EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTE FOCUSED ON SUSTAINABLE LIVING WALKS THE TALK BY CREATING FACILITY MADE COMPLETELY FROM RECYCLED MATERIALS
Demonstrating that actions speak louder than words, the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute in Thailand has just built a new campus made almost entirely out of recycled materials. Providing the main structure for the complex are 17 used shipping containers.
The institute teaches students how to engage in a more sustainable life and attracts students from as far as the United States to study a programme of sustainability, which encompasses subjects such as Thai Language and Society, Sustainable Food Systems and Forest Ecology.
When the university found that it needed a new campus for this successful programme, it opted to abide by its own teachings. The solution was to house its new facility within a structure made from decommissioned shipping containers.
Explaining the choice, the institute pointed out that shipping containers are responsible for 60% (by value) of global shipping trade. Each year, they cross oceans around the globe, carrying over 1.7 billion tonnes of cargo. However, little thought is given to what happens to them when they are no longer needed.
Rather than being discarded and melted as waste, there is now a global trend to reuse this material, which can be easily converted into structures for people to work or live in. This is gaining momentum as global brands, such as the Starbucks coffee chain, are now using containers to build drive-through coffee shops.
In fact, the rise of use by commercial entities is currently increasing the demand for used shipping containers globally – as it provides a cheap alternative to traditional methods of construction.
With this in mind, the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute utilised 17 containers sourced from ports surrounding the Bangkok area to create a visibly appealing and functional school campus.
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.
The institute says the containers are a sustainable from two key perspectives: it reduces the reliance on concrete for construction, and by reusing the steel container (and not melting the steel for reuse) the planet saves a significant amount of 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 said in a press statement.
The site chosen for the campus offers surrounding greenery, and the construction required no vegetation to be removed in order to accommodate it. In fact, the natural foliage provides vital shade for the campus.
Furthermore, any necessary off-cuts from the steel container during the assembly process 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 minimise the carbon impact of this by reusing existing units and decentralising their control on a “room-by-room” basis.
Despite an increasing trend, the widespread use of shipping containers as a potential solution to housing needs, particularly affordable housing in poverty-stricken areas, has been met with some resistance. Among the key concerns has been the effectiveness of these containers in dealing with a range of environmental conditions as well as their ability to protect against the elements and weather extremes.
Supporters of the concept, however, point out that if even if containers were used to provide the basic frame of a more complex construction, it would result in considerable cost savings and lower reliance on precious building materials.