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Shipping container buildings: Turning function into fashion

Daniel Kroft and his team transform basic shipping containers into mind-blowing structures for custom homes, pop-up retail and even a Louis Vuitton fashion show.  

Giant Containers - Launch

Want to add electricity? No problem. Insulation for hot or cold weather? Of course! There are few – if any – limits to what the team from Giant Containers can create. Since they launched in Toronto in 2008, the small team has created and shipped an impressive list of modular structures all across the world. Though shipping containers are best known for temporary storage, the creative crew adds customized amenities to produce both temporary and permanent buildings. The result is a wide array of high-quality structures for those seeking faster, cheaper and more sustainable options for sites. They also cater to businesses who want a unique, headline-grabbing approach to space for branding, like luxury label Louis Vuitton who showcased new styles inside a cluster of 20 customized containers and Roots Canada who commissioned a travelling store carried on a flatbed truck. CEO Daniel Kroft sits down with us to share how the unique business got started.

Rogers Business: How did you get started?

Daniel: I was employed in my family's logistics and storage business when I began noticing a rising demand for clients wanting to purchase shipping containers. Recognizing an opportunity, I started selling them on the side. As time went on, customers began requesting additional services such as painting, logo customization, and the addition of doors and windows. The demand continued to grow, and I realized that we had stumbled upon something significant.

While working with shipping containers was not a new concept, as people had been doing it since the 1980s, the industry itself felt outdated and lacked emphasis on customer service. This realization sparked a desire within me to revolutionize the industry and establish a unique experience and brand for our customers. Motivated by this vision, I started accepting more projects, and since then, I have never looked back.

Rogers Business: Are shipping containers meant to be permanent options or just temporary?

Daniel: While they were initially used mainly as temporary structures, in recent years their popularity has grown significantly for permanent use applications as people have become more aware of the benefits of modular construction and are interested in the industrial chic style that shipping containers offer. The great news is they are appropriate for both a permanent and temporary application.  

Rogers Business: What is the process when working with a new customer?

Daniel: When approached by a new customer, we love to have an introductory meeting to get to know the customer and to answer any questions about building with shipping containers. If the client is on board, we go ahead with the first step of our design process. Once that has been reviewed and approved by the customer, we move into shop drawings – which include the full details and specifications required for a container building – from interior finishes, structural studies, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing installations. Our final step – the construction of the container building!

Rogers Business: What are some misconceptions about container builds?

Daniel: One of the most common is that modular buildings are low-quality and lack the same level of craftsmanship and durability as traditional buildings. However, this is not the case. They’re designed and built to meet the same standards and regulations as traditional buildings. They can be customized to include high-quality finishes, modern amenities, and comfortable interiors.

Another common misconception is that they’re not suitable for harsh weather conditions, such as winter. This is also untrue. Shipping containers are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, including heavy snow, forceful wind, extreme heat and aggressive rain. They can be insulated and fitted with heating and cooling systems to ensure that occupants are comfortable year-round.

Rogers Business: What’s industry do you most work with?

Daniel: We have noticed that a growing number of our leads are coming from the residential sector. It wasn’t always like this, but we attribute it to the rising costs of traditional construction, as consumers seek more affordable alternatives in addition to the faster time to occupancy. As countries seek to solve their housing crisis we are seeing a primary driver being what construction methodology can lead to a faster occupancy.

Rogers Business: What the biggest advantage of choosing a container over a traditional building?

Daniel: Modular buildings made from shipping containers offer significant advantages in terms of time, money, and durability. By using a standard-sized product like a shipping container, we can leverage the large logistical network that moves containers globally, reducing costs and lead times. Our buildings are also highly durable and storm-resistant, as they are constructed out of steel rather than wood. They’re highly customizable, so they work for a wide range of industries and applications.

Rogers Business: Where can we find your business online?