Building a container office is like any other real estate project. You may start with an estimate, which can rise due to increases in material and contractor costs. That is why it's wise to include at least a 20% supplement in your budget. Such an approach ensures you don't waste time if there are unpredictable price hikes as the project proceeds.

Advantages of Shipping Container Offices over Brick & Mortar Buildings

Here are some reasons why a container office can be a good fit for your organization's or home office space needs:

Cost Effective

Container offices trump traditional buildings when it comes to start-up costs. You don't have to navigate as many zoning laws and building codes. You also start with a ready-built roof and four walls – So your major task is installing the utilities and customizing the interior to match your needs.

Modular construction

Shipping containers are modular, like Legos. This means you can add, move or even remove sections whenever you need. But, the possibilities are not limited to stacking or laying these boxes side by side.

You can partition the interior to create private offices, conference rooms, break rooms, and even strong rooms for your servers and other mission-critical infrastructure.

A creative architect or interior designer can also help you add large windows, French doors, and other enhancements. Or, you can also leave it exposed if you prefer an industrial or bare-bone look—the possibilities are endless!

Mobility

Shipping containers are built to withstand rough conditions and protect cargo while on the move. They also feature larches that make them easier to attach to trucks. So, a container office can be moved from one site to another with fewer logistical challenges.

All you need to do is secure your office desks and other furniture to the floors before a move. Then you can schedule a pick-up. This flexibility makes container offices an attractive option for businesses that need to relocate frequently.

Environmentally Sustainable

Upcycling is simply the process of taking something that would otherwise be considered trash and using it to create something new - and in the case of shipping containers, that something new can be a functional and eco-friendly office space.

Storage containers are typically made from steel, which is one of the most durable and longest-lasting materials available. This means that when a storage container reaches the end of its useful life, it can be recycled rather than ending up in a landfill.

In addition, When compared to traditional construction methods, building an office from a storage container requires far less energy and resources.

Expandable

The greatest advantage of container offices is they can expand in parallel with your business. You can stack them for additional floor space. Or you can slot in a container to create more room in a crowded office. This can help you minimize distractions and improve office productivity.

Reasons Why a Shipping Container Office May Not Be Ideal for Your Organization

Shipping containers offer many benefits over brick-and-mortar buildings. However, they may not be suitable for every organization's needs. Here are some of those situations:

The Size of the Organization

Storage containers are ideal for small businesses still in the start-up phase. They are not so practical for large corporations with hundreds of staffers and complex infrastructures.

The Organization's Brand Image

Your brand image is how your company presents itself to its clients and industry. Container offices have a pioneering and edgy character, which may not work for some industries. So consider this before committing.

The Organization's Maturity in the Industry

Sometimes a change of location can help improve your business. However, this may be unnecessary if your company already has a firm grasp on the target market in your location.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a cool, off-the-grid office space that won't break the bank, converting a shipping container into an office is definitely worth considering. With a little bit of effort and some creative thinking, you can have a workspace that's both unique and functional.

But before you take the plunge, be sure to consider the unique needs of your business to determine if this type of structure is right for you. From there, you can look through our extensive catalog for all the office accessories you need to build a heaven of productivity.