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How Storage Containers Are Being Repurposed for Schools

In recent years, there has been considerable growth in the popularity of using repurposed storage containers to create residential, commercial, and industrial spaces. The versatility, affordability, portability, and durability of these steel boxes make them the perfect raw material for different construction projects, including building schools.

How storage containers are being repurposed for schools

With the constant expansion of colleges that has pushed them into debt, many have had to increase tuition fees to offset some of their campus construction costs. The concept of repurposing storage containers as singular units or as a set of multiple containers to produce a larger building is considered both a lean and green practice. More importantly, using shipping container buildings reduces the cost of building materials, cuts construction times in half, and minimizes the need for extensive site preparation before setting up the structures. Moreover, schools and colleges can reuse or relocate their container buildings as their needs change.

The benefits of repurposed storage containers as schools include:

  • Solid construction: The safety of all ISO shipping containers in use today is assured by the ISO standards that guide the construction process and the maintenance guidelines imposed by the International Maritime Organization to ensure container safety. So you’re certain of the structure’s integrity, even after modifications, to provide a safe and durable learning environment for years to come.
  • Environmental friendliness: Repurposed storage containers that are transformed into buildings help to prevent the use of traditional construction materials, such as bricks and cement, that have a large carbon footprint in their production process. This lessens carbon emissions and reduces the use of steel by 3500 kg (equivalent to one shipping container).
  • Time and cost-effectiveness: There are many advantages of using steel containers as a raw material for construction, but perhaps the most significant ones are their affordability and ease of modification. Compared to building classes or laboratories, renting space in commercial buildings, or making a large capital investment in land, storage containers are readily available at a lower price. As well, they’re portable, so you can move them anywhere you want.

Here are some ways that modified storage containers are finding their way into school construction projects across the globe:

Classroom and Childcare Creche

Shipping containers can be used in the construction of educational facilities. There are many examples, including:

  • CA Costa Mesa Waldorf school, which created a new wing comprising 4 sustainable buildings using 32 storage containers;
  • UK London’s Fawood children’s center, which consists of 3-story interconnected classroom modules made of storage containers to provide childcare for 3-5 year olds;
  • and Vissershok Container Classroom in a rural township of Cape Town, South Africa.

Mobile Learning Labs

Departments are constantly outgrowing their lecture halls and classrooms as they introduce new academic programs and merge their academic majors. Generally, majors that enroll few students yet require workshops and laboratories may be distributed across the campus in areas that lack convenience. With modified shipping containers, colleges can set up portable laboratories for these niche majors, including agroecology and cyber forensics, for greater convenience and better land utilization.

Creative Studio Space

Schools invest heavily in recreational facilities and dining halls, which are essential structures for all students. Sports facilities can be particularly expensive for top-tier schools that are more dominant in sports activities. Unfortunately, the available budget may not provide much flexibility to fund other activities such as art that require their own spaces for exhibitions, studio work, performances, and so on. Fortunately, shipping containers can be cost-effectively modified to create art studios joined or stacked to achieve the desired goals. A good example is the art studio at Pomona College.

Student Housing

Previously, storage container modifications for housing was a trend associated with pop-up hotels and youth hostels in Europe. However, considering the benefits of these housing structures, especially their affordability as accommodation units, they have become a popular choice for smaller student housing projects in North America and other parts of the world as well. Extra housing space has become a primary factor with increasing enrollment in educational facilities, especially in urban settings. To overcome the space limitations, some schools and property investors are using modified containers for dormitories.

For instance, private student housing owners in Washington, D.C., have turned to “high cubes” as a cheaper and more versatile construction product compared to traditional materials. The landlords now provide students attending the Catholic University of America campus with affordable accommodation in the form of four apartment units, each occupying its own floor and comprising six bedrooms and six bathrooms. The entire construction project was completed in only a few months.

Administration Offices

An estimated 50 percent of faculty members in most colleges are adjunct or “contingent” instructors, who lack both tenure-track benefits and defined work areas or research space when they have sessions. Storage containers can be modified to provide temporary office space or even teaching areas for visiting professors and guest lecturers.

Green Study Space

Sustainability goals in the construction industry have led to the introduction of certificate programs and educational workshops in areas associated with energy, horticulture/agriculture, environmental design, green technologies, and so on. While college buildings don’t necessarily have to reflect the sustainability value for these eco-based learning programs, choosing repurposed storage container buildings over conventional buildings allows you to set an example for the learners while showing that you genuinely care about the environment rather than simply talking about it.

Final Note

Repurposed shipping containers have multiple uses in schools. They can be used as temporary structures while the main building is in the works or simply modified as a fast and affordable permanent solution. The units can be stacked or joined in unique ways to add both function and aesthetics to a school community. They’re also easy to move and dismantle or reassemble when relocating to a new site on the school grounds.

That said, it’s important to seek professional help from experts in storage container sales and modification to obtain the relevant information and guidelines on the approval process for using containers in building projects, whether as ground-level units or larger permanent structures comprising multiple containers.

For more information on storage containers and their many uses, please contact Secure Container Solutions.

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