Sheds and shipping containers

Shipping Containers

Is it shipping container storage or a storage shed.  It looks like a shipping container, it is a shipping container but is it being used as a shipping container?  That is the question many local governments ask when shipping containers are not being used for shipping.

Using a shipping container as a storage structure is a popular trend. However, if you are counting on your transformed shipping container to be a cheaper storage solution than a regular shed, beware. You might be signing up for problems that don’t turn out so cheap after all.

Under the Building Act 1975, all building structures require approval. So, if you are using a shipping container as a building and not just a shipping container, you will need to get this approved.

In order to get approval for your transformed container, you will need to fulfil all the structural requirements of any other building. This includes design plans, footing and tie down details, and the container must be sited correctly. Furthermore, there may be planning scheme provisions in place that will actually prohibit such use of shipping containers.

There are plenty of cases where local governments have taken action against the use of the containers as buildings structures, and the costs involved with disputing such actions are really not worth the risk. So, do your research and you will save money in the long run.

“Is there an actual time they stop being shipping containers?” you might ask. Well, shipping containers are used solely for shipping goods and as such, are usually on site just long enough to be loaded or unloaded. So my answer to your question is: if you have to ask, then you need a building permit.

There are, of course, some exceptions to the rule:

1.) If the shipping container is a temporary thing on a building site, it does not need a building approval.

2.) If the shipping container is on Local Government or State land. The structure must still comply with all the design and construction standards of the building law including tie down, siting, ventilation, etc., however, it does not need a formal building approval.

To conclude, if you are looking at transforming your shipping container, do your research first. It will save you a lot of time and money in the long-run.


If you would like to read more on this issue check out this newsflash on shipping containers released by Building Codes Queensland a few years ago.

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I am a Director of Devcert and have been a Building Surveyor since 1989. I have a bachelor degree in building surveying and I am a qualified carpenter. I have been in the construction industry since 1981. I have a real passion for the building certification profession as I believe building certifiers are the general practitioners of the construction industry. Our role is not only to know building law and apply it, our role includes assisting in the development of the knowledge of all in the industry by sharing our knowledge and experience.