The possibilities of thinking inside the box

Tourists travel to South Florida because the region has plenty of sunshine. But take one look at Port Miami and it’s pretty clear there’s an over-abundance of something else: shipping containers. They’re lined up along the docks, stacked on top of one another, and suspended in mid-air as they’re loaded and unloaded each day.

Where some people see something that’s completely utilitarian, others see the vast possibility for repurposing these big boxes as residential and commercial spaces.

Shipping containers and the new mindset

The idea of using shipping containers as a building certainly isn’t a new one. Homeowners and architects around the globe have turned to them as a practical means of home construction for years. As a result of the tiny living movement and a new environmental awareness that promotes sustainability, what was once seen as an architectural oddity has slowly gained mainstream acceptance – just do an online search to see the number of companies now specializing in shipping container conversions.

In a natural evolution, though, the idea has crossed over from residential uses to commercial ones. In an area like South Florida, where there is strong competition between neighborhoods to attract residents, shoppers, and visitors repurposed shipping containers can be a sensible solution for revamping zombie properties or attracting entrepreneurs and pop-ups.

Uses for shipping containers

Shipping containers come in a somewhat standard size. Height is either 8.5 feet or 9.5 feet, and lengths are 8, 10, 20, or 40 feet. This allows for a variety of uses, including stacking options; think of it as Legos for adults. Just like that childhood toy, the possibilities of configuring the containers are nearly endless.

Single-family homes are one of the most popular uses since square footage costs run between $80 and $120. Consequently, it’s not a big leap to convert the containers into duplexes or even larger multi-family complexes.

In terms of commercial space, shipping containers are able to house things like small coffeehouses or motels to healthcare facilities, office space, and everything in between and beyond. In Asheville, NC, the Smoky Park Supper Club – made from 19 containers – is currently the nation’s largest shipping container structure.

Things to remember before attempting a shipping container conversion

Depending on the company, alterations such as window and door cutouts can occur offsite or onsite.

Although the structure began life as a shipping container, its use as a building still requires that codes are followed and permits pulled. Permanent and semi-permanent codes may vary, and it’s a good idea to understand the local codes in advance to know that the intended use will be allowed.

Stacking containers often has its own set of issues, such as stability and waterproofing.

In the long term, shipping container conversions are less expensive than traditional brick-and-mortar buildings. They can be relocated to a new location or repositioned on the same property – all without demolishing the structure and starting from scratch.

Similarly, repurposing shipping containers are better for the environment. They can be re-tasked for new projects, while rubble and debris from demolished buildings will be added to landfills.

Morris Southeast Group supports novel CRE solutions

The professionals at Morris Southeast Group are excited about the possibilities borne out of the repurposing and sustainable movements. While this shipping container trend isn’t fundamentally reshaping South Florida, it does hold promise for both temporary structures that enable a quick repurposing of property, as well as more durable options that make creative, economical and environmentally-friendly use of space.

For a free consultation or to learn more about our property investment opportunities and/or other services, call Morris Southeast Group at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at


Tags: , ,