Container Spotlight: ISDSI Thailand Campus

Based in the beautiful area in Northern Thailand, the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute (ISDSI) is a recognized leader for innovative study abroad programs.

ISDSI’s study abroad programs help to educate American students about key issues involving sustainability.

This is done by a close collaboration with local communities in the country.

ISDSI Thailand Campus

The original program began with just six students, but has now grown to over 600 hundred students, from more than 50 colleges and universities.

A hallmark of ISDSI courses, students are introduced to academic, field based learning study and experiential learning in social and natural sciences.

ISDSI borrows heavily from wilderness expeditions and outdoor education, combining both into a unique and powerful approach to leadership, experiential learning, and cultural immersion.

It was this focus on sustainability that led ISDSI to incorporate that into their new campus.

A New Home for ISDSI Students


In 2018, ISDSI needed a new campus to house incoming and current students.

The goal for the new campus was to create space for students, while also promoting a center and hub for the surrounding community.

As an organization that promotes sustainability, the new campus emphasizes the natural outdoor connection.

This was why ISDSI opted for decommissioned shipping containers versus other building materials.

The design was created using 17 High Cube shipping containers for the main building, while the café is made out of a standard 20-foot container.

ISDSI Thailand Campus Concept

Much of the design was done to maximize sustainability, such as:

  • Reusing and upcycling used shipping containers, saving energy.
  • Reusing the building off-cuts for interior walls, doors, and more.
  • Using LED lights, as well as using the natural light of the area.
  • The landscape of the area was left intact and built to keep the surrounding trees. They also planted grass and a garden.

The construction took nine months to complete, despite a delay that was caused by Thailand’s rainy season.

In total, 22 recycled shipping containers were used, creating several different types of rooms for the campus:

  • 6 classrooms and one teacher prep room
  • 2 large seminar spaces, combining a small space and a larger one
  • A library and quiet work area
  • Offices, bathrooms, and kitchen
  • Extensive outside decks and commons area

Library Common Room ISDSI

Lanna Café, one of the partners with ISDSI, runs the Rx Café, which was the first container building to be built.

Nearby is the CrossFit Chiang Mai gym.

Here’s a quick video showing the completed campus:

The Growing Usage of Shipping Containers


ISDSI isn’t the only educational institute to use shipping containers for building.

Many rural areas have used shipping containers as school buildings in order to provide a region with an educational facility.

As mentioned with ISDSI, some areas aren’t able to house an entire school building, whether the reason be the land itself not sustaining a building or disruption of wildlife and vegetation.

When buildings have been built entirely out of shipping containers, it’s called cargotecture. This is a combination of ‘cargo’ and ‘architecture’.

Also known as arkitainer, businesses and individuals are using shipping containers more and more for alternative construction material.

Bard College Science Lab

Bard College in New York, for instance, took four containers and created a science lab for their students.

As the world continues with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the world are faced with the decision to keep students educated either in person or online.

For rural areas that have issues with stable internet connections, this can be challenging. But as ISDSI shows, easy classrooms can be set up with ease when using containers.

ISDSI’s eco-friendly goals have been ongoing since 1998 and in building a sustainable campus with recycled materials means they are teaching what they preach.

If you’re interested in learning more about ISDSI or studying abroad, check out their website or email them at [email protected].

If you would like to use shipping containers for your school or campus, get in touch with us at 800.686.9114.