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Houston Steel Shipping Containers on the Rise - 10 Great Uses

With the Port of Houston bringing in an amazing number of steel shipping containers every year, it's no wonder people are finding unique and creative uses for them. And with no end in sight as the tonnage February 2015 shows a 22% increase over February 2014 and a 44% overall increase in traffic, recycling these sturdy containers is becoming a much more common proposition. So what can you make with a shipping container? Here are ten fabulous ideas to consider:

Build a Business

More and more businesses are using shipping containers to build office space. Though it seems like a pretty simple jump to use a shipping container for jobsites, they're also showing up in a wide variety of businesses, forming cost-effective modern office spaces. Shipping containers are being turned into off-shore and on-shore hotels, gas stations, theaters, storefronts and many more options that go above and beyond the average construction-site office space.

Create a Modern Home

There are many takes on creating modern homes that go well beyond the simple rectangular shape of a shipping container. Cutting out spaces for windows, stacking them to get an awesome multi-floor appearance and adding in modern elements go a lot way to make these homes a lot more modern and a lot less modular than you might expect. Some container home owners are using overhead doors, patio doors or large expanses of glass to help open the space up to the outdoors and reduce their lighting costs during the day. You could even plan some passive solar heating into your design!

Enclosed Stairs

In Anyang, Korea, an architectural firm used eight shipping containers to create an art school that was part classroom, part sculpture. To provide staircases that were protected from the elements, the firm tipped shipping containers up at an angle, providing a tunnel for the stairs to go up that provide shelter and art at the same time.

Build a Cost-Effective Barn

This is a pretty simple way to keep your horse from gorging on grain or getting into the winter's hay storage. Take two shipping containers, place them so there is a space between them about 15-20', then build a roof between the two sides. You get secure storage and an awesome run-in shed for livestock. You could even enclose the ends for a full-on barn by using either agricultural steel or even another shipping container cut apart. These solid structures handle up to 40 tons - they'll handle your stud horse or crazy bull.

Create a Street-Side Restaurant Kiosk

Take a page from the Wall Street Journal whose recent article on shipping container stores included a bit about a number of restaurants and restaurant kiosks - some with dining space - created out of shipping containers. From restaurant owners who want to outfit their own restaurant without having to worry about leases ending to those who have to squeeze into a tiny space or want better overnight security, shipping container restaurants are becoming more and more common.

Work Up a High-Security Workshop

Whether you're an artist, carpenter or metalworker, the risk of having your tools stolen, especially high-end or hard-to-acquire ones, is the subject of nightmares. Because shipping containers are designed to take a beating and protect their contents, they're very secure, making it easy to make tool and finished product theft much more difficult. Adding windows, wiring and plumbing is a lot easier than it may appear by adding steel channel to your plans, while the low cost makes it affordable and lets you save your cash for that really awesome tool you're trying to convince your family is really needed.

Solidify a Serious Storm Shelter

Some people are going hardcore when it comes to building a storm shelter - or maybe they just want the creature comforts while waiting for the tempest to pass. Shipping containers make great storm shelters, though to be safe, you'll want an engineer to look over your plans and recommend additional support before burying your Houston steel storm shelter. At up to 56' long, there's plenty of space to put your old TV, some bunks for the kids, a kitchen space and many more niceties that make long nights in a storm shelter a fun family event instead of the night that drags on forever and grates on everyone's nerves.

Build a Bridge

Because shipping containers are meant to be lifted, stacked and moved cross-country, they're very sturdy. If you need to set up a bridge over a river or other geographic feature, a shipping container can make a great option that not only goes the distance, but protects you from the elements at the same time.

Create a Temporary School Expansion

Though this may seem a bit far-fetched, partnerships to create temporary classrooms or schools in third world countries have been taking off, even incorporating solar panels to make these portable shipping containers a completely self-contained system. They can also be attached to foundations to provide extra safety during bad storms.

Put in a Lap Pool

Like to get fit swimming but don't have the money to put in a custom pool? Shipping containers are being used by a number of homeowners to create an in-ground lap pool. By sealing the containers and providing a coating to prevent rust, the water in the pool and the earth around it create positive pressure against each other, helping prevent collapse in either direction. Even better, materials available today can make these pools look fabulous while being totally functional.

Now that you've had the opportunity to consider some options in shipping containers, why not think about what they could do for your situation? Though most shipping container projects require at least a little revamping to make them work well, Houston steel workers are always happy to help you figure out what needs to go into your container in terms of steel channel, angle brackets, tubing, beams and more. Talk to an engineer and see what you can make out of these multi-functional containers.

Cathleen V. is a top content writer with a background in construction, home services and green technologies. She lives on a small farm in Missouri.