Seacan Usage

Repurposing seacans as storage buildings, commercial buildings or even homes has gained popularity in recent decades.

Before committing to purchasing and converting a seacan, it is important for people to do some research about this type of project and learn about zoning bylaws and building codes in their area. 

A seacan could be a previously-used shipping container that is no longer certified and is being repurposed. It may also be a domestically built container that may or may not be engineered.

When a seacan is repurposed for supporting or sheltering any use or occupancy, it is considered a building. This includes uses such as, but not limited to storage buildings, sheds, additions, houses, offices and retail spaces.

For land use purposes, the Medicine Hat Land Use Bylaw defines a Shipping Container as follows:

Shipping Container means a seacan or other form of container that was or could be used for transport of goods by means of rail, truck or by sea. Shipping Containers are typically rectangular in shape, are generally made of metal and vary in dimensions.

Permits required

Secan dimensionsTemporary usePermanent use
8' X 10' (2.44m X 2.99m)

area: 7.3m2

No permits required, as long as no hazard is created. 

• Development Permit required

8' X 20' (2.44m X 6.06m)

area: 14.8 m2

• Building Permit required

• Development Permit required

• Building Permit required

 8' X 40' (2.44m X 12.2m)

area: 29.8 m2

• Building Permit required

• Development Permit required

• Building Permit required

Rules and regulations
Size and location requirements

A shipping container (seacan) may be allowed within any land use district within Medicine Hat, at the discretion of the Development Authority. The seacan size and proposed location will be assessed to ensure that there will be no adverse impact to neighbouring land, and that other requirements of the Land Use Bylaw are met.

If used as a storage building or shed, a seacan is considered an accessory building.

Some Land Use Bylaw requirements which apply:

  • For permanent use of a seacan within a residential area, the seacan must be finished in materials that are characteristic of a residential district, or screened from view, to the satisfaction of the Development Authority.
  • All accessory buildings on a site (parcel) must not exceed a total site coverage of 15% (Site coverage = area of building ÷ area of lot).
  • For permanent use of a seacan within a residential area, there is a minimum setback of 0.6m from an interior property line or rear property line, with no roof projection closer than 0.45m, and a minimum setback of 3.0m from an exterior property line.
  • Permanent placement of a seacan in a front yard within a residential area is not allowed.
  • If you have questions about the Land Use Bylaw or utility right-of-ways, contact a Planning & Development Officer.
  • To learn more about the Land Use Bylaw, visit Zoning and Land Use.

Utility lines
  • No structures (including seacans) are allowed within a utility right-of-way (UROW).
  • No structures (including seacans) are allowed over a gas line.

Temporary use

A seacan may be used for a temporary purpose in any land use district within Medicine Hat, without requiring a Development Permit. Rules for temporary use: 

  • Temporary use of a seacan means use for a single period of no more than 30 days in one calendar year.
  • When allowed for temporary use in a residential district, a seacan must be setback a minimum of 0.5m from any property line.
  • When allowed for temporary use in a residential district, a seacan is not required to be finished in materials that are characteristic of a residential district, nor screened from view.
  • If the seacan is over 10m2 in area, a Building Permit is required, even for temporary use.

Construction/safety requirements
  • Placement or construction involving a seacan which is over 10m2 in area requires a Building Permit, whether the intent is permanent use or temporary use.
  • A seacan may be placed on the ground, provided that, at minimum:
    • all organic material is removed from the ground, and
    • the level of ground is raised with gravel to ensure proper drainage.
  • Seacans are considered buildings, therefore must have adequate separation from other buildings and from property lines.
  • If used as a dwelling unit or as a home addition, seacans require engineering approval and the dwelling must meet all the same requirements of the Alberta Building Code as a conventional building.
  • Fire rating will generally be required, although this will vary depending on the situation.
  • Seacans are non-combustable but are not fire rated. When fire ratings are required, they will apply to the existing structure and to any additional construction such as siding, roofing, studs and drywall.
  • Trade permits will be required if the seacan installation will include services:
    • Electrical Permit: Required for installing or modifying electrical systems, including alarm systems.
    • Gas Permit: Required for installing, modifying or adding to any gas system.
    • Plumbing Permit: Required for installing or modifying plumbing systems or any plumbing equipment.
    • Mechanical Permit: Required for installing or modifying heating, ventilation or air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
  • For more information about construction/safety requirements, contact a Safety Codes Officer.

Use for special events and community markets

  • Building Permit is required. Temporary structures (i.e., to be removed at a specific date) including seacans, tents, air supported structures, stages and similar structures are considered to be buildings as defined by the Alberta Building Code. Therefore a Building Permit is required before setting up these types of structures.
  • Development Permit may be required. Situations will vary, such as if the structure is put up seasonally. If you have questions, collect the details about the planned event, contact us.

Line Locates

When planning your project, it is important to know where utilities are located on your property. Locates are free of charge but require at least two days notice.

You must provide utility locate slips with any development application.

Line locates


If a Building Permit was required for your project, then you must book a City inspection. At the discretion of the Safety Codes Officer, most projects require rough-in and final inspections, depending on the complexity of the project.

Book online

Please review this user guide before booking online.

Book by Phone

Phone 403-529-8208 or fax the Inspection Request to 403-502-8036.