Modular Container Housing: Use of Shipping Containers for Construction Purposes

Modular Container Housing: Use of Shipping Containers for Construction Purposes





1. Introduction

1.1 What are Containers?
1.2 History
1.2.1 Before Containerization
1.2.2 The Need
1.2.3 Standardization
1.2.4 After Containerization
1.3 Aim and Objectives
1.4 Summary of Research Methodology
1.5 Structure of Dissertation

2 Characteristics and Sustainable Approach of Shipping Containers

2.1 Introduction
2.2 Characteristics of Shipping Containers
2.2.1 Types of Shipping Containers
2.2.2 Components of Containers (Containerhandel, 2012)
2.3 Sustainable Approach of Shipping Containers to Develop Construction Facilities
2.3.1 Upcycled
2.3.2 Modular Construction
2.3.3 Customizable and Compactable
2.3.4 Durable and Structurally Strong
2.3.5 Mobility
2.3.6 Affordability
2.4 Why Containers?
2.5 Embodied Energies and Co2 Emission of Concrete and Steel Structures
2.5.1 Embodied Energies
2.5.2 CO2 Emission
2.6 Conclusion

3 Consideration of barriers and Critical Factors Affecting Shipping container Conversion Process

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Technical Difficulties and Barriers Incurred While Shipping Container Conversion
3.2.1 Guarantee of Reused Shipping Containers
3.2.2 Suitability of Shipping Containers for Conversions
3.2.3 Building Codes and Permissions
3.2.4 Flexibility
3.2.5 Insulations
3.2.6 Waterproofing
3.3 Critical Factors Affecting the Use of Shipping Containers to Develop Construction Facilities
3.3.1 Container Factors Type and Size New or Reused
3.3.2 Design Factors Purpose Requirements Budget
3.3.3 Site Factors Location Type of Land Surroundings
3.3.4 Technical Factors Rules and Regulations Mechanical Resistance and Stability Professional Services Transportation
3.3.5 Construction Factors Pre Fitting Off-site Attaching Homes to its Foundation On-site construction
3.4 Examples
3.4.1 Boxpark Shoreditch-London
3.4.2 Container City-London
3.4.3 Common Ground Shopping Mall-Seoul
3.4.4 Mill Junction-Johannesburg, South Africa
3.4.5 KEETWONEN-Amsterdam
3.4.6 BOXPARK-Dubai
3.4.7 CitizenM Centraal Hotel-Amsterdam
3.5 Conclusion

4 Research Methodology

4.1 Introduction
4.2 What is Research Methodology?
4.3 Classification of research methodology
4.3.1 Qualitative Research
4.3.2 Quantitative Research
4.4 Data Collection Methods
4.4.1 Primary Data collection Methods
4.4.2 Secondary Data Collection Methods
4.5 Research Strategy

5 Result and Analysis

5.1 Objective 1: To identify and assist the characteristics of shipping containers
5.2 Objective 2: The sustainable approach of shipping containers to develop construction facilities
5.3 Objective 3: To identify the technical difficulties and barriers incurred while converting shipping containers for the use of construction
5.4 Objective 4: To identify critical factors affecting the use of shipping containers to develop construction facilities
5.5 Summary of the Responses

6 Conclusion

6.1 Conclusion for each Objectives
6.2 Limitations of Study
6.3 Recommendations
6.3.1 Recommendations for Future Study
6.3.2 Recommendations for Industrial Implementations

7 References


Modular Container Housing: Use of Shipping Containers for Construction Purposes

Shipping Container Buildings are modern day Lego. Construction process is same like
Legos, block by block, one section at a time, stacking on top of one another or side by
side, leaving gaps, complete the structure. Since 1956, shipping containers have been used
mainly for cargo transport, storage and for past three decades in construction industry.
The aim of this research is to study characteristics, benefits, barriers, critical factors and
applications of shipping containers for the construction purposes. To fulfil the objectives
of this research methods like in-depth literature review and questionnaire surveys are used.
To identify the advantages & disadvantages of the shipping containers, technical
difficulties and factors affecting the conversion process of the shipping containers for
construction purposes, in-depth literature review is carried out with the help of some
databases, company websites and some online blogs. Questions for questionnaire survey
are prepared according the type, challenges and usage of shipping containers which then
forwarded to the professionals. By carefully analyzing the results of the questionnaire
survey it has been cleared that respondents have shown much more interest and are in favor
of building more and more shipping container construction facilities. This study concludes
that shipping container buildings are unique combination of strength, customization,
affordability and sustainability.

1. Introduction

1.1 What are containers?

“Containers have many characteristics that make them convenient for use in architecture.
They are prefabricated, mass-produced, cheap and mobile. Because they are compatible
with practically every transport system, they are easily accessible all around the world.
They are strong and resistant, while also being durable and stackable. They are modular,
recyclable, and reusable.” (Kotnik, 2008)

1.2 History

1.2.1 Before Containerization

Before the invention of shipping containers, until 1956, barrels or wooden crates or sacks
were used for packing of goods. After packing, these barrels were transported to cargo
ship via vehicles. Loading and unloading was very time consuming process as each barrel
or sack had to carried out separately using pulleys and cargo hooks which required
significant man power. This whole process was manual, because of which loading and
unloading of average sheep, 200,000 pieces of cargo, would take one week. However, in
mid 1800s, instead of using wooden crates or sacks or barrels, various sizes and types of
boxes were often used for goods (cargo) transportation purposes.(World Shipping Council,

1.2.2 The Need

Malcolm Mclean is the one who invented and patented the first standard shipping container
on 26th April 1956 by converting the tanker Ideal X of World War II and is the man behind
this containerization. The idea of shipping container mainly came to his mind after
observing the process of unloading the goods from trucks and transferring to ships by dock
loaders for years. He started experimenting with the help of tankers, from the company he
bought (Pan Atlantic Tanker Companies), until he found the most efficient way loading
and unloading frights, otherwise known as shipping container. The ship with reinforced
deck owned by Malcolm transported 58 containers and 15,000 of bulk petroleum within
six days’ time, from Port Newark to Houston. (Universal Cargo, 1985)

Figure 1: Sea Land Gateway City

With this Malcolm’s company got recognition and within few time his company was
getting orders for shipping goods back to Port Newark. Malcolm later changed his
enterprises name to “Sea Land Services” which was not only transporting goods, between
Northern and Southern ports, via sea by ships but also via roads using truck trailers. With
time, Sea Land Services enterprises ship “Sea Land Gateway City”, specifically made for
container transport, began its journey from Port Newark to Miami, on 4th October 1957.
In 1960, companies like Matson Navigation Company and Grace Line also started their
own container shipping. (World Shipping Council, 2000)

Figure 2: Ship Transporting Shipping Containers

1.2.3 Standardization

In 1961, after the international recognition for shipping containers and there transport
efficiency, the standard sizes of shipping containers were set by International Organization
for Standardization (ISO), the 20 foot and 40 foot containers. The industry standard
references for the same were Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit (TFU) and Forty FootEquivalent
Unit (FEU) respectively. (London, 1966)

1.2.4 After Containerization

Within 5 years of recognition and standardization of shipping containers, a container ship
with 236 containers travelled internationally, from USA (Port Elizabeth) to Netherlands,
for the first time on 23rd April 1966. Eventually container shipping become an important
factor in global industrialization. Between 1969 and 1972, larger ships were built with
capacity from 1000 TEU to more than 3000 TEU. The shipping container market spread
worldwide with time and helped to increase the value of economy. Global Containerization
trades are shown in below figure. After Containerization, the standard shipping containers
were mainly used for efficient goods transport, easy loading and unloading, storage and
for past few decades, as any construction facility and many other industrial uses. (Cudahy, 2006)

Figure 3: Annual Containership Capacity Growth

1.3 Aim and objectives


The aim of this study is to identify usage and constructability of shipping containers to
develop construction facilities.


1. To identify and assist the characteristics of shipping containers.
2. The sustainable approach of shipping containers to develop construction facilities.
3. To identify the technical difficulties and barriers incurred while converting
shipping containers for the use of construction.
4. To identify critical factors affecting the use of shipping containers to develop
construction facilities.

1.4 Summary of research methodology

To identifying constructability and applications of shipping containers to develop
construction facilities is the main objective of this research. To meet the objectives of this
research different kinds of methods will be used, such as in depth literature review and the
most common method, questionnaire survey.

To carry out detailed literature review international databases like,
SCIENCEDIRECT,, etc. will be scanned. Characteristics,
sustainability, conversion and construction processes of shipping containers will be
searched deeply to fulfil the objectives of this research. Technical difficulties and critical
factors to be considered while shipping container conversion will be critically analyzed
along with above processes.

Lastly questionnaire survey will be carried out which will helpful in collecting opinions of
the professionals regarding the suitability, types, uses, sustainability and barriers of
shipping containers and their conversion process.

1.5 Structure

Chapter 1 - Introduction - This chapter gives the information about the background of the
shipping containers and the step by step evolution of them. It also provides the aim and
objectives of this study with summary of research methodology.

Chapter 2 - Characteristics and Sustainable Approach of shipping Containers - The Characteristics (Type and components) and sustainability of shipping containers explained in this chapter with some benefits of using containers.

Chapter 3 - Consideration of barriers and Critical Factors Affecting Shipping container Conversion Process - This chapter discusses technical difficulties incurred while shipping container conversion. It also discusses the critical factors to be considered while converting shipping containers into a construction facility. Lastly, some examples of famous shipping containers structures are explained.

Chapter 4 - Research Methodology - Various methods of research methodologies and one
that selected for this dissertation are discussed in this chapter.

Chapter 5 - Results/Discussions- This chapter deals with the results obtained from research

Chapter 6 - Conclusion - In this chapter overall conclusion of this study presented based on
literature review and data collected from research.

2 Characteristics and Sustanable Approach of Shipping Containers

2.1 Introduction

Since the invention of shipping containers, different sizes of containers were used for
transportation purpose, until 1961 when ISO set the standard sizes for containers, 20 foot
and 40 foot. This Chapter will cover the basic characteristics and a sustainable approach
of shipping containers. The basic characteristics of shipping containers includes different
types based on size and area, weight and openings of the container. After knowing these
characteristics, this chapter will discuss the effect of shipping container construction
facilities on environment. This will be achieved by collecting data from different websites
and journal papers and some books.

2.2 Characteristics of Shipping Containers

There are basically two topics comes under the characteristics of shipping containers,
types of containers and components of containers. Containers are divided according to
the type of cargo and other features and uses of containers. As for the components, there
are thirteen major components each container have.

2.2.1 Types of Shipping Containers

International Organization of Standardization (ISO) has set the standard sizes of shipping
containers which are used till today. Depending upon these sizes, shipping containers are
divided into five different types as following: Standard Steel Container

Standard steel containers are mainly designed for transporting goods or as cargo purposes,
either internationally or domestically. They can be referred as “common currency for
international trade”. These containers can withstand at any temperature from -40°C (-
40°F) to 80°C (176°F). These containers can be transported via sea, rail and land. Some
of these standard steel containers are provided with forklift pockets, additional air vents
etc. Standard Steel Containers comes with two sizes 20 Foot and 40 Foot containers. All
the Standard Steel containers can be used for either transportation or construction or for
both.(Whittaker, 1975) 20 Foot

Figure 4: 20' Standard Steel Container

  • 20 Foot standard steel containers are generally used for heavy transportation purposes.
  • The cost for transportation goods is much lesser comparing to other types.
  • These containers are weather close containers like other types.
  • High density cargos are easy to transport via these containers.
  • The payload capacity of 20 foot containers is up to 21.56tonnes. (Staff, 1995)

Tare Weight2.44 tonnes
Inside Capacity32.85 cu.m (1160 cu.ft)
Internal Floor Area13.93 sq.m (150 sq.ft)
Internal Length5.87 m (19’3”)
Internal Width2.33 m (7’7”)
Internal Height2.35 m (7’7”)
External Length6.06 m (19’10”)
External Width2.44 m (8’0”)
External Height2.59 m (8’6”)
Door Height2.26 m (7’5”)
Door Width2.28 m (7’6”) 40 Foot

Figure 5: 40' Standard Steel Container

Like 20 Foot containers these are also used for transporting any general cargo and also are weather tight.
Payload capacity of 40 foot standard steel container is up to 26.76tonnes. (Staff, 1995)

Tare Weight4.06 tonnes
Inside Capacity66.83 cu.m (2360 cu.ft)
Internal Floor Area28.33 sq.m (305 sq.ft)
Internal Length12.00 m (39’4”)
Internal Width2.33 m (7’7”)
Internal Height2.35 m (7’9”)
External Length12.19 m (40’0”)
External Width2.44 m (8’0”)
External Height2.59 m (8’6”)
Door Height2.26 m (7’5”)
Door Width2.28 m (7’6”) High Cube Steel Container

The High Cube containers are same as standard steel containers but have more height.
These containers are 30cm (1 Foot) higher than standard steel containers. High cube
containers are also known as hi cube or HC or HQ containers. These containers are mainly
used where heavier or bulkier loads are transported which can be cost effective. Because
of extra height, these high cube containers have more tare weight, inside capacity and
hence payload capacity than standard steel containers.(Whittaker, 1975) 20 Foot

Figure 6: 20' High Cube Container

20 Foot High cube (HC/HQ) containers are primarily used for transporting domestic or instance furniture.
These containers provide more vertical height hence more capacity.
The payload capacity of 20 Foot HC/HQ container is 28.18tonnes.(Staff, 1995)

Tare Weight2.53 tonnes
Inside Capacity37.09 cu.m (1409 cu.ft)
Internal Floor Area13.93 sq.m (150 sq.ft)
Internal Length5.87 m (19’3”)
Internal Width2.33 m (7’7”)
Internal Height2.69 m (8’10”)
External Length6.06 m (19’10”)
External Width2.44 m (8’0”)
External Height2.89 m (9’6”)
Door Height2.26 m (7’5”)
Door Width2.28 m (7’6”) 40 Foot

Figure 7: 40' High Cube Container

Like 20 Foot HC/HQ containers, 40 Foot HC containers also provide more vertical space and so more space.
These type of containers are suitable for voluminous cargo.
The payload capacity of 40 Foot high cube container is 26.78tonnes. (Staff, 1995)

Tare Weight4.20 tonnes
Internal Floor Area28.33 sq.m (305 sq.ft)
Internal Length12.00 m (39’4”)
Internal Width2.33 m (7’7”)
Internal Height2.69 m (8’10”)
External Length12.19 m (40’0”)
External Width2.44 m (8’0”)
External Height2.89 m (9’6”)
Door Height2.26 m (7’5”)
Door Width2.28 m (7’6”) Open Top Containers

Figure 8: Open Top Containers

Open Top (OT) Containers are similar to standard and high cube steel containers expect
there is hard roof like them. Instead of that, the roof of these containers is enclosed with
tarpaulin or canvas with removable roof bows for their support. In general, these type of
containers are provided with plywood or timber type of flooring and double doors at one
end. Open Top containers are suitable for tall and overweight cargo. Maximum Payload
capacity of 20’ OT, 20’ HC OT and 40’ OT containers are 28.08tonnes, 27.97tonnes
and 28.55tonnes respectively. Open Top containers can be used for both, shipping and
construction, purposes.(Whittaker, 1975) Reefer Containers

Reefer containers, otherwise known as refrigerator containers, are mainly used when fresh
food products are needed to be transported worldwide. For the products which need cold
temperature while transportation, reefer containers are used. There are very few countries
which are economically dependent on reefer container transportation. These type of
containers need external power source for proper functioning. Those sources can be either
power from container ships, diesel generators or land based electrical points. Some of them
need water cooling devices also. The dimensions of these containers are slightly lesser
than standard and high cube steel containers. Reefer containers are mostly used for
transportation purpose only. There are very less chances that these containers are used for
construction purposes.(Whittaker, 1975)

Figure 9: Reefer Container Tank Containers

Tank containers are basically large steel storage vessels which maintain pressure and are
fixed. These containers are primarily used when bulk liquids and gases are needed to be
transported. Tank containers are popularly used all over the Europe due to cost benefits
and safety. Other than gases and bulk liquids, corrosive, flammable & other hazardous or
non-hazardous liquids and granular dry bulk materials and some non-hazardous chemicals
can be transported via tank containers. Tank containers can also transfer non-hazardous
liquid foods (wine, milk and oils). Transportation mode of these containers can be sea,
road or rail. Tank containers can be used in construction industry where gases or liquid
storage is needed. Each tank container can store up to 35,000 liters of material and has
working pressure between 3 and 4 Bar. (Whittaker, 1975)

Figure 10: Tank Container

2.2.2 Components of Containers

Figure 11: Components of a Particular Shipping Container

Shipping containers are the combination of vertical corrugated steel side and end walls,
steel frames, corrugated double hinged doors, die-stamp corrugated steel roof, ISO corner
fittings (at all eight corners) and wooden flooring. Automatic and semi-automatic CO2 gas
arc welding is used to join all steelworks externally to form a container. While interior
welding is done by staggered stich welding. All the welds, particularly exterior, have
watertight properties. Minimum 25mm bead length welds are provided at every 200mm
distance for interior welding. Zinc plated self-tapping screws are used to fix the wooden

Corner Post

Corner post is a vertical frame component made up of 6mm thick section steel
pressing from outside and hot-rolled section steel (channel shaped) from inside
which gives suitable strength against stacking and racking force.

Corner Fittings

All the corner fitting are manufactured at a workshop and designed as per ISO:
1161 and are provided to help in handling, stacking, securing and lifting the

Header and Sill

The Front header is constructed with two parts, upper part (steel plate) and
lower part (steel square tube), both are 3mm thickness.

While Door Sill is made up of channel section and is 4mm thick. The upper
part is at the same level as floor and has a slope of 1:10 for drainage

Front-End Frame

One top end rail made of 3mm thick square hollow section steel, one bottom end
rail made of 4mm thick pressed open section steel, front wall made of 2mm thick
vertically corrugated steel panel, two corner posts made of 6mm thick pressed open
section steel and four corner fitting, all are welded together to form front end frame.

Base Frame

Base frame is a combination of 18 cross members, two bottom side rails
and a set of forklift pockets.

All the cross members are welded to each bottom side rail, with the
thickness between 4mm & 4.5mm, are made of pressed channel section
steel and have ability to withstand floor strength.

Each bottom rail is 4.5mm thick is stitched with floor guide rails of 3mm

Forklift pockets are designed with ISO requirements and are made of 3mm
thick full depth steel plate and two 6mm thick flat lower end plate at top
and bottom respectively.


19 piles of international standard hardwood plywood (Apitong species) of
28mm thickness with moisture content less than 14% are required for floor

All the floorboards are laid longitudinally on cross members and are
screwed with self-tapping screws.


The roof is constructed by several die-stamp corrugated steel sheets (2mm thick)
with a certain upwards camber (5mm upwards) at the center of each trough and
corrugation (20mm deep), these sheets are butt jointed together to form one panel
(20mm thick) by automatic welding.

Side Walls

Side walls are constructed in trapezium section by butt welding inner (1.6mm
thick) and outer (2mm thick) fully vertical continuous corrugated steel panels to
form one panel by automatic welding.


Horizontal frames (3mm thick) of pressed channel section steel, at top and
bottom, rectangular hollow sections at post side (2.3mm thick) and at center
side (3.2 mm thick) and lastly corrugated steel door panel (2 mm thick,
horizontal), all are continuously welded together to construct door.

Each door consists of four locking devices, two for each door leaf, seal
gaskets, four hinges and pins and door holders and have capacity of
swinging about 270 degrees.


Surface roughness at 25 to 30 microns to all steel surfaces prior to forming
or after shot-blasted.

Hot dipping zinc-galvanized thickness of 75 microns to all locking rod
assemblies. 13 micron thickness electro zinc plating to all fasteners and

All the holes for bolt and nuts, overlapped joints of inside, all the places
where water may leak and each perimeter of the floor must be coated with

Primer paint must be applied to all the steel surfaces after shot-blasting.

To remove all the welding spatters, fluxes and any other foreign agents, all
the weld joints must be shot-blasted followed by secondary paint.

Finally, all the underside, interior and exterior surfaces must be coated with
epoxy zinc rich primer.

Figure 12: Shipping Container Components

2.3 Sustanable Approach os Shipping Containers to Develop Construction Facilities

Today, the whole world is facing problems like Global Warming, Climate change, Rising
of Earth Temperature etc. Wildlife and Human being, both are facing the consequences
because of these problems. Some business have started to manufacture sustainable
products as a part of their duties to fight against these problems and are encouraging others
to live “green life”. By using shipping containers, deforestation can be avoided, waste
management can be controlled and some other things, which will, in a way, lead everyone
towards a sustainable life. (Islam et al., 2016)

As Brain Pagnotta said,
“Reusing containers seems to be a low energy alternative, however, few people factor in the
amount of energy required to make the box habitable. The entire structure needs to be sandblasted bare, floors need to be replaced, and openings need to be cut with a torch or fireman’s saw. The average container eventually produces nearly a thousand pounds of hazardous waste before it can be used as a structure.”

A way to Sustainable Life...

2.3.1 Upcycled

Each shipping container have different life cycle, depending on use, some of these goes
on and on but some of these retire after one international trip. Many of such containers can
be recycled and used for another purposes. Any of these shipping containers, with some
chemical washing (if needed), repair and painting works, can be used again for different
purposes. There are many applications for shipping containers other than transport, like
pop-up shops, cafes, buildings, general storage, depending upon the container type. In
other way, if not upcycled, these containers will deteriorate which will be harmful for
environment. (Kaufmann and Remick, 2009)

2.3.2 Modular Construction

As a word suggest, modules are manufactured in and finished or partly finished in a factory
and transported to site for assembly and finishes. Shipping containers are designed for
excellent mobility and stacking and their standard dimensions are accessible for people
and really helpful for space saving construction. Flexibility of shipping containers can be
very useful for construction storage facilities, shops and commercial with modern
technologies. (Kaufmann and Remick, 2009)

2.3.3 Customizable and Compactable

It is known that shipping containers are designed for space saving purposes which in other
words constructing with shipping container will reduce energy cost, material quantity and
overall cost of construction. Future expansion for typical construction costs more energy
and resources but, that is not case for shipping container construction facility, as future
expansion, cooling or warming process will take very much less energy and use of fossils.
Customization while construction is much cheaper and takes less time for shipping
container construction than typical construction.

2.3.4 Durable and Structurally Strong

Shipping containers are made of Corten steel (40% stronger than mild steel), which is anticorrosive.
Corten steel, if unpainted, can lose only 1mm of surface for normal corrosive
environment and 1.5mm for highly corrosive environment, per 100 years. Also, shipping
containers are designed to withstand harsh sea environment and normally have 20years
life span, if only used for transportation purposes. With proper painting (Epoxy), life span
of container can be increased by few decades. ISO shipping containers are capable of
carrying 30tonnes of load and can carry 192MT vertical stack load. Due to robustness of
shipping containers, building constructed with them, if properly stacked and welded, can
withstand to any natural (wind, hurricane, earthquake etc.) force and can be suitable for
natural disaster-prone areas. (Levinson, 2010)

2.3.5 Mobility

ISO shipping containers can be transported via sea, rail and road, because of the standard
design, which also helps in easy loading and unloading. On-site and Off-site Assembly of
these containers also is very speedy and easy process, which helps in reducing carbon
footprint. Construction and customization of shipping containers can be done off site, only
assembly and system integration (electrical and plumbing) remains. Future modifications,
shifting or even recycling can be time saving process for shipping container construction
facility comparing to typical construction. (Levinson, 2010)

2.3.6 Affordability

As discussed before, so many shipping containers are abandoned or at no use, so cost of
the container will be lesser. Materials like concrete, wood and other materials required for
typical construction are becoming costly and out of stock, none of these materials are
required for building construction facility with shipping container, which makes it
affordable. Also, availability of material will not affect the total cost of construction as it
will affect typical construction. Assembly, on-site or off-site, and transportation of any
construction facility is cheaper with shipping containers. (Croston, 2008)

2.4 Why Containers?

The advantages behind using shipping containers as a construction material are:
(Container Home Plans, 2014)

  • Greener Building

Once the shipping container lefts the port towards destination, it is not affordable for
companies to ship back empty containers to its original destination. So, instead of reusing
those containers, buy new once and discard the old once. Some of these old containers are
either melted down or left unused, which uses vast amount of energy and is hazardous for
environment. Instead, reuse of these shipping containers for construction purposes will
reduce the impact on the environment and make a good use of energy. Using these
containers for urbanism will not only increase the livability of the cities but also will help
in nullifying the urban decay.

  • Affordability

As discussed, number of containers are discarded by companies and are left unused, which
concludes that these containers are cheap in price. Shipping containers are designed with
all sides intact and capable of handling loads, which can be used as structural base for
construction. Huge saving can be done in other costs like transportation, insulation,
electricity and plumbing as compared to typical construction. Overall, shipping container
construction facilities will be an economical alternative option for living.

  • Sustainability

The first and very biggest advantage of building while construction using shipping
container is that the basic and main structural component is reused rather than left unused
and melted down, which saves lot of energy. As the basic component is ready, other
structural material like concrete, wood etc. can be saved. Also, aesthetic materials like
timber, bricks and glass can be used in less while construction. A shipping container
construction facility has capability to outperform and outlast most of the wood
construction. Overall, any shipping container construction facility can be very sustainable
if planned and insulated well, which will help to save lot of money and energy. (Oliveira, 2014)

  • Transportability

Shipping containers have been used for worldwide transportation since 1956, so global
network is already established. Depending up on the size and type of shipping container
construction facility and final destination, it can be transported either via sea, rail, road or
air. Sometimes it is difficult to transport the whole unit at a time, so parts of the modules
are transported to site for assembly. In most of the case cranes might be needed for
installation purposes, forklifts also can be used for small modules, which will ultimately
saves laborer and time cost.

  • Structural Strength

In 1956, when containers were invented, the purpose of them was only transportation, later
internationally, for which they designed in such a way that they can withstand at any harsh
sea environment and extreme climate conditions. These containers were also designed to
withstand weight of stacking nine laden containers. If any construction facility is built with
these shipping container, it will be capable of withstanding at heavy wind, earthquake and
other natural forces, which will be beneficial for people living in the areas where natural
calamities occurs frequently.

  • Quick Construction and Building

For typical construction, building a structural part takes much time, but in case of shipping
container construction facility, it can be very time consuming process as body of the
container acts as structural member itself. Other parts like insulation, interior design and
aesthetical views can be done in factory and then transported to site. Sometimes,
foundation is needed (depending on the type of land), once it is done and land is suitable
for construction, construction can be completed more quickly using forklifts or cranes.

2.5 Embodied Energies and Co2 Emission of Concrete and Steel Structures

2.5.1 Embodied Energies

Energies consumed during mining, processing of natural resources to manufacturing,
transport till delivery of final product, except operational energy, known as embodied
energy. Embodied energies of the structure of the building depends on choice of materials
and the methods of construction. Designing the structure for long life and durability
purposes can reduce the impact of embodied energies. Embodied energies are measured
in MJ/m3 or MJ/kg or GJ/t. 1GJ= 0.098 tCO2, 1MJ= 0.098kgCO2, 1kgCO2=10.204MJ

Fig. 13 shows embodied energies of different types of construction materials. As per the
figure concrete shows highest while stone shows lowest embodied energies. Embodied
energy of steel is lesser than concrete which helps in reducing its impact on environment.
This is one of the reasons to use steel containers for construction over concrete in the areas
where heating and cooling requirements are more. (Olivares, July 2010)

To lower the impact of embodied energies, some measures must be taken like using local
material, saving material, avoid wastage of materials etc.

Figure 13: Comparison of Embodied Energies of Steel and Concrete Structure

95% of embodied energy can be saved by reusing of building materials. As shown in fig.
14, aluminum can save greater embodied energy than steel and glass can only save 20%,
while recycling. Materials used in concrete structures like bricks and tiles can’t save much
of embodied energy as these materials can get damaged while reuse.

Figure 14: Reuse and Reprocessing of Materials

2.5.2 CO2 Emission

The carbon dioxide emitted during mechanical and chemical operations of different
materials during material processing is known as CO2 emission. It also includes by
products created during this process. CO2 emissions of different materials used in different
process are shown in fig. 15. As shown in figure, using steel as a construction component
reduces the CO2 footprint. (Xiao, November 2016)

Use of shipping containers for construction purposes saves up to 8000 Kwh (new) and
410Kwh (second hand). Use of cement and bricks, which produces more carbon dioxide,
is also avoided during construction of shipping container structures. (LTD, July 2016)

Figure 15: CO2 Emission of Different Materials

2.6 Conclusion

Basic characteristics, types and basic components of shipping containers have been cleared
from this chapter. This chapter concludes that use of shipping containers in a construction
industry or rather to build construction facilities would be a sustainable approach.
Embodied energies and CO2 emissions of concrete and steel structures are also compared
in this chapter. It is clearly seen that shipping container structures have many advantages
over the typical construction process. Finally, this chapter concludes that the shipping
container structures are environmentally green and cost saving.

FactorShipping container structureConcrete structure
Usable AreaMore (3%-6%)Less
Energy SavingMore (65%)Less
Cost of HeatingLessMore
WeightLight (75% Lesser)Heavy
Construction CycleShorter (50%-75%)Larger
Recycling of MaterialMoreLess
Cost PerformanceHighLow
Life SpanLess (up to 50Years)More

Figure 16: CO2 Emission and Energy Consumption

3 Consideration of barriers and Critical Factors Affecting Shipping container Conversion Process

3.1 Introduction

There are some technical difficulties and barriers along with advantages of using shipping
containers for construction purposes. This chapter will cover these difficulties and some
critical factors, must be considered, when building a construction facility using shipping
containers. This chapter will also cover the examples of some famous construction
facilities built with shipping containers. Firstly, technical difficulties and barriers and
critical factors will be discussed with the help of databases, websites and books. Lastly,
the construction details and features of some buildings will be discussed which are entirely
made up of shipping containers.

3.2 Technical Difficulties and Barriers Incurred While Shipping Container Conversion

3.2.1 Guarantee of Reused Shipping Containers

Two types of shipping containers can be used to build a structures, new and reused or
second hand shipping containers. Manufacturers can issue guarantee certificate for new
shipping containers and for any customization done. Guarantee of old or second hand
shipping containers depends upon its structural quality and strength. Unless the source,
age, lifecycle of second hand shipping container is known, it is unfavorable to use it for
any purpose. Also, if the reused shipping container is not complaint with ISO standards, it
is recommended that not to use such container for construction purposes. (Chambers)

3.2.2 Suitability of Shipping Containers for Conversions

First requirement of using shipping container for construction is that the shipping container
must be complaint with ISO standards. Other than that, shipping container damages due
to packaging or poor handling reasons, long term usage for transportation, contaminants
inside shipping containers, rusting may create problems while conversion. The shipping
container becomes unsuitable for construction when the requirements of structural
integrity and quality are no longer found. It is very important to know the history, any
structural defects, rusting, leakage etc. of any shipping container before using it for
construction purposes. (Adrian Robinson 2011)

3.2.3 Building Codes and Permissions

Getting permissions to establish a shipping container structure proven to be a difficult
process, as each areas have different building codes, rules and regulations, particularly
residential sector. Shipping container construction facility’s planning permissions depends
upon number of factors like location of the site, local authorities and surface on which
container’s to be placed. Consulting with engineers, architects and local authorities to
make sure the construction facility meets all the local building codes considered as a most
important requirement. (Chambers)

3.2.4 Flexibility

Like building codes, there are vehicle rules also that has to be followed and are different
for each area. No matter from where the customized shipping containers are arriving, land
transport (trucks, tempos etc.) will be needed to reach final destination i.e. site. Maximum
length permitted for transporting units is 40’, but there are issues of height, it varies with
area. These transportation limitations will reduce design flexibility which can cause
problem on site. The limited size (less width and limited height) of shipping container and
transportation limitations will also restrict architects from design creativity. It is very
difficult to balance total standardization and total customization. (ADRIAN ROBINSON, 2012)

3.2.5 Insulations

Shipping containers are made up of Corten steel which is a heat conductor, due to which
containers can get very well heated in hot season and can get pretty much colder like
freezer in cold season. To maintain inside temperature of shipping containers, it is very
important to insulate the containers properly and with proper material, with greater R
value. R value is a measurement of resistance of heat flow. Other than R value, type of
heating and cooling system, specific needs of a particular room and total life span
performance of insulating material also must be taken into consideration. Choosing wrong
insulating material (with lower R values) and using wrong insulation methods or hiring
less skilled person may create problems and will cost more. The same precautions must be
taken while insulating a shipping container structure for sound. (Lawson et al., 2014)

3.2.6 Waterproofing

Shipping container are weather tight and are designed for cargo transport through sea. All
the openings like door, windows and skylight, must be attended carefully and all the joints
must be welded properly to avoid leakage. It is important that shipping containers must
be augmented with sloped roof assembly for better life assessment. (Chambers, 2015)

3.3 Critical Factors Affecting the Use of Shipping Containers to Develop Construction Facilities

There are many factors to be considered while constructing a project, either residential or
commercial, with typical method or modular method. Building a house, office, shop or
any other commercial or residential facility with shipping containers will be a great choice,
economically and environmentally. But, there are some critical factors must be considered
while doing so. These factors are dependent on site location, climate, purpose, security, area etc.
Following are the critical factors to be considered while building a construction facility with shipping container:

3.3.1 Container Factors Type and Size

ISO shipping containers are made of different types and sizes. Among them 20’ and 40’
standard steel and high cube containers are used for construction purposes. Standard steel
containers and high cube containers have same length and width, the only difference is
that high cube containers have more height (30cm/1foot). These containers can be used
for construction of 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom apartments, dorm rooms, motels with attached
toilets and kitchen facilities etc. If staircase or lifts are to be in project used then another
type of shipping containers, open top containers, can be used. It will help to save the
resources on removing the top of the standard or high cube containers. There are two more
types of containers, reefer containers and tank containers, both can be used where frozen
materials or liquid or gas storage is needed. New or Reused

As mentioned before, there are number of containers which are abandoned and unused.
These containers can be reused for construction purposes. But before choosing these
containers, it is important to conduct detail inspection, not just exterior look or colors.
Detail inspection includes checking the following things:

Exterior Walls

For any wall cuts, old patches, streaking rust, if the walls are straight and if top and
bottom rails are damaged.

Under Carriage

For good understructure and protection against future rusting.


Rust buildup from corner fittings and dents.


For smooth swinging door operation, door posts, number of gaskets (usually two) and
damages to gasket seals and lock rods.


For plywood flooring, broker sections, soft spots, heavy stains, loose joints. Dents and
leakage areas for walls. Dents, surface rust and roof patches for ceiling.
In case of new containers, one way trip containers, there is no need for this detail
inspection, as they are only used once. New containers are slightly expensive than old once
but they have not flaws or damages and are more durable and can be bought custom made.
So buying new containers is better than buying old once, for the construction purposes.
(Hernden, 2015)

3.3.2 Design Factors Purpose

It is crucial to have planning for any construction project. Before planning, the purpose of
construction facility must be decided. There are number of construction facilities can be
built with shipping containers, for example training facilities, emergency shelters, school
buildings, stores, commercial and residential buildings etc. It is very essential to choose
the type building to be constructed which will serve the purpose behind the idea of the
project before planning stage. Requirements

Once the purpose of the project and type of construction facility is decided, next step is to
decide the actual requirements of the project like type of furniture, interior and exterior
design elements, number of rooms, utilities, open spaces, all the measurements etc. and
make a detailed schedule. Planning would be a time saving process once all the
measurements and requirements are listed out. It would also help to calculate the maximum
budget of the project. Contacting local architectures and planners would be much more
helpful. Budget

Budget is a very important aspect for every type of construction. Once the building design
is finalized, budget can be decided after that. To minimize the budget, it is better to get
idea about shipping container conversions. Getting in contact with local contractors, subcontractors,
planning engineers and architects, will help to reduce the unexpected
expenses. Local shipping container resellers or depots can provide best information about
container pricing. Shipping container building can be constructed both on site and off site,
among them off site construction is cheaper. (Tom, 2016)

3.3.3 Site Factors Location

Selecting a location for a site is a critical factor for every project. Location of the site must
be easily accessible, private, have good views and not far from the city (in case of
emergencies). As shipping container building can be constructed or assembled on site, it
is vital to consider access road to site, so the modules or containers can be delivered to the
site within less time and safely. Other than access road, site boundaries also must be
considered for privacy purpose. Type of Land

Each and every site is different, it is important to choose the site with our requirements
and benefits. Terrain of site must be flat or levelled and bearing capacity of soil must be
consistent throughout the site, which will save the resources on excavation or grading.
These factors will help to decide type of foundation for construction of shipping container
building. Surroundings

If the site is surrounded by nature, that would be beneficial for construction, depending
upon the type of greenery. Existing landscaping will give passive design effects. Dense
trees on the elevation against prevailing wind, will decrease the heat loss, on the other hand
deciduous shade trees on the south & west location will reduce summer solar gain. (Koones and Redford, 2012)

3.3.4 Technical Factors Rules and Regulations

Each region has different rules and regulations for building construction. There are
different building codes for shipping container building. Local building/planning
department needs to see the drawings, permits, drawings with professional stamps etc. for
conducting inspections. It is better to contact local building or planning departments to get
information about building codes, permissions, how much construction can be done, about
location, maximum height, restriction etc. Mechanical Resistance and Stability

Strength and stability of the building are very essential factors for construction. Before
constructing a shipping container building, it is crucial to know the horizontal and vertical
loads transmission of shipping container. Horizontal loads of containers are transferred
through side walls and vertical loads are transferred through the corner columns of the
containers. Shipping containers are capable to withstand load up to nine stories and
hurricanes and earthquakes. Weight of the each container can be carried by adjacent
containers, at the time of collapse. Professional Services

Construction of any building needs professional advice or services. For building a shipping
container construction facility, land surveyors, civil engineers, structural engineers,
mechanical engineers, contractors, sub-contractors, architects and planning engineers etc.
professional services might be needed. Civil engineers can give advice on grading, storm
water managements etc. Getting touch with contractors can be helpful in knowing cost of
grading, foundations, septic and materials required on site. Architects and structural
engineers can give suggestions about design. Mechanical engineers are best experts on
welding properties. Transportation

Shipping containers are designed with standard sizes for transportation via sea, rail and
land. Getting containers or modules from off-site construction facility to site is a very
critical. It is better to have all the information about transportation vehicle (trucks or cargo
train), transportation route and access to site. It will help in saving time and cost of the
project. (Schoenborn, 2012)

3.3.5 Construction Factors Pre Fitting Off-site

Shipping container buildings are constructed off-site and assembled on-site. Off-site
construction is done in a factory under expert’s supervision and controlled environment,
so chances of errors are very less. While interior insulation process, it is must that proper
thermal and sound insulating materials are used. It is essential to take measures while
assembly on site. Attaching Homes to its Foundation

A stem wall foundation is constructed according to size of the building, on which shipping
container building rests. Some measures are to be taken while building a foundations. First
off all, the foundation must be reinforced with steel rebar with half inch thick steel plates
at corners on concrete. Once the containers arrive on site, they are placed on the foundation
one by one with the help of crane. Exposed rebar of the containers must be well tied to the
foundation with the J-hook sporting the steel plates. Additional concrete blocks must be
placed inside the foundation to support the sides of adjoining containers, if necessary.
Lastly, it is very crucial that these containers are immovable, which can be done by
attaching them to embedded steel reinforcements and welding them in place. On-site construction

Once all the containers are well attached to the foundation, welding process starts. All the
adjacent containers are welded together from top to bottom. All the containers must be
connected according to plan. All the joints must be welded properly. It is necessary to
spray exterior walls of containers (SUPER THERM) with a ceramic coating. The purpose
of this coating is to reduce cooling and heating loads. Another option for exterior walls is
cladding, which is custom made and helps in aesthetical views. Internal flooring of
choosing on existing plywood must be done carefully. All the doors and windows must be
installed into pre-cut opening neatly and carefully. Installation of conventional hip roof is
also a critical process. Lastly, all the electrical and plumbing connections must be done in
a proper way so there will be interruption in flow. (Armstrong, 2006)

3.4 Examples

3.4.1 Boxpark Shoreditch, London

Figure 17: Boxpark Shoreditch

London has got its first pop-up shopping mall near Underground Shoreditch station,
Boxpark Shoreditch, opened for public in December 2011. This shopping mall is a mini
shopping center full of popular brand stores and which can be easily accessed by
pedestrians. Boxpark Shoreditch is spread along 105m length and is a combination of total
61 containers from which 41 containers are located at lower section and 20 at upper
section. Lower section is fully covered with shops like electronic, clothing, accessories
shops etc. with all having almost similar design and with containers having same areas.
On the other hand, upper section is mostly used for gathering purposes i.e. art galleries,
restaurants, cafes and large wooden roof terraces. (LEVITT, 2012)

3.4.2 Container City, London

Container City is an affordable and stylish space created for community centers, studios,
classrooms, retail shops, sports halls, and nurseries etc., developed by Eric Reynolds. This
facility is located at 64 Orchard Place, London, constructed with 73 containers and
completed in 5 months and spread along 4800 sq. ft. area. Sustainable features of this
facility are use of 100% recycled materials, appropriate use of renewable energy, rainwater
harvesting, green roofs and designed for less energy consumptions. (Ltd., 2013)

Figure 18: Container City

3.4.3 Common Ground Shopping Mall, Seoul

Common Ground Shopping Mall is a world’s largest mall made out of shipping
containers located at Seoul’s Gwangjin District and was built in 2015. The area of this
mall is 5300 sq. m. and is constructed with 200 shipping containers and construction
is completed within 5 months. Sustainable feature of this mall is that this mall can be
easily dismantled, moved or modified. Common Ground Shopping Mall is divided into
two sections, Market Hall and Street Market, which contains 70 stores, 20 restaurants
and roof terrace at third floor. (Wang, 2016)

Figure 19: Common Ground Shopping Mall

3.4.4 Mill Junction-Johannesburg, South Africa

Figure 20: Mill Junction

Citiq Students, a satellite company of Jika Properties, developed Mill Junction within one
year time (2012-13) and converted 5 abandoned silos into a one of the famous (now)
dormitory. Shipping containers were added a side and top of the silos. This facility is 11
stories building, 40m total height, in which four stories on the top of the silos are
constructed with containers. The existing silos were modified by adding windows to the
sides and inserting slabs to make additional floors. Mill Junction have 375 individual
apartments and facilities for students like communal kitchens, study rooms, gym, libraries,
computer rooms and lounges. It is located near railway station and university. The
sustainable features of Mill Junctions are double glazed windows, motion sensor activated
energy efficient lighting, heat pumps for water productions and astro-turfed rooftop which
in combine saves 50% power. (Svara, 2014)

3.4.5 KEETWONEN, Amsterdam

Figure 21: KEETWONEN

Keetwonen is a student housing facility located at H.J.E. Wenckebachweg 49, 1096
Amsterdam, Netherlands, developed 1034 containers were converted to create this student
housing project, the construction of which started at the end of 2005 and completed in May
2006. The area of Keetwonen project is 4.5 Acres which contains 1000 container units
(housing), a laundry, a restaurant, a small supermarket and a bike repair shop. The
construction of this facility was completed at 150 homes per month speed. Total facility is
divided into 12 different 5 stories (G+4) buildings with balconies to each building. 40’
containers are used for housing units which includes 2 separate rooms and a common small
bathroom and small kitchen. Staircase and galleries are also provided separately,
courtyards are provided between buildings which acts as a storage for bike or walkways.
Sustainable features of Keetwonen are cross ventilation, reduced water usage (50
liters/unit), water saving shower heads, rainwater harvesting and thermal insulations for
each unit. (Caroline Uittenbroek, 2009)

3.4.6 BOXPARK, Dubai

Figure 22: BOXPARK Dubai

In 2015, Dubai based holding company Meraas completed a construction facility with 220
containers at Jumeirah’s Al Wasl Road in Dubai, BOXPARK. This facility is stretched
along 1200m long road and have 18500sq.m. Area. Boxpark is a shipping container
shopping mall which contains new concept hotels with playground for children,
restaurants, cafes and entertainment and 44 high-end outlets. Each building is a unique
combination of metal, glass, stone, fabric and composite materials. This is a permanent
construction facility with number of restaurants and cafes having outdoor sitting and
outlets lit at night with bright lights and is a place to shop, dine, relax and enjoy the outdoor
ambiance. (Bustani, 2015)

3.4.7 CitizenM Centraal Hotel, Amsterdam

One of famous franchise in hotel industry, The citizenM Hotel, Amsterdam has used 215
shipping containers for the construction of their hotel. These 215 shipping container are
welded together to form a 14sq.m. Rooms with a king size bed, wall-to-wall windows,
shower and toilet in each Rooms. This hotel is one of the budget hotels, in which all the
unnecessary items are removed and all the hidden costs are cut out. (Kleeman, 2010)

Figure 23: citizenM Centraal Hotel

3.5 Conclusion

From this chapter it is clear that technical barriers incurred while building a structure with
shipping containers can be solved by using right materials and with proper profession
guidance. This chapter also concludes that if the critical factors affecting the construction
process of shipping container structure taken into account before construction process then
with proper planning it is not difficult to build structures like shown in examples.

4 Research Methodology

4.1 Introduction

The meaning of research methodology along with various methods of data collections will
be explained in the research methodology chapter. Methods of research like quantitative
and qualitative research will be explained in details in this chapter. Further this chapter
will describe various types of data collections. Lastly, the chosen strategy for this research
i.e. questionnaire survey will be elaborated.

4.2 What is Research Methodology?

“The process used to collect information and data for the purpose of making business
decisions. The methodology may include publication research, interviews, surveys and
other research techniques, and could include both present and historical information.”
(Kothari, 2004)

“Research may to defined as systematic and objective analysis and recording of controlled
observations that may lead to development of organizations, principles & possibility
ultimate control of events.” (Best and Kahn, 2006)

“Research activities are deigned to discover knowledge aid in answering specific
questions or issues.” Wolf and pant

4.3 Classification of Research Methodology

4.3.1 Qualitative Research

Individual assessment of opinions, behavior and attitudes is done under qualitative
research. Techniques like group interviews, personal interview and observations are used
to conduct this type of research. The results generated by using these techniques are in the
form of statements, which are specific in nature and are in exact words of interviewee. The
main purpose behind this research is to analyze the situation, develop new ideas and chose
alternative methods if necessary. (Miles et al., 2013)

Qualitative research can also be carried out by forming and distributing questions to collect
the opinions and subjective evaluation. The results generated are in the non-quantitative
form or in such a form where quantitative analysis is not needed.

Qualitative research is further classified into,
Phenomenology- deals with phenomenon experienced by one or more person
Ethnology- focuses on culture of people or group of people
Case Study- provides detailed information about one or more cases
Grounded Theory- based on data collected from survey, interviews, observations etc.
Historical Research- discusses current situation on the basis of previous and current
affairs/events (Miles et al., 2013)

4.3.2 Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is formal or rigid type of quantitative analysis of the data generated
in the quantitative form. In this research type, social problems are tested on the basis of a
theory in which the variables are explained in the detailed format and then the results of
this tests are measured in the form of numbers to validate the given theory. In other words,
the given theory is tested on the basis of facts collected to verify it. (Creswell, 2014)

Theory is the main framework of this type of research as the main objective of the
quantitative research is to verify the theory rather than developing it. This research is
carried out with step by step procedure, first the theory is developed then to prove whether
the theory is errorless or full of errors the data is collected and then this data is evaluated
against the developed theory and in the end correctness of theory is written in the form of
conclusion.(Creswell, 2014)

Quantitative research is further classified into experimental, simulation and inferential
approaches to research.

4.4 Data Collection Methods

Once the research problem has been defined and the plan for conducting research is ready,
data collection process begins. There are two types of data, primary and secondary.
Different methods for collecting primary and secondary data are explained below.

4.4.1 Primary Data collection Methods

The data collected for the first time is defined as primary data. This data is collected
through the surveys or through direct communication in the form of interview with
respondents. Several methods of primary data collection are,

Observation Method

Studies related to behavioral science mostly uses the observation method. The information
collected from the informant or group of informants by observation can be recorded and
verified, if needed, which is beneficial for the researchers. The data for this method can be
collected by simple observation, which is independent of the respondents and is related to
current events. (Ozturk, 2014)

Interview Method

The data in interview method is collected by directly communicating the respondent. The
data can either be collected by one-on-one personal interview or telephonic interview. The
main advantages of this method include collection of more and I depth information, easy
to obtain personal information, great flexibility, faster, can record replies etc. There are
some disadvantages of this method, it is difficult to get in touch with high ranking officials,
cost depends on geographical coverage, have to ask short questions, time limitations etc.
(Bhattacharyya, 2006)

Through Questionnaires

This method is very popular and cheaper, comparing to other methods and it is obtained
by majority private and government organizations, research workers and private
individuals. In this method, data is collected in the form of summary by sending a set of
questions to the respondents specialized or related to the subject of research. The merits of
this method are, no geographic limitations, no time limitations, easy to approach nonreachable
respondents. There are few demerits also, low rate of returns, inflexible, slower
than other methods, can only be used by respondents from same field as the study. (Naoum,

4.4.2 Secondary Data Collection Methods

The data which are collected by someone else and which has been passed through
statistical process. This data is usually published and which can be accessible through
various publications, books, magazines, newspapers, journals, university reports, also
through unpublished data. Some characteristics like reliability of data, suitability of data
and adequacy of data must be taken into account while using the secondary data. (Fellows
and Liu, 2015)

4.5 Research Strategy

For the purpose of data collection for this research, questionnaire survey as a research
strategy has been chosen. The reason behind choosing this strategy is that the information
to be collected from the respondents can easily be analyzed and understandable. 20
questions were prepared in the format which clearly divides the questionnaire according
to the type, dimensions, suitability, usages of shipping containers and barriers to be faced
while converting shipping containers into a construction facilities. Question types like
multiple choice and Likert scale questions were included in the questionnaire survey.
These questions were sent to the expert in the field of study i.e. shipping container

The experts included architects, engineers both civil and mechanical, interior designers
and surveyors. The data obtained from the questionnaire survey was then presented in to
bar graph and pie chart format as per the type of questions. The summary of all the 44
responses was presented in tabular format (excel sheet). Lastly, all the answers of multiple
choice questions, bar graphs and pie charts has been analyzed and the results have been
concluded with proper justification and reasoning.

5 Result and Analysis

Based on the literature review and the objectives of the research, questionnaire survey was
done among the relevant industry associates to get their best opinions on the research topic.
Questions regarding specifications of shipping container like its type, applications, uses,
sustainability and cost of the shipping containers.

This chapter focusses on the discussion of the responses obtained and the summary of the
same, used for the analysis to achieve the desired aim of the research study.

Appendix: A presents the survey questions asked, and the responses of the same are
discussed following.

With respective of the objectives of the research study, the survey questioners are
classified and based on the responses, analysis of the same was done to achieve the main
aim i.e. to identify usage and constructability of shipping containers to develop
construction facilities.

5.1 Objective 1: To identify and assist the characteristics of shipping containers

Following questions were asked in the survey to analyze the characteristics of shipping
containers with respect to its acceptability in the construction industry.

These questions were asked on the basis of Chapter 2 (Literature Review 1) and Chapter
3 (Examples). The characteristics (Dimensions, Weights, Types and Parts) of shipping
containers are explained in Literature Review 1 and usage of shipping containers for
different purposes with examples were explained in Chapter 3.

On scale of 1 to 5, are shipping containers really useful for construction?

Figure 24: Suitability of Shipping Containers for Construction

A very positive response was seen for the usability of the shipping containers in the
construction industry for various building purposes. As the response graph shows, more
than 50% of the people gave very positive reply and highly agreed to the useful facts of
the chipping container in the construction industry. Very few people gave the dilemmatic
response being unsure about the extreme uses of the shipping containers for construction
purpose. But no one disagreed for its usage.

Which type of shipping container will be most suitable for construction?

Figure 25: Suitability of Shipping Containers according to Sizes (Respondent’s opinions)

After confirming the usage of the shipping containers in construction industry, next question
focused on the dimensions of the container as which would be the most suitable size.
Responses were various, but majority of the responses were for the 40' High Cube Container
(L:40'X W:8'X H:9'6"), following to this, another major response was for All sizes of
containers stating the fact of usability of the any size of shipping containers for building
construction purpose.

What types of shipping containers will be good for construction purposes?

Figure 26: Use of Second Hand or New Shipping Containers (Respondent’s opinions)

Since almost all the sizes of the shipping container are comfortable for using in
construction industry, further question focused on the type of the container like the new or
old shipping containers. As the graph shows, all the responses are towards reusing old
containers for the construction purpose.

Within what setting building a shipping container facility is beneficial?

Figure 27: Areas Best for Shipping Container Structures (Respondent’s opinions)

Industrial area is the most suitable locality for the usage of shipping containers as building
material. As well the responses show how it is almost equivalently accepted in other
residential areas.

Which type of construction facility can be built with shipping containers?

Figure 28: Type of Construction Facility (Respondent’s opinions)

This question evaluates the type of building or construction facility which can be
constructed with shipping containers. Majority of the responses said every type of
construction facility can be built using shipping containers.

To support these questions and to identify the acceptability of the shipping containers
looking at its characteristics into the construction industry, following questions of
examples were asked to know the public opinion on the acceptability of the shipping
containers in the construction industry, both residential as well as commercial and attached
are their responses.

Will it be possible to build military bunkers and training facilities with shipping

Figure 29: Suitability of Shipping Containers for Military Facilities and Training Facilities
(Respondent’s opinions)

Are shipping containers suitable for construction of emergency shelters, relief camps and medical centers?

Figure 30: Suitability of Shipping Containers for Emergency Shelters, Relief Camps and Medical Centers (Respondent’s opinions)

On a scale of 1 to 5, can site offices and security cabins be built with shipping containers?

Figure 31: Suitability of Shipping Containers for Site Offices and Security Cabins (Respondent’s opinions)

On a scale of 1 to 5, how much suitable are shipping containers for building a residential facility for homeless people?

Figure 32: Suitability of Shipping Containers for Residential Building for Homeless People (Respondent’s opinions)

Above graphs clearly shows a positive response towards the acceptability usage of
shipping containers in construction industry as Modular containers for construction
purposes. Understanding the characteristics of the containers, identifying the suitable
containers for the specific type of construction module, efficient and effective quick
buildings can be constructed which fulfilled objective 1.

5.2 Objective 2: The sustainable approach of shipping containers to develop construction facilities

As discussed earlier in the Chapter 2, sustainability is the wide
growing concept all around the world and as well a necessary point to consider so as to
conserve energy and give less impact to environment.

Sustainability of shipping containers, durability, affordability, mobility, energy emission
etc., were clearly described in Chapter 2. Considering sustainable approach of shipping
container and concrete structures, following questions were asked;

On a scale of 1 to 5, is it economical to use shipping container for construction?

Figure 33: Whether Using Shipping Containers for Construction Economical or Not (Respondent’s opinions)

This set of question surveyed the cost factor of the shipping containers as a building material
in the construction industry. Responses shows the positive side of the economic benefits of
using shipping container as building materials. Using shipping containers for construction
purposes such as the examples discussed above in the previous objective and man such more
results in the low one time investment if compared with the typical RCC constructions, which
ultimately results in cost effectiveness.

Are shipping container structures environmentally green?

Figure 34: Suitability of Shipping Container Structures for Environment (Respondent’s opinions)

Considering the sustainability factor, questions were asked for opinion whether or not are
shipping container structures environmentally green, and as can be referred from the above
graph, results are positive. Modular containers are eco-friendly and creates less impact on

Is building a construction facility with shipping containers, time efficient and cost saving process?

Figure 35: Whether Construction Process Time efficient & Cost Saving or Not (Respondent’s opinions)

As discussed earlier also, structures made from shipping containers can be cost saving as
it is a onetime low investment with low maintenance and as well the responses agree to
fact of it being time efficient and cost saving process.

Will shipping container construction facilities help in energy reduction?

Figure 36: Whether use of Shipping Container helpful in Energy Reduction (Respondent’s opinions)

Sustainable construction can be said to that which has less or no adverse impact on the
environment. From the asked questions and their responses, it can be said as modular
container constructions are environmentally green, as well another factor to add on to
sustainability is its cost efficiency. Low maintenance results in less expenditure on the
structure, resulting in major cost benefit. Knowing the physical characteristics of the
container, there is no doubt for its durability. Being the environmentally green structure,
it is as well long lasting. Also, when asked for its energy consumption, replies were in
favor of energy conservation by using modular container constructions. In true meaning
it’s a sustainable structure, which analyzed second objective.

5.3 Objective 3: To identify the technical difficulties and barriers incurred while converting shipping containers for the use of construction

Technical hurdles for building modular container can be many and it is necessary to
understand them in order to effectively implement the modular container housing on a large scale.

Following questions were asked referring to the Chapter 3 (Literature Review 2) in which
all the major hurdles occurred while converting shipping container into a usable structure
were described. Keeping in mind these hurdles and all the major pros and cons of shipping
container structure over concrete structure below questions were formed.

What type of technical difficulties occur, while building and after completing, a
shipping container construction facility?

Figure 37: Shipping Container Construction Facility Technical Barriers (Respondent’s

Majority of the responses shows the main hurdle for the implementation of the modular
container housing is the building codes as it fails to attain few but it shows enormous
results in other factors. Analyzing the building codes and making some new codes for the
same can help come over various technical barriers associated with the implementation of
the modular container housing structures.

Further below are more questions related to the technical pros and cons of the shipping
containers for the construction facilities and attached are the graphical representation of
their responses.

Will use of shipping containers in construction industry be helpful in urbanization?

Figure 38: Whether Shipping Containers are Helpful in Urbanization or Not (Respondent’s opinions)

On a scale of 1 to 5, is it necessary to insulate a shipping container with proper

Figure 39: Need of Insulation with proper Material (Respondent’s opinions)

Is it necessary to build a foundation before fitting customized shipping containers to

Figure 40: Whether to build Foundation before Fittings or Not (Respondent’s opinions)

Analyzing the above graphs it can be said that positive responses can be seen in the favor
of modular containers. Also, some other factors creating hurdles for the implementation
such as its proper insulation on priority because without which it is not at all comfortable
for stay. But primitive measures if taken, can result in effective and efficient modular
constructions resulting to be sustainable as well as cost efficient. Hence, objective 3

5.4 Objective 4: To identify critical factors affecting the use of shipping containers to develop construction facilities

Major focus of the questioner survey was focused on this part of the objective as along
with the general technical difficulties in installing modular containers, it is as well
significant to understand the critical factors affecting the implementation of modular
containers for construction facilities.

Critical factors (Chapter 3) such as its transportations, implementations, acceptability,
time, economy, etc. are needed to be considered to analyze in order to achieve the main
aim of the research.

Following questions related to the critical factors affecting the use of shipping containers
to develop container facilities were asked in the survey and their responses are attached
along with.

On a scale of 1 to 5, is it easy to transport customized shipping containers from factory to site?

Figure 41: Transportation of Customized Shipping Containers (Respondent’s opinions)

As per responses, transportation of the customized modified containers from the factory
to the construction site is affordable and only few people responded negatively.

How important is it to use of smart or space saving furniture inside shipping
container construction facility?

Figure 42: Use of Space Saving Furniture inside Facility (Respondent’s opinions)

Along with its time and cost factor, another factor that generally impacts on the
implementation of the shipping containers for the construction facilities and that is its
interior. It is necessary to design interior furniture considering space management as per
room area would be fixed and small compared to typical RCC structures.

Are shipping containers flexible for any type of construction?

Figure 43: Flexibility of Shipping Containers for Construction Purposes (Respondent’s opinions)

Considering all the characteristics of the shipping container, its technical barriers in the
implementation for building construction facilities and as well the critical factors generally
affecting the shipping container to develop construction facilities, this question was asked
in survey to understand the scope of modular container construction. Majority of the
responses gave the moderate answer but also can be seen from the graph that later major
responses are agreed to the flexibility of the containers in the construction industry.

Will you prefer shipping containers for your own use i.e. home or office construction?

Figure 44: Respondents Opinions Regarding use of Shipping Containers for their own use

5.5 Summary of the Responses

Figure 45: Summary of Reponses

6 Conclusion

The aim to identify the constructability and usage of shipping containers in construction
industry was met. Important information like the overall history of containerization,
different usage of shipping containers, factors to be considered while conversion of
shipping containers etc. was learned from this chapter. It is also concluded that with better
knowledge and good advertisement of shipping container architecture, usage of shipping
containers for construction purpose might increase. It is clear from questionnaire survey
that the majority of the respondents were in favor of the decision of using shipping
containers to build different kinds of construction facilities of commercial, social,
residential and industrial types.

6.1 Conclusion for each Objectives

To identify and assist the characteristics of shipping containers.
Identifying the characteristics of shipping containers was a straightforward task as various
characteristics were defined as per the ISO standards. Different types of shipping
containers i.e. Standard Steel, High Cube, Open Top, Refer and Tank Containers and there
usage in both transportation and construction industries were found. Dimensions (external
and internal), payload and inside capacities and tear weights of every type of container
was also found.

Along with types, different components shipping container i.e. corner posts, locking
systems for front doors, side walls, roof structure, fork lift pockets, base plate components
were discovered with their specifications. Preservation techniques of shipping containers
were discovered which will help them from preventing problems like rusting, theft,
waterlogging etc.

From questionnaire survey it is seen that majority of the respondents chose 20’ Standard
Steel and High Cube containers over other types of shipping containers for construction
purposes. It is concluded that respondents were in favor of using shipping containers
majorly in commercial and industrial sectors comparing to residential, domestic and urban

The sustainable approach of shipping containers to develop construction facilities.

Today majority of businesses are manufacturing products which are sustainable and which
are environmentally green. This study concluded that shipping containers are sustainable
in so many ways i.e. affordability, upcycled, customization, mobility etc. As per the study
construction time, cost and energy consumption required for building shipping container
structures were less compared to typical construction.

As per the survey, due to high strength and durability of shipping containers, structures
built with them are suitable in disaster prone areas, for construction of military facilities
and bunkers. Respondents were positive about suitability of shipping containers for
construction of residential facilities for homeless people, small cafes, shops, temporary
site facilities and other commercial structures. It was also discovered that transportability
and sustainability questions got positive response from the respondents.

To identify the technical difficulties and barriers incurred while converting shipping
containers for the use of construction.

Every type of construction have advantages along with disadvantages when whole
construction process is taken into account. From this study it is concluded that the process
of building shipping container construction facility is challenging. Many technical
difficulties were occurred while the conversion process like obtaining building permits,
design challenges, insulation process, waterproofing etc. As per the study, hiring
professional services for the construction purposes was difficult part.

When the survey was conducted regarding shipping container architecture, according to
responses, greater number of respondents faced the insulation and transportation problems
while the construction. It is also discovered that other than these problems some
respondents also faced difficulties in waterproofing process, obtaining building codes and

Finally, it is concluded that these problems can be avoided by making regular
conversations with local authorities, professionals i.e. engineers, surveyors, architects etc.
and using right grade materials for insulations, waterproofing and proper planning.

To identify critical factors affecting the use of shipping containers to develop
construction facilities.

There are many critical factors which has to be considered while constructing any type of
building. Similarly, there are some critical factors which were considered while building
shipping container structures which can be found via this study. These factors were divided
into five different sections i.e. Container, Design, Site, Technical and Construction Factors.

As per the study, these factors were divided on the basis of shipping container type, size
& suitability, site locations & surroundings and purpose & budget of the project. It is
deduced that these factors were also divided according to required professional personal
& transport services and lastly on-site requirements for construction.

Final conclusion of this study is, famous structures like Boxpark Shoreditch, Container
City, Mill Junction, Common Ground Shopping Mall, Keetwonen, citizenM Centraal
Hotel and Boxpark, Dubai were constructed with keeping critical factors, proper planning
and all the rules and regulations in mind.

6.2 Limitations of Study

While doing research it has been observed that the amount of literature i.e. books and
journals available are more but most of them are inaccessible, some are with limited
preview and some of them are expensive. It is also seen that the professional/ experts
working in the field of manufacturing shipping container buildings are less comparing to
typical structures. There were some survey limitations, not all the respondents gave their
opinions for the questionnaire survey and it was difficult to know whether the willing
respondents were truly representative.

6.3 Recommendations

6.3.1 Recommendations for Future Study

Today, shipping containers are used for many different purposes all over the world
but in limited fields and by limited people as most of the people are not aware about
useful characteristics of shipping containers. This can be changed by letting people
know all the benefits of using shipping containers for construction purposes via

There are so many books and/or journals available on history, usage, transportation
methods and sustainability of shipping containers but only limited are accessible.
All the literature on shipping containers must be made available to all for future
studies and innovation purposes.

Every country’s got different transportation rules, building codes, construction
permissions. The rules for shipping containers structures are also different but only
some of them are known and/or understood by professional services i.e. civil
engineers, mechanical engineers, surveyors, architects etc. All the available
building codes, rules and permissions must be discussed and published and must
be accessible by all.

6.3.2 Recommendations for Industrial Implementations

ISO shipping containers were invented for worldwide transportation and storage
purposes and with time they were used by different industries. Some of these
containers are used for number of times and after one stage they are declared as
scrap. All those ISO shipping containers either they are new or second hand, must
be logged time to time with all the details i.e. dates of transport, no. of usage,
materials transported etc. for future references.

All the used shipping containers which are not ISO competent must be either
scrapped or recycled as per the requirements.

All the ISO shipping containers which can be used for building the structures and
which are to be only used for transportation purposes must be stored separately
either by using color codes or serial numbers and must be used accordingly.

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