Buildings construction from shipping containers are used for social student houses and restaurants in Sofia and other cities in Bulgaria.
The average shipping container will spend more than half of its 15-year lifespan sitting empty and unused. As the global shipping industry lurches into crisis, the global stockpile of empty containers will increase, and transporters will incur further costs by storing and maintaining these empty assets. The humble shipping container is finding new life in Bulgaria through the Architectural Studio PAM Consult in collaboration with local authorities.
Shipping containers are an appealing construction material and affordable for social housing since they are much cheaper compared to the costs of labor and materials needed to build a more traditional home. Recycled shipping containers were chosen for number of projects to keep costs low and allow off-site prefabrication (over 80% of the construction is prefabricated in the factory), while re-using existing structures would have an environmental benefit. The environmental benefits include: good insulation, which keep emissions low; reduced waste during the construction process; use of recycled material. The modular design makes shipping containers a good choice for structures that need to be quick and cheap to assemble but also dismantled and reused elsewhere without negative consequences for the environment.
The shipping containers are used for construction of social student houses but not only.
Main stakeholders are: local authorities, design and construction companies, student communities, citizens.

Resources needed

Team of architects and construction company joint forces for the development of the concept in collaboration with local authorities to identify plots for the social buildings.
For construction of 500 sq.m. apartment house (8 apartments), 12 shipping containers are used.

Evidence of success

The realized projects by the company are growing in numbers. The realized projects by the company are growing in numbers and cities accepting the social houses in the Bulgaria.
The environmental benefits include: good insulation, which keep emissions low; reduced waste during the construction process; use of recycled material (Cor-TenTM steel) and low construction impact on the plot area.

Difficulties encountered

Good knowledge on the modular structure and the various methods of insulating is important for the quality of the buildings and achievement of positive effects on the environment. It is important to know very well the companies offering the containers and collaboration with the local authorities.

Potential for learning or transfer

This business model is located in Sofia, Bulgaria. This model can be transferred to other regions since shipping containers are stored and not used more than half of its 15-year lifespan, in number of regions in Europe.
The construction sector needs to improve recyclability of material and to develop modular houses easy to assemble and dismantle when needed providing a minimum pollution and green house emissions. The buildings designed and developed by using shipping containers can be moved to another place to extend its life. The reuse of old shipping containers has a significant potential to be extended in different fields of construction sector. In order to avoid further costs of storing and maintaining the empty containers, the transporters can increase the cooperation with local/regional authorities (for social houses, temporary markets etc.) and with businesses (for restaurants, entertainment, temporary/ itinerary events etc.).
Main institution
Ministry of Environment and Water
Югозападен, Bulgaria (България)
Start Date
March 2017
End Date


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