Sustainable Container Architecture For A Thailand School
Based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, International Sustainable Developmental Studies Institute (ISDSI) practised what it preached when it built its new campus – it chose to recycle shipping containers and reuse all the off-cut metal.
The school teaches American students about sustainability in the economy, so had to prove its point with the very classrooms in which the students are based.
6 Classrooms & 1 Canteen
The campus is built of 16 high cube, 40ft shipping containers and a 20ft container that is used as the school canteen.
According to the ISDSI website, “We elected to use shipping containers (sourced out of the ports in Bangkok) to build our center. By up-cycling the steel, they are kept out of the waste stream, and allow us to learn (and teach) about how to use the hundreds of thousands of containers sitting in the ports of the Global South.”
The six classrooms are made of one 40ft container each while the larger rooms, including library, office and seminar rooms, were welded together to achieve the space required. There was a lot of metal left over from removing the sides of the containers joined together, as well as adding windows and doors to the other units. This metal was re-used in the rest of the campus. All the sinks in the campus are panel-beaten shipping container off-cuts.
Cargotecture as it is sometimes known, does not have to be brutalist or ugly! The architects of the ISDSI campus agree with this ideal and what is in place is very appealing to the eye. An appealing educational institution is also inspiring for the students learning about environmental sustainability so they can live and breathe the ethos of the organisation.
Thailand is a hot country (and getting hotter). All the units used have been heavily insulated and a low power air conditioning system is used to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the day. Part of the way the building is constructed is to encourage airflow and therefore to passively cool the campus as well as actively.
One of the draws to shipping containers was that concrete use can be minimised. Concrete is generally held to emit a tonne of CO2 for every tonne used. In only using concrete for the foundation pad, so its use could be minimised.
Trees and drainage
A modern Thai construction habit is to cut all the trees on a site down ahead of a building being put there. This isn’t the case with the ISDSI campus. There are 10 acacia trees on site, locally known as ‘rain trees’. The ISDSI state, “We designed the building to leave the trees in place, and to “tuck” the building under the rain trees. This was a challenge!”
This was an issue when it came to moving the machinery and units around the site but the result is that the site retains its mature trees and the ecology they maintain above and below the ground.
Rather than pave over a car park and send all the rainwater into storm drains, the ISDSI chose to have a gravel car park. This allows all runoff to go into the ground and through the natural watercourses.
A well thought out design!
Not all container architecture we write about here at the Gateway Gazette is from repurposed shipping containers. Thousands of new shipping containers a year go straight into construction in much the same way as your roughed up jeans are roughed up by a machine (and not worn by someone else for 10 years). This pseudo-recycling is a drain on the environment and resources. What we really like about the campus here is that most – not all – shipping containers would have rotted away at the back of a seaport, never to be used again. Instead they were properly repurposed and given a new lease of life.
All the containers we sell at Gateway Container Sales have had their own lives and could tell a salty tale or two if you could ask them. They are very good for new uses, from storage sheds, right up to beautiful mansions. Just give us a call today about your project and we will help you out!