A Very Unique Thai University! Build from Shipping containers

A university build from 17 shipping containers and reusable materials
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By Daniel Herron

ISDSI Campus

You’d think it’s a massive modern art structure or museum, instead it’s a most creative use of shipping containers for the ISDSI University in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai. 

The International Sustainable Development Studies Institute in Thailand build a campus almost entirely of shipping containers and reusable materials.


The brand-new campus uses 17 containers, sourced from the ports in Bangkok. The containers have been fitted together to create different-sized classrooms and common areas, with as much natural light weaved into the design as possible. 

Campus Grounds

In order to build anything many considerations come into play. Cost is always primary, then how functional and efficient is the structure. How can it be low in maintenance down the road?  Eco-friendly is always important and shipping containers are a nice fit to all these requirements.

Stairs to the various levels

Saving energy

The institute says that using the containers is a more sustainable option for two main reasons. Firstly, it reduces the reliance on concrete for construction. The production of concrete creates a significant amount of greenhouse gases. In this design, the containers sit on a concrete pad and are welded to embedded steel plates, a method which uses less concrete than traditional construction methods. 

Secondly, the institute says that reusing the steel container, as opposed to melting it down and recycling it, saves energy.

“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 institute explains in a press release.


Container structures have been around for a while but in the past 5 years have becoming more and more prevalent! 

Student Cafe

Also near the university is another creative container structure call the Sleepbox Hotel. Reasonably priced and each room has AC and widescreen TV’s.

SleepBox Hotel, Chiang Mai

Container ships are responsible for 60% (by value) of global shipping trade. Every year they cross the world’s oceans carrying over 1.7 billion tons of cargo. But what happens to them when they are no longer needed?

Shipping Container structures are showing up everywhere worldwide. Coffee shops, homes, botique hotels, whatever one can imagine!

Starbucks – Chicago

Some get turned into buildings for people to live and work in. Global coffee chain Starbucks, for instance, has used them to build drive-through coffee shops.

With a little imagination...”the sky’s the limit.”

At present I’m working with an international team in hopes of building a school for Chaiyapruk Foundation for abandoned children outside of Bangkok.  

1st Rendering

Daniel Herron – Copyright 2020

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