Customized Container Commercial Structures


It’s not surprising that availability of countless retired from transport cargo shipping containers brought attention of commercial construction industry. After modifications, these highly standardized metal boxes turned-out to be good candidates especially for small business applications. Easy to install and ready to use in a very short time, but also easy to relocate to different place if needed, they made ideal construction blocks.

The basic block known as 1-TEU (Twenty feet Equivalent Unit) with its dimensions of approximately 20ft (L) x 8ft (W) x 8.5ft (H) and surface of about 150 square ft (14 m2) is the perfect solution for kiosks , booths, small offices, food stores, security posts, tourist information centers, street café-bars, utility rooms, garages, sheds, storages etc… (actually here only imagination sets the limits). Thanks to their portability, they can be quickly deployed at any location and equally easily removed at the end of the season. Larger structures combining several 1-TEU modules assembled together can be used as public offices, café-bars, libraries, permanent and temporary hotels, field hospitals, public toilets and so on…

Such wide spectrum of possible applications opened doors for new businesses solely dedicated to adaptations of used cargo shipping containers for the purpose of commercial spaces (for example “Falcon Structures” – Following this trend numerous companies (especially in South-Eastern Asia) started designing and manufacturing Customized Container modules designed for a plethora of commercial and housing applications, eliminating this way several problems related to adaptations of used cargo containers.

The real dimensions of Customized Containers may vary depending on manufacturers, but for practical reasons (transport and compatibility) they closely follow the standard of 20ft cargo shipping containers. Changes mostly affect the height because addition of thermally protected floor and ceiling clearly decreases already low interior headroom of standard cargo shipping containers. That’s why most of Customized TEUs are taller than 8.5ft (2.6m) standard, reaching exterior height up to 9.5ft (2.9m) what puts them in the range determined by relevant workspace standards. Some manufacturers also offer slightly wider customized TEUs. Length however seems to be almost “locked” to 20ft (after all, when folded, these units are designed for oversea transport in standard 20ft cargo shipping containers).

Frames of basic Customized SCs are made from GI (galvanized) steel, sidewalls and roofs are built from panels consisting of 2-to-4 inches thick layer of thermal insulation sandwiched between two thin sheets of GPPI (pre-painted, galvanized) steel while floors are made from MgO or cement-fiber boards. Windows are usually made from PVC-coated aluminum (or aluminum alloy) and if needed can be protected by the grid. Steel doors come with traditional lock.

All basic structures have internal electrical installation (interior wiring with LED lights, switches as required and few receptacles). Most manufacturers however offer much higher level of customization to accommodate end users’ needs. Some metal walls (or their partial segments) can be replaced by glass. Plumbing can be built-into the walls with hookups to city’s infrastructure, so the final assembling/set-up process at the user’s site will be quite straightforward. Finally, many manufacturers can also provide interior features (shelves, cabinets, office furniture, bathroom), more stylish finish (wood-paneled interior walls) etc. The truth is – these days buying the shipping container office or living space can be a one stop shopping experience.

All basic structures are foldable (for easy and inexpensive transport).  However, individual prefabricated blocks are engineered the way to make the assembling process easy and not labor intensive. As claimed by most manufacturers, one level structures may not even require any special lifting equipment. All you will need is team of few workers and (depending on the complexity of interior arrangements) half-to one day work.

Once fully equipped with necessary features and appliances, they become highly functional spaces for working and living. And with some “personal touches” they will offer warm, relaxing atmosphere characteristic to residential spaces.

Usually manufacturers offer also several exterior add-ons to customized container modules. These for example can be decks, awnings, staircases etc. that may be necessary to run a specific business.

Below you will find various examples of customized or cargo-shipping containers-based commercial structures.

Above and below: Examples of café-bars assembled from customized container modules. Note addition of decks and balconies extending to outdoors available to customers space. Source: Global Housing Technology (Foshan)

Customized containers are ideal solution for street Coffee Shops. Source: Keruijiesi Technology (Chengdu)

Coffee shop container

Above and below: Architectural concept of the single and multi-TUE-modules coffee-shops. Source: Keruijiesi Technology (Chengdu)


University dormatory shipping containers

University Le Havre: The residency A’Docks made from cargo shipping containers offers a unique living experience for students. Source:

hotel assembled from customized shipping containers

Modular hotel assembled from customized shipping containers: glass façade gives these steel boxes modern, comforting character. Source: Zhujian Modular House (Foshan)

Modular-Container House-Hotel

container public bathrooms


Customized containers can be used for public bathrooms (here with multiple shower cabins and lavabos). Source: KB Container

Fast food shipping container


Food Bar “Casa de Comidas”  located in the garden of the Convent Carmen (Valencia, Spain).


Office shipping container


Customized container office assembled from 2 TEU modules houses local administration and information center. Belgrade on the Water (Serbia)

Customized container office assembled from 2 TEU modules houses local administration and information center. Belgrade on the Water (Serbia)

Single cargo shipping container converted into 1 TEU office: Belgrade on the Water (Serbia) Shipping Container

Office shipping container (2)

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