Are Shipping Containers Fireproof? Get the Facts!

SEPTEMBER 30, 2022

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Shipping containers are no longer just used for storing and transporting cargo. Today, shipping container architecture or 'cargotecture' has become mainstream, with people converting these structures into temporary houses, offices, libraries, art galleries, and more.

Of course, shipping container conversions continue to diversify, it only makes sense that people want to know that these structures are safe and secure. People want to know: are shipping containers fireproof?

That means anything inside your container will remain secure from the fire, but not necessarily the heat generated by that blaze. It also means that if an internal fire occurs, it won’t spread to the surrounding area. Keep reading to learn more. 

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What Makes Shipping Containers Fire-Resistant?

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A shipping container exterior is made of Corten steel or marine-grade steel. This kind of galvanized steel is flame-resistant. Should a fire break out, it will not significantly alter the container's structural integrity. 

In the event of a fire breaking out inside the container, the flames will persist only as long as oxygen is available. In other words, a shipping container can contain the blaze within, preventing it from spreading. Once the flame has burned through the oxygen, the flames will be extinguished. 

The perks don't end there, either. In addition to being fire-resistant, shipping containers are also waterproof.

How Can You Use a Fire Resistant Container? 

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In addition to storage and transport boxes, people are increasingly looking to containers as temporary houses and offices. This option makes it incredibly easy to save on construction costs. 

Some folks also rely on these structures for portable buildings, temporary hospital units, plant rooms, and storage houses for liquid energy or lithium batteries.

Can You Turn a Shipping Container Into a Home?

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Potential homeowners are currently seeking alternative building options for conventional single-family homes with multiple bedrooms. Fire-resistant containers have largely helped fulfill this demand. These structures are much faster and more cost-effective than traditional building materials. 

Advantages of a Shipping Container Homes

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A container home is cost-effective, customizable, and durable and offers several advantages when converted to a house. Additional benefits of investing in a fire resistant building include: 

  • Since shipping containers are of specified sizes, you can choose one after considering the available space.
  • A container's flexibility allows you to create multiple partitions and accommodate your furniture and house machinery.
  • You can purchase a storage container for as little as $3,000. Besides being less expensive than traditional housing, container homes also require fewer materials and construction workers to raise. By modifying it yourself, you can further reduce the cost.
  • Because they are mobile, a dedicated shipping transportation service may be available for hire to move and help you relocate.

Disadvantages of a Shipping Container Homes

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A shipping container has a few disadvantages as well. They include:

  • Steel is a good conductor of heat, meaning a lack of appropriate insulation may raise the internal temperature, especially during summers.
  • Your rented container may have traces of chemicals or pesticides from previous use. You must ensure the container is clear of contamination before you start using it.
  • The restricted size of the container can work as a disadvantage if you have lots of house items. You may have to rent multiple shipping containers to house all your belongings.

Fire Resistant Container Examples

In November 2018, the Woolsey Fire incident in Southern California inspired architect Doug Burdge and builder Nate Garnero to repurpose shipping containers into temporary fire-resistant housing.

The designers covered the repurposed container with fire-resistant metal. They also made it possible to raise the panels of the exterior walls to shade the outdoor deck, making the tiny home feel more comfortable.

Other Structures Made from Shipping Containers

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While shipping containers serve a wide variety of applications, how do they perform in case of a fire? Let’s find out. 

Containers As Bush Fire Bunkers

While renting a container, you must check if the bunker system has the required state certifications. A failure to do so can be dangerous, and even deadly. There was a reported instance of a couple who suffocated after likely using a shipping container as a fire bunker. Their death wasn’t linked to the fire itself, but due to heat and smoke inhalation.

Firefighting Systems

Some countries use modified containers to train firefighters. They stack multiple containers to create an effective and extensive practice area to train firefighters in dark and low visibility scenarios.

Mitigation Strategies for Shipping Container Fire Safety

The 2011 line-of-duty death of a fire captain in Enderby, British Columbia, created the need to recognize and mitigate container-related fire hazards. A fire at a warehouse that stored fuel and highly flammable liquids led to an explosion of a container. The blast blew the container unit door open, striking Captain Botkin, who later died from his injuries.

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Authorities have taken the following steps to improve safety and boost fire protection ratings among shipping containers: 

  • Regulating the purpose of shipping containers, the contents one can safely store in them, and identifying and assessing the potential fire risks.
  • The National Building Code should acknowledge shipping containers as standardized buildings or structures when not used to transport goods.
  • Put in place government regulations on the use of shipping containers as temporary buildings and structures.

Learn more about shipping container heating and cooling now.

Conclusion

Shipping containers are fire-resistant. But they do demand precautionary measures for additional safety. 


Mobile Modular Portable Solution offers high-quality shipping containers for rent and sale. Call us at 800-846-5180 or contact us to learn more.


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FAQs

Are Shipping Containers Indestructible?

Containers are almost indestructible as they are made of robust and heavy-duty metal and steel. They have corrugated walls on both the top and bottom, welded to the rails and end frames.

How Long Are Shipping Containers Good For?

Cargo containers are intended to last 25 years. They are also designed to endure long journeys by sea.

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