What is an Intermodal Container?

If you have been looking into shipping containers, you may have noticed that they have sometimes been referred to as ‘intermodal’. This term is attributed to the fact that shipping containers were originally designed and built to be transferred between different modes of transport.

What Are Intermodal Containers Used For?

Shipping containers were traditionally designed to facilitate the transportation of cargo around the world. They were made so that goods could be loaded into them in one country, then transported across the world by ship, train, or road, being able to be transferred between the different modes of transport and then unpacked when they got to their destination at the other end.

There are several benefits to this, such as better security for the cargo, less loading and unloading required, a faster journey, and it is more cost-effective.

These design features mean that shipping containers are:

  • Robust – Able to withstand rough sea and extreme weather conditions whilst at sea
  • Easily moved – Although heavy, shipping containers are designed to be moved easily
  • Space effective – They are of a uniform shape, enabling them to be stacked on top of each other and economic with space
  • Secure and easy to lock

Due to these attributes, we are also seeing a rise in the number of people who are using intermodal shipping containers for other reasons – mainly as a storage facility or temporary or semi-permanent buildings.

Intermodal Containers for Storage

We generally see intermodal shipping containers being used for storage, either on private premises – in a domestic or business setting – or in a storage facility. They can be put wherever there is space and a solid foundation or found in a facility with multiple shipping containers.

You can normally hire one at a facility or buy or rent a shipping container to have for yourself. Of course, the amount of storage space that you have depends on the size of it, but a 20ft shipping container can hold the contents of a typical 3-bedroom house.

Intermodal Container Conversions

Due to the fact that they have been designed to be easily, neatly and securely stored, intermodal shipping containers make great building blocks for a temporary or semi-permanent building. They can be stacked on top of each other or joined side by side, and then converted into a space that is useful, whatever your needs.

Shipping containers come in a range of different sizes – from a 10ft container to a 40ft, high cube shipping container. Remember, however, that you can also join a number of them together to create a much larger space.

We are now seeing a range of different buildings being made from shipping containers, from home offices in the garden to temporary hospital wards (such as the emergency coronavirus hospital in Wuhan) to modular classrooms, to fire-resistant plant rooms.

There are several ways that intermodal shipping containers can be adapted to make them suitable for human inhabitation, including:

One of the best things about using intermodal shipping containers for either storage or as a construction material is that it is reducing waste. Whether you use a ‘new’ shipping container (one that has had just one journey) or a second-hand one, you are upcycling and preventing something else from being thrown away.