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Shipping Container DIY: Creative Uses

During a road trip a few weeks ago, we hopped off I-95 in Petersburg, Virginia (just south of Richmond), to find some lunch. Yelp took us to Saucy’s Walk Up – a carry-out bbq joint operating out of a customized 20′ CONEX shipping container. The bbq was delicious, but what intrigued me most was the metal box they’d repurposed to house operations (don’t worry – the smokers were out back).

Owner Tom McCormack said in a Progress Index interview that it took four months of welding to convert and customize the container as the center of the restaurant’s food prep and service. Since 2010, it’s been located on a corner in an industrial neighborhood; earlier this year, the owners opened Saucy’s Sit-Down in a converted Nash Rambler showroom just behind it.

As we continued down I-95 and talked about the uniqueness of the shipping-container-turned-restaurant, my travel companions and I hypothesized other uses for these sturdy, colorful boxes that are seemingly everywhere – particularly if you live in a coastal state or near a railroad. In fact, The Atlantic says there is a global fleet of 5,000 container ships carrying 14 million containers – and that’s just the ones at sea, not counting those in rail yards or sitting abandoned.

A quick look at Pinterest found plenty of DIY uses – from conversions to swimming pools to pop-up coffee shops and bars to inspiring floor plans and blueprints for multi-container dwellings.

The recycling of containers isn’t a new idea. says that in 1987, the first patent was filed for a method to convert shipping containers into habitable buildings, and in 2006 the first two-story shipping container home was designed and approved under the rigorous standards of the Uniform Building Code.

As with any building material, there are pros and cons to the trendy reuse of these containers. Sure, there’s a surplus inventory (it’s too expensive to ship empty containers back to their origin), they’re durable and they’re fairly inexpensive – most sell for around $900. But take into consideration the energy and cost to make it livable and relocate it. Jetson Green’s most disconcerting con to this creature comfort devotee? Insulation and heat control.

Have you experienced any exceptional or unconventional uses for containers? Sound off in the comments.

Saucy’s BBQ photo compliments of Yelp reviewer Garrett G.

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