Steel containers: the future of homes? | Mercedes-Benz Vans

Steel containers: the future of homes?

The start-up Containerwerk turns used shipping containers into high-quality, stylish apartments.

Just 13 years at sea.

The average shipping container has a short working life, spending just 13 years at sea, with its final journey often being directly to the scrapyard. Ivan Mallinowski and Michael Haiser from the start-up Containerwerk have already spotted their potential: they prevent decommissioned containers landing on the scrapheap by turning them into living spaces. Housebuilding with used shipping containers – the idea isn't especially new, but this start-up has managed to make their immense steel structures something uniquely special. They offer more living space than other living containers and are converted using sustainable materials. Plus, their conversion from raw containers to turn-key apartments takes just six weeks. That's made possible by a whole lot of creative know-how.

If something doesn't exist already, they'll create it.

Ivan is the handyman of the two founders. He has developed an industrial process which is without equal among the competition and which allows the containers to be converted especially quickly. A key role in this is the company's invention for solving the biggest problem during conversion of the containers: the insulation. Made entirely of metal, the raw containers are not suitable to live in before conversion. They allow heat and noise to penetrate unfiltered into the interior and thus need some good insulation. With a maximum width of 2.32 metres, standard insulation with a thickness of 40 centimetres drastically eats into the valuable living space. The insulation developed by Containerwerk is just 10 centimetres thick, has a monolithic construction and is made entirely of recycled materials. This was made possible by using robots which Ivan developed over the course of two years. The system insulates a container fully automatically in just two hours. And to-date, no-one else has managed that. To ensure this remains the case, 16 cameras monitor the production system which is located in a hall without any windows.

The handymen.

Ivan finds new ways of tackling technical challenges.

Creative spirit in the blood.

Ivan's passion for tinkering with things made itself known at an early age: "Already when I was a child, I didn't play with my toys, I always used to take them apart," he explains. Ivan didn't study and didn't follow an apprenticeship – he's self-taught. And despite this, he's been successful from early on and has even brought several of his inventions to patent-ready status. Among his customers are household names like IBM and the Fraunhofer Institute. Ivan finished the first 20 of his projects entirely in his own garage – using a lathe and a small CNC milling machine. But all of the projects have one thing in common: the result was always unique. 18 years ago he developed a TFT plasma screen for IBM which allowed their exhibition stand to be discovered virtually in 3D. For Jägermeister, he built a 17-metre-high tower of liquor bottles which was equipped with 219 LED screens.


Containerwerk turns shipping containers into sustainable living spaces.

Looking back, Ivan says: "By teaching yourself lots of things, on the one hand you're untainted, but on the other hand, you have to take a new approach for every single topic." Upon completing the projects, he didn't just gain more experience, he also got a taste for creating sustainable products. The brainwave came to Ivan during another project which he worked on with the Fraunhofer Institute. The task in question was to create the hotel room of the future – in a shipping container. Little by little, it became clear that it was actually possible to transform a steel container into a comfortable and luxurious hotel room. Ivan was so impressed by the result that his passion for containers was awakened and the foundations thus laid for Containerwerk. Containerwerk now employs 20 people. Their production facilities are located in Wassenberg, near Mönchengladbach on a 30,000-square-metre terrain.

The key is in mobility.

Ivan recognises that "living in a container" offers many new possibilities as well as a solution to the current shortage of housing. Living containers could therefore be placed on areas which have been empty for years and thus create student quarters, for example. And as they can be transported on the roads like regular freight, the containers, which require no foundations to be dug, can be very quickly installed and removed again. If more apartments are needed, the whole building complex can quickly and easily have additional containers added to it. This mobility which the containers offer can also be advantageous in a good many applications: hotels, laboratories, social housebuilding or office complexes. Containerwerk currently has so many specific projects running that the production halls will have to be expanded. Ivan's vision is for containers to also become commonplace among private customers looking to create living space too. That would drastically change how we move house in the future. We would no longer move from one house to the next, rather we'd simply take our house with us.

From a bare container to an apartment.

Ivan has optimised every work step of the conversion process.

Always ready for action.

The Vito accompanies the employees in their daily work.


Turning old into new.


The look of the container can be individually designed. 


The container stacker of the start-up is even able to lift the biggest of containers.    


Fabian Freitag, Luis Tonhäuser

More links to discover:

Containerwerk -, @Facebook, @Instagram

The conversions shown were made by independent third-party providers. The providers and the conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. The photos in no way serve as an evaluation by Mercedes-Benz of the provider and/or conversions in question.