There is nothing that specifies what a house of worship has to be made out of and shipping containers make a lot of sense especially if a church is being renovated for safety reasons.
At the same time I find a lot of churches and chapels here in the Philippines fall into disrepair due to a lack of maintenance and budget. At the same time I am sure shipping containers could be utilized as a cheaper long term solution especially in areas prone to bad weather where a conventional church may find its roof damaged in bad weather conditions. The other benefits are that its at a single level (unless you add upper floors) which means its easier to maintain and renovate although will need less maintenance than hollow block or metal sheet roofing.
When looking to buy a Shipping Container for property use of some description the first issues should be what planning issues you may hit. In many cases the regulations don’t interfere with shipping containers as they are seen as “temporary buildings”. I know someone who has a huge shed which has only two restrictions which were height and square metre size “per year”. This meant that although he couldn’t go any higher than one level he has literally built to his maximum square metre limit every year for the last 10 years giving him a workshop that covers at least 800sqm of floor space more than he will ever need. At the same time due to the type of work he did it also suited him as the majority of materials were recovered from replacements on roofs of properties he was repairing that the owners were just glad to see the end of.
Now if your unsure or thinking your going to struggle hit the car and head round looking for people in your area and maybe ask in places like Yahoo answers about “city building codes” in your areas. The reason for this is if you can find people who have already done it you can find out how they got round the problem. Often it can be a green city engineer involved who can help push the idea and get it passed. Before I submit any paperwork for requirements I normally sketch up some rough plans and invite those who are likely to oppose the idea to come and view the location and talk about it as well as show them how it won’t become an eye sore to the area but actually enhance it.
Once your sure the planning isn’t going to be an issue its time to start hunting a container down. Ports may be the obvious way to find a container but what about searching for hauliers in the area? For example one near my parents delivers wine to a warehouse everyday but the containers leave empty back to port. This means there is a good chance you can cut a deal on the container delivered to your door if they have a spare one available saving on the commuting costs as you will hopefully only be paying for the container plus the delivery cost from when its unloaded at the yard if anything.
Classified ads are another place to find containers but often you will come across containers that don’t have any way of being loaded which means you have the expense of loading and unloading which is fine if you can locate equipment near both locations to do it or negotiate that loading is the sellers problem. Often though in the classifieds you can find shipping containers for free because they may have been put in location for a tool shed for example while an office complex or house was built and now its in the way, which is why it may pay to get one of these especially near the end of a construction job as there may be a JCB or other machinery that can lift it already on site and a quick £20 in the drivers pocket and your loaded.
As I looked into shipping container developments more and more and their uses. One of the most practical and cost affective is the retail showroom. Firstly its mobile allowing changing of lots if one area isn’t performing making it easy to locate to another area. But more importantly shipping container showrooms can fit in many locations that can also be rented short term. For example take a large car park on a retail park. Its rarely full yet a store on the retail park may be launching a new furniture range. This would allow a fully visual experience for people visiting the retail park who may not go to the furniture store otherwise. Same goes for bathrooms which in the UK many builders merchants have large compounds and having a bathroom setup for giving people an idea of what they are buying and how they can visualise it in their own home opens up a normal trade environment also to the general public increasing profitability.
The fact that this type of cargotecture is kept in a basic clean form means it can be refitted easily as your literally looking at a painted box with a glass window giving a retail experience to almost anywhere for almost anything.
These car showrooms are a practical example of how a shipping container module can be used. I have also worked with a company in the UK previously that use the outer steel frames you see here that form an open sided shell that slot walls drop into. This is probably based on the same technology but still using the shipping container size and weights for transportation. A small 7.5 ton truck with attached crane can move these and deliver one at a time. Making it not only cost affective for construction but also transportation.