LEED Certification for Shipping Container Construction

brennan viloria's picture
brennan viloria
April 7, 2015

My partner and I are currently Architectural Engineering students and we are currently working on a project regarding the construction of a retail space with the use of shipping containers. My question is, how does the LEED system work in regards to this type of construction and the use of the materials and resources. 


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1 users voted0 users voted

Hi Brennan, thanks for your question.

LEED contemplates the use of reused and/or recycled materials in a variety of ways, so depending on the rating system you are considering here are some options for a retail project using a shipping container:

Under LEED 2009 BD+C/New Construction, you could pursue MR credit 3 "Materials Reuse" which aims to reduce the demand for virgin materials and reduce waste. You could earn 1 or 2 points for reusing 5% or 10%, respectively, of the building's total value of materials (based on cost). 

Within LEED v4 (the most current version of LEED) the BD+C rating system has paths for retail and hospitality where you could get points for using the shipping container as the building or part of the structure.

MR Credit Building Lifecycle Impact Reduction offers OPTION 3. BUILDING AND MATERIAL REUSE (2–4 POINTS BD+C, 2-5 POINTS CORE AND SHELL)... The LEED Reference Guide for v4 offers the following guidance for meeting the requirement for this particular credit, which I believe would be applicable for your shipping container:

"Reuse or salvage building materials from off site or on site as a percentage of the surface area, as listed in Table 1. Include structural elements (e.g., floors, roof decking), enclosure materials (e.g., skin, framing), and permanently installed interior elements (e.g., walls, doors, floor coverings, ceiling systems). Exclude from the calculation window assemblies and any hazardous materials that are remediated as a part of the project."
Materials contributing toward this credit may not contribute toward MR Credit Material Disclosure and Optimization."

TABLE 1. Points for reuse of building materials
Percentage of completed project surface area reused

  • 25% surface area = 2 points in BD+C (and Core & Shell)
  • 50% surface area = 3 points in BD+C (and Core & Shell)
  • 75% surface area = 4 points in BD+C (5 points in Core & Shell)

Because shipping containers are not explicitly considered in LEED as a building strategy, you could also apply for an Innovation credit for using the shipping container as the primary building structure.

By doing this, you are basically setting a precedent for future LEED projects to use as guidance. The Innovation (Option 1) credit provides a way to earn 1 point by achieving a significant, measurable environmental benefit by using a strategy not addressed in the LEED rating system. To apply for this, you would define the intent of your new Innovation credit, describe the requirements for compliance, what you would submit to comply and your approach to meet the requirements.

I didn't see any Shipping Containers listed in the LEED Innovation catalog for LEED 2009 here: http://www.usgbc.org/articles/introducing-leed-innovation-catalog

Let us know if you have more questions, thanks.

- Rob



0 users voted0 users voted


This is a great question, and a very cool option. I think modular construction is going to be HUGE in the future, especially as we come away from how awful it HAS been, and how cool it could be.

What I'd advise is to decide if you're talking about LEED Homes or LEED BD+C. We work both commercial and residential, and I find the Homes team a lot more responsive when it comes to thinking ... outside the box. If there are ID points available, I suspect you'll get an answer more quickly than you would commercial.

But yes, I believe you're onto something that has great potential for points around reuse, recycled materials, modular construction, to say nothing of great marketing opportunities.

Good luck!


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