5 Ways Public Services Can Use Shipping Containers

What are some ways public services can use shipping containers?

As we leave a very chaotic year and enter a new one, the business landscape could look very differently as we go further into 2021.

Shipping containers have been evolving from their original purpose for transporting cargo to being used for alternate uses.

In this blog, we’ll look at the 5 ways public services can use shipping containers, their benefits, and examples of businesses using them now.

5 Ways Public Services Can Use Shipping Containers


Way #1 – Educational facilities

The education sector was one of the industries that was hit hard during 2020’s corona virus pandemic, that saw K-12, universities, and colleges being affected.

Ways Public Services Can use Shipping Containers - Education

School closures saw many children and parents having to deal with the challenges that were caused.

Low-income families faced difficulties in their internet connections and speed, as the family tried to get through both school and work.

Another issue brought to the forefront was the inaccessibility of some students being able to get meals throughout the day.

Many countries have turned to container schools – schools at all levels that have been made from shipping containers – to help those in rural areas.

The DigiTruck in Tanzania, TEARS high school in the Dominican Republic, ISDSI’s campus in Thailand, and the iDEA Technopark are just some of the examples.

Developers of these properties used ISO steel containers in order to build in areas that were previously inaccessible by traditional construction.

This has allowed for students in rural or low-income communities to start or further their education without restriction.

But container schools aren’t the only things that can be built.

School labs and libraries can also be built with shipping containers, making them a good alternative option to construction or remodeling.

Bard College Science Lab

Bard College in New York did the former, converting a few ISO containers into a media lab for students.


Way #2 – Training facilities

Emergency services are often a big part of public services.

Ways Public Services Can use Shipping Containers - Emergency Services
Photo by Graham Ruttan on Unsplash

These services cover a wide range of departments, including:

  • Hospitals/medical facilities
  • Fire departments
  • Emergency services
  • Search & rescue services

Because these services require a specific skillset, it’s important that personnel are able to be fully trained in order to do their jobs.

This is especially crucial for firefighters, who need to be aware of certain situations while in the field. This is where shipping containers can help.

Fire Training Structures

Our sister company, Fire Training Structures, creates and manufactures fire training facilities using shipping containers.

These customized structures serve to give firefighters the ability to navigate through corridors and identify different types of fires.

Customized fire training structures can be stationary, built on a particular nearby area for a fire department or they can be mobile.

Mobile structures allow for portable training, giving different departments access regardless of where they are located.

And because they are customized, training scenarios can be changed.

This gives firefighters more opportunities to learn in different environments without doing the same challenge multiple times.


Way #3 – Disaster Relief

According to the World Health Organization, over 150 million people have been impacted by natural disasters.

One of the worst earthquakes on record was the 2010 magnitude 7 earthquake in Haiti.

As one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, Haiti’s earthquake affected nearly 3 million people and killed 316,000 people.

This caused many buildings, including hospitals, were destroyed.

Earthquakes are of course not the only natural disaster that happens; many deaths can be attributed to floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, or wildfires.

Ways Public Services Can Use Shipping Containers - Disaster relief
Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

2009 saw Black Saturday in Victoria, Australia which caused 450,000 acres of land burned. That number grew to nearly 27 million acres during the 2020 bushfires in the country.

The destruction power of these disasters mean that help needs to come swiftly to aid victims.

In the case of the Haiti earthquake, that relief came in the form of non-profit organization, Container2Clinics.

The organization heard about the earthquake and immediately sent out two refurbished 20-foot shipping containers.

These containers, originally meant to be a maternal care clinic, were transformed into a makeshift hospital that was able to care for 4500 patients in the aftermath.

Nearly a year after learning about the coronavirus or COVID-19, many hospitals were met with an overwhelming challenge.

Several organizations immediately looked to expanding medical areas with testing labs or ICU units to help with the increase in patients.

Clinic in a Can exam room

All of these units are made with shipping containers, modified to meet the needs and requirements of the hospital or medical facility.

While hospitals are the crucial aspect for disaster relief, ISO steel containers can be used to help in the aftermath of a disaster.

A great example of this is the 2011 Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake.

2011 was a challenging year for the city; six months prior there was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. While no fatalities, it seemed to be just a start.

The earthquake in February, while lower on the magnitude scale, was measured to be intense and violent, destroying many homes, buildings, and infrastructures.

This included the Christchurch Cathedral, a popular 19th century stone cathedral in the area, that was completely destroyed.

The church was rebuilt using four 20-foot shipping containers.

Another rebuilt area was the ReSTART Container Mall, which replaced the destroyed City Mall.

Re:START Container Pop Up Shop Mall in New Zealand


Way #4 – Transportation

So far, we’ve looked at a few ways that public services can use shipping containers, including for education, emergency services, and disaster relief.

Shipping containers have evolved from their original purpose of cargo transport. However this also makes them perfect for use in public transportation.

Public transportation isn’t just about how people get to and from their destination, it’s also about the buildings and areas that people use while waiting.

A well-known station is the Barneveld Noord, one of the ProRail bus stops in the Netherlands.

Based on a rider survey, railway architect Koen Van Velsen discovered that many travelers thought their waiting times 3x longer than what they actually were.

Others felt unsafe at these stations, especially those that were smaller. Many stations in the country were unmanned by travel personnel and were desolate.

Ways Public Services Can use Shipping Containers - Transportation

Built with shipping containers, the station was part of the ‘prettig wachten’ or “pleasant waiting” campaign to make time spent more comfortable and less stressful.

Twenty of these stations were implemented throughout the country.


Way #5 – Environmental protection

As we learn more about our world and our affect on it, we have also sought to make sure to protect and help the planet as much as we can.

That’s what makes using shipping containers a great alternative for traditional building methods.

ISO steel containers are environmentally friendly, especially when being recycled or repurposed. This helps to reduce the waste produced when containers are melted down.

This leads into maximizing sustainability.

Sustainable efforts means that using shipping containers can reduce costs when building and these structures can be moved.

As we mentioned with educational facilities, many parts of the world don’t or can’t benefit from direct construction.

And as noted in our section on disaster relief, time is sometimes of the essence and a lengthy building period is unwanted.

In this article, we looked at 5 ways public services can use shipping containers, from schools to training facilities.

The public sector isn’t the only industry that can benefit from using ISO steel containers.

From food and beverage to farming to healthcare, businesses are using containers in creative and more efficient ways.

If you’re a business or a public service that’s looking to use shipping storage containers for your project, give us a call at 800.686.9114 or fill out the contact form below.


  • Product and services

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY


  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY


  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY