Stay Cool with a Shipping Container Pool
Shipping container pools have been making waves. Back in the summer of 2009, Brooklyn was abuzz about a secret pool party. On the banks of Gowanus Canal, Macro-Sea, a developer of creative events and opportunities, connected three “newish” dumpsters (cleaned, lined in plastic, and installed with a filtration system) to create an invitation-only pool. Sounds simple—and super fun. But there were “details to finesse,” according to an article in the New York Times.
“The coarse edges inside the containers were filed down, and underneath the liners, the bottoms were covered in sand, for soft landings,” the article explained.” Tightly packed sandbags double as benches along the walls, and pool toys and kid-friendliness provide an intentional counterpoint to the neighborhood grit. With brightly colored lanterns crisscrossing overhead and music piped in from an iPod connected to a boom-box, the feel is of a do-it-yourself urban oasis.”
Since then, other dumpster pools have popped up in New York City. And another mode for cooling off in a recycled or repurposed container has been floating into backyards, as well: swimming pools constructed from shipping containers. The Australian company aptly named Shipping Container Pools calls them a “complete all-in-one modular Pool for any Backyard.”
“We repurpose A-Grade containers that have been used to ship goods to Australia into brand new Shipping Container Pools because we believe an innovative design is a sustainable one,” the website states. And they are, in fact, pretty slick.
Whether embedded in a deck, mounted on pillars beside a deck or wall, extending dramatically out into the landscape, shipping containers provide an easy-to-install and economical alternative to traditional in- or above-ground swimming pools. Some even have transparent walls for the ultimate in “Mom watch me!” kid experience.
Installing a Shipping Container Pool
Modpools in Vancouver has installed more than 200 shipping container pools. They’re available in 8 x 20 feet or 8 x 40 feet and are designed to take advantage of the material and structural strength, as well as the portability, of shipping containers. In other words, just as shipping containers have become popular as a building shell in the world of sustainable home design, particularly when it comes to creating tiny homes, they’re now starting to take off as a sustainable swimming pool alternative.
Not only are container pools a prime example of upcycling—giving an object that’s already been constructed and used a new life—but many homeowners also like the industrial aesthetic of shipping containers.
Shipping container pools can also easily be relocated (regular in-ground pools are constructed to stay put), and they boast a small footprint. They can also be set up in minutes. As Modpool’s general manager Sammy Diab explained to New Atlas, “What we mean when we say it can be set up in minutes is that it delivers as fully functional, so all the plumbing, heating and electrical are all built into the pool. So once you lay it on the foundations, you make two service connections, which are just your gas connection and an electrical plug. And once you fill it with water, it is ready to go.”
Some shipping container pools have windows (as mentioned above). A divider can be installed to create a Jacuzzi. They can also come with color-changing LEDs, or a natural gas or propane heater for year-round use, both of which can be controlled with a smartphone app.
Shipping Container Pool Cost
Shipping container pools don’t have a lot of parts, unlike traditional pools. They don’t require digging, molding, or curing. They can also double at hot tubs. Prices range from about $16,500 to $39,900, depending on the size (HomeAdvisor notes that an average in-ground pool can cost from $35,883 to $62,882).
DIY: In-ground and Above-ground Container Pools
Container Professionals Inc., a company that specializes in wholesaling new and used shipping containers across the US, offers several steps for fabricating your own portable, plug, and play swimming pool. But you need to do a little advance planning: find out if you need to get a permit. Container Professionals Inc. also suggest that that you contact your local city permitting office to inquire about regulations regarding depth, fencing, and other swimming pool related nuisances. Hayward Industries, on its Poolside Blog, also recommends contacting a local pool builder who is familiar with soil conditions, utility and water locations, building codes, and potential problems and issues.
Other questions to answer in deciding where you want to site the pool:
- Do you have a location?
- What size are you thinking about?
- Consider sun and shade throughout the day
- Are there privacy concerns?
- What is the distance from existing utility access?
- Is the shipping container pool attaching to a deck, or will it be freestanding?
- How will the container get into your yard?
- Do you have enough access through existing alleys, garages, gardens, and trees?
- Do you want a new shipping container or a used one?
Next, Container Professionals recommends finding a structural engineer as water can be heavy. Even though shipping containers are inherently strong, it’s essential to make sure that the container is strengthened so that it can hold the extra weight and is built to last.”
Endless Pools also mentions that in converting a shipping container into a pool, manufacturers often “weld another layer of steel inside the corrugated steel walls to make the shipping container watertight from the inside. That second layer of steel adds a great amount of weight to the pool.” Some shipping container pools come with a fiberglass shell, which can crack and be expensive to repair.
The next step requires more math. “Determine the height of your modified shipping container swimming pool,” recommends Container Professionals. “Work out the depth that you require and cut accordingly. You’ll need to have a lip around the edge that covers the sharp edges, as well as reinforcing the structure of the container.”
The shipping container needs to be made watertight. “Shipping containers are designed to be watertight from the outside; they typically aren’t designed to hold water on the inside. Shipping containers are lined with plywood, so you’ll need an extra layer of metal or plaster to keep your pool full.”
The next step is adding in plumbing, including pumps, filters, and intake pipes. “Talk to your local pool company about the best way to do this in your area, taking into account power supplies, drainage, and water supply.” You’ll also need to set up a maintenance schedule to keep the pool clean and fresh.
Taking the Plunge
Shipping container pools also have advantages beyond upcycling and sustainability. They offer a small footprint for tight spaces and urban yards. They’re also insect and rodent-resistant (unlike plastic pools). Homeowners can also opt to create a deck around the pool, with plantings to increase visual interest.
A clever alternative to traditional swimming pools, as well as a creative way to repurpose and recycle, shipping container swimming pools, are an attractive building alternative—just as shipping containers have been finding new life as offices, retail shops, and sustainable homes. Another new use? How about a shipping container pool house next to your new shipping container pool?
According to Piscine Global, “The container pool house is a natural extension of this trend. Hard-wearing and highly adaptable, it’s an increasingly popular concept.”