Nature and Biodiversity

This Thai university used 17 shipping containers to build its new campus

A stack of shipping containers stand in a holding facility at Port Botany in Sydney May 3, 2011. Australia's central bank on Tuesday kept its main cash rate steady at 4.75 percent in a widely expected decision, though risks are growing it will have to move later in the year to keep inflation restrained amid a massive trade and mining boom.          REUTERS/Tim Wimborne     (AUSTRALIA - Tags: BUSINESS) - GM1E753101B01

The brand new campus uses 17 containers, sourced from the ports in Bangkok. Image: REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Alex Gray
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Nature and Biodiversity?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Future of the Environment is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Future of the Environment

This educational institute teaches students how to live a more sustainable life.

Proving that it’s not what you say, it’s what you do that matters, the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute in Thailand has just built a new campus made almost entirely out of recycled materials.

American students already at a college in the US can come to the institute to study a programme of sustainability that encompasses Thai Language and Society, sustainable food systems and the ecology of the forests.

When the university needed a new campus, it fell on its own teaching to source a solution, opting for decommissioned shipping containers.

Image: ISDSL

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?

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

 The rise in trade has led to increased demand for containers
Image: Statista

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.

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.

 Rx Cafe: Shade grown, organic, fair trade, Arabica coffee.
Image: ISDSL

In addition, the new plot featured over 10 trees, and the institute designed the building to leave them in place, tucking the containers underneath.

Any off-cuts from the steel container created during the assembly of the campus were saved and used in other areas such as interior walls and doors, sinks or counters.

Although the containers are insulated, the institute says it will still have to rely on air conditioning to keep them cool, though it hopes to minimize the impact by reusing existing units and decentralizing their control to a room-by-room basis.

According a blog posted by Discover Containers, controlling the environmental conditions and protecting against the elements were some of the biggest issues raised when residents were asked about living in homes built from similar steel containers.

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversitySustainable DevelopmentEducation and Skills
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Ban these companies from advertising, says UN chief, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

Michael Purton

June 13, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum