Shipping containers have been used as instant space-saving solutions across a wide number of applications, including student apartment blocks to solving the housing crisis, to high-end luxury modular micro-dwellings for millennials looking to affordably build their first homes.  However, their potential use is limited by the constraints of the structure as a building unit and by the difficulty of getting standard shapes onto, and importantly off, vastly different sites.

In general, limitations have often resulted in containers not being a viable option for the institutions and businesses that could benefit from them the most, such as semi-permanent clinics and remote building sites.

According to a Cape Town businessman, however, that is set to change. Something called the flat-pack container unit  has entered the market. As versatile as its traditional predecessors,  this variant looks to be the next innovation in the market due to its ability to fold flat can provide a pop-up space for sites with limited access for full sized containers.

Kashief Schroeder, owner and co-founder of Container Intermodal Trading CC (www.citcontainer.com) tells TO BUILD that the potential for these new types of containers is really up to the imagination of the designer. “Some popular uses we have seen in the past include on-site offices, mobile hospitals, classrooms on government land where permanent structures are against regulations, boardrooms, and even temporary sleeping quarters for migrant or contract workers.”

Due to their ability to be ‘nested’, these containers can be transported practically anywhere with less cost than ever before. They can be easily assembled on-site, and then knocked down for transportation. They can be placed on a normal flatbed trailer so you can transport up to four nested flat pack containers on a single 6-metre flatbed trailer perfectly –  unlike a traditional container where you can transport only one unit.

This means you don’t need to hire multiple vehicles with multiple fuel costs and multiple drivers, meaning your transport cost between sites is potentially cut by 75%.

Mobile clinics

For our government and medical NGOs, this new technology could be a huge jump forward in providing healthcare services. There is great potential to put up mobile clinics in areas that were considered to have been too remote or inaccessible by large vehicles. Ultimately, meaning that the people that need medical attention the most receive the health care their communities desperately need – for example, mass vaccination programmes.

Ready to go additional classrooms

Social distancing requires extra space in which children can attend school safely. These containers provide schools with an instant solution in which their pupils will be safe from the weather and secure.

Using insulated flame retardant sandwich polystyrene panels; these containers require no further modifications once on site to make them comfortable in our hot African summers and frigid winters.

Temporary sleeping quarters

Generally flat packs are between 20 and 30cm higher than general-purpose storage containers which allows for extra height furniture and fittings – such as floor to ceiling shelving – on office conversions or to store taller equipment without the labour of partially disassembling it. It also allows you to add additional flooring or ceiling without reducing the height to an uncomfortable dimension and helps to balance out the narrower shape of the unit. Due to their increased height, in emergency situations, bunk beds are able to be set up – essentially doubling the amount of people who can get a night’s sleep in the same footprint as a traditional container.

Offices and boardrooms

Containers provide a perfect mobile solution that is easily  knocked down and transported. This is ideal for building sites  for those looking for a peaceful space in which to meet or do admin work.

Vacation homes

For those looking to invest in a more flexible solution without the commitment of immobility, these flat packs can be built to order, making them a more flexible solution.  If you need to move, you can simply deconstruct the container and move on without the worry of having to purchase a new home or sell an old one.

Pop up space

For those looking to start a small business, such as a clothing store or hair salon, they provide the opportunity to set up a comfortable workspace quickly and equipment can be stored securely.

One of the fundamental benefits of the traditional shipping container is its durability. And despite being more flexible – flat packs retain this characteristic.  The finish is suitable for most weather types and that the product is rust-resistant in the long term. The locking mechanisms on these containers are as secure as those of traditional containers, ensuring that no unwelcome visitors will be able to enter your office or get their hands on any tools for as long or short a time as needed.

Flat pack containers require assembling and the necessary equipment. The basic knowledge on how to do this is essential, as is the availability of a forklift or crane to lift and fix the roof. With this, the containers can be installed almost anywhere in less than six hours. Should the owner lack the required skills and hardware, a professional can be approached for logistical support.

The overall assembly timeline is kept brief as there are fewer variables that are out of your control such as the weather. The risk of working at heights is eliminated and they come ready to assemble, reducing on-site work. Every piece fits together with millimetre precision thanks to being manufactured in a controlled factory environment. All of this saves you headaches such as prolonged road-closures, noise complaints and unforeseen labour costs.

“After offering new and pre-owned containers for sale or rental in Southern Africa over the last 14 years, we have been able to provide sound advice and recommendations to business owners and individuals that are looking for the best container solutions for a given space,” concludes Schroeder.

This article was published in partnership with Media Xpose.

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