Bradley's custom shipping container kitchen at Winter Park Resort built by ROXBOX Containers.

The 3 Best Build Strategies for Your Shipping Container Project

When working with ROXBOX on a modular shipping container project, we offer three pathways to choose from: ROXBOX Models, Custom Projects, and Shells. Each path offers its own advantages and we work with our clients to help them choose which option fits their concept and vision best. In this blog we cover all three pathways in detail, covering the pros & cons, timelines, and costs of each option.

ROXBOX Models

ROXBOX Models are different base models that we have spent years refining and optimizing. By choosing one of our ROXBOX models, you are greatly reducing the time and cost of your project, especially from a pre-construction standpoint as all of the conceptual designs are already completed. Models have various add-ons and upgrades that you can choose from (such as a rooftop deck or various finish options) and can be painted/branded to whatever your preference is to truly make the build your own and match your brand. ROXBOX models are great for single-unit builds or “Container Park” concepts with multiple single units at a site.

While we are always expanding our offerings of ROXBOX models, our current modified shipping container models consist of bars, cafes, kitchens, retail, concession stands, stages, and experiential marketing units.

You can learn more about each of these models on our Models page here.

ROXBOX Models Pros & Cons
Pros

  • Proven designs and builds: We have spent years refining and optimizing these designs, so you can be confident that you are getting a functional and durable model.
  • Fast Project Timelines: Since all of our model designs are already completed, we are able to skip most of Phase 1 (Design & Planning). Depending on if your project is mobile or permanent, we are also able to greatly reduce the amount of time we spend in Phase 2 (Construction Documents). We are therefore able to jump into Phase 3 (Production & Construction) much quicker than a custom build.
  • Relatively cheaper: By skipping Phase 1 (and the associated cost), the total cost of the project becomes instantly cheaper. In addition, we have designed our models to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible while still meeting requirements for code compliance and the intended use-case of each model. Additionally, we have built numerous of these units utilizing proven and known techniques, materials, and designs, so the actual cost to build a model is relatively cheaper given the manufacturing efficiencies.
  • Customizations Through Add-Ons: Make any one of our models your own unique unit by adding your own special touches through add-ons such as: signage/branding, different paint colors or a mural, a rooftop deck, etc.

Cons

  • Set Designs: With ROXBOX models you are confined to the designs on our Models page. While there are various add-ons and upgrades that you can choose from and the unit can be painted/branded to whatever your preference is, any structural or design changes will result in a custom project (see next section Custom Projects for more details).
  • Not entirely “off-the-shelf”: In order for your business to operate legally, each project deserves attention towards code compliance. While our model designs reduce the time and cost for pre-construction, there will still be some costs and time for pre-construction for your project. If the unit is classified as mobile/temporary and architecture and engineering are not required, the pre-construction timeline and cost for ROXBOX models are extremely small.

Who Should Choose a ROXBOX Model?

ROXBOX models are perfect for people who need a unit fast, cheap, and high-quality. We continuously refine our models based on our experience and each model is the ideal unit for its intended use case.

ROXBOX Model Examples:

Custom Projects

Custom projects allow our customers to bring their specific visions to life. With custom projects, we work with your team to design and build your concept from scratch, bringing a napkin sketch to reality. While this pathway adds time and cost to a project, it enables our clients to build a structure that perfectly fits their brand and vision. The main limiting factors of a fully custom project are timeline, budget, imagination, and code compliance. Therefore, custom projects are great for people that have a long timeline and ample budget to design a concept from scratch – whether that be a single unit or multiple units.

Custom Projects Pros & Cons
Pros

  • Your Vision: With custom projects, you can truly bring your wildest visions to life (as long as the concept meets code). Work with our talented team of designers to design a project (whether it’s one container or 100) that perfectly fits your needs and goals. No matter what you’re envisioning, partnering with ROXBOX ensures your project will be built to the highest quality by a team that understands ALL the nuances, codes, and hurdles that go into building with shipping containers.
  • Innovative: Custom projects allow you to design a truly unique container project that has never been done before. Perhaps you want to build an iconic and innovative structure utilizing shipping containers to emphasize truly sustainable development while capturing the efficiencies gained from modular construction methodologies, or perhaps you have an innovative product that is designed to be containerized and you need us to refine the design and act as a contract manufacturer to produce hundreds of units at scale. The possibilities are truly endless with container modification projects!

Cons

  • Expensive: Since we are designing custom projects from scratch, there will be higher costs in Phase 1 (Design & Planning), Phase 2 (Construction Documents), and Phase 3 (Construction & Production) than a predesigned model.
  • Longer Project Timeline: Custom projects have longer project timelines since we are designing the product from scratch, need to submit the custom designs through all of the necessary approval and inspection processes, and since we often are building something for the first time there will be added manufacturing costs for R&D.

Who Should Choose a ROXBOX Custom Project?

Custom projects are great for people that have a healthy budget, ample time, and want to build a project that matches their vision. As a design + build firm we work with many firms and people to bring their custom concepts to life and we love tackling innovative projects, especially at scale.

ROXBOX Custom Project Examples:

Shells

By choosing a shell, ROXBOX simply provides the modified container(s) with doors, windows, framing, insulation under the floors, and exterior paint while your team and/or a local General Contractor finishes out the project on-site and coordinates all on-site inspections. “Shells” are our least expensive and fastest option but are also our most limited as far as scope. You should therefore be prepared to do some serious construction work on site. We still typically handle pre-construction Phase 1 (Design & Planning) & Phase 2 (Construction Documents) to design the unit(s) and produce a stamped Construction Drawing set. You can also provide the approved drawings yourselves and we would skip right to the shop drawings based on the plans you provide. For the shell pathway, we often work with the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), aka your local building department (instead of the State Modular program) when it comes to plan review, inspections, etc.

Whereas ROXBOX models and custom projects will arrive on-site essentially turn-key and have already been fully inspected at our facility by approved 3rd-party inspection agencies, shells are limited to modifying the unit to the point of the first inspection (ie. modified container, doors, windows, spray-foam underneath the floors, framing, and exterior paint). Once the shell(s) arrive, a licensed General Contractor takes over and finishes the build-out on-site with correlating inspections. Therefore, your all-in costs for the unit will be similar in the end but this pathway is seen as a more traditional construction pathway.

Shell Option Pros & Cons
Pros

  • Cheap: Lower cost as you are only paying for the modified container(s) with doors, windows, framing, insulation under the floors, and exterior paint.
  • Fast Project Timeline: ROXBOX can turn around shell projects extremely fast, as we are only responsible for the basic container modifications.

Cons

  • DIY Project: You and your team are responsible for all of the finish work on site and all necessary inspections. This typically includes rough and final electrical, rough and final plumbing, insulation, finished walls/ceiling/floor, equipment, lights, HVAC, etc.
  • No warranty: Since these units will be worked on and finished by others, we cannot offer a warranty. ROXBOX always builds to IBC code and we pride ourselves on our craftsmanship but we cannot be responsible for other people’s work.

Who Should Choose the Shell Option?

Shells are perfect for those that have a construction background (or are working with a team that has construction experience) and are comfortable with construction, inspections, etc.

*Important to Note – Watching YouTube videos or HGTV shows does not count as having construction experience and you will most likely spend a lot of time and money learning why most people hire professionals. DIY projects based on these viral videos rarely go according to plan and we are often called back to help.

ROXBOX Shell Examples:
ROXBOX built and delivered this shell to Mobile Television Group (MTVG) in Denver, Colorado
MTVG completed all of the finish work shown below in their own facility
ROXBOX built and delivered this shell to Round Barn Estate in Baroda, Michigan
Round Barn Estate completed all of the finish work on-site in collaboration with a local general contractor

Takeaway

As you can see, there are several ways to approach your particle shipping container project and each pathway has its pros and cons. Irrespective of what path you choose, we highly recommend getting our firm engaged in pre-construction Phases 1 & 2 as soon as possible as those phases can take months depending on what your building department requires (it also never hurts to get pre-construction out of the way early). Building a structure legally takes considerable expertise, time, and commitment – which are not often shown on HGTV or other viral shipping container modification videos. No matter what path you choose or which firm you decide to work with on your container project, do your due diligence and ensure you are following the law or you may wind up with a giant (and expensive) paperweight. Our three different paths are designed to give you different options that align with your budget, timeline, expertise, and goals.

Whether you know which pathway you are interested in or if you are interested in learning more about each option, the first step for any project is to contact us and speak with our team of experts about your concept and vision. Based on an initial conversation, our team will be able to offer you valuable insights into your project and point you in the right direction. Reach out to our team here and let’s chat about which path is best for your project!