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When your Home is a Shipping Container
Updated 2015-12-17

In the sectors of transportation and architecture, shipping containers are coined as ISBUs – A universal acronym for Intermodal Steel Building Unit. What is the connection between ISBUs and our homes? Well, they will most likely be the future’s alternative to a cheaper and a more sustainable lifestyle. In other words, living in a container will be the coming green trend.

The eye-opening topic was recently discussed during the ‘Sustainable Shipping Container Architecture Talk’ organised by the Interior Architecture & Design Department of The One Academy as a measure to “further widen knowledge and expose Interior Architecture & Design students to different varieties of projects that they will encounter in the industry later”, said Ms. Lina Elias, senior lecturer of Interior Design.

An expert in the field, Mr. Badrul Hisham Baharum, Chief Executive Officer of Housetec (M) Sdn. Bhd., told students that using container systems as building structures has many benefits, mainly:

  • They are modular (stackable), making them easier and more flexible for construction
  • They have outstanding fire and safety ratings
  • They come in standard sizes and qualities
  • They are cheap (a standard 20-footer General Purpose ISBU costs about USD 1600)
  • They are easy to obtain
  • They make great shelters during natural disasters

ISBUs are also made of Corten steel, the same material used in the construction of San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Besides being 40% stronger than mild steel and possessing superior bonding properties with paints and coatings, Corten is highly anti-corrosive – Un-painted steel surface rusts or corrodes at an extremely slow rate of only 1.0mm of surface per 100 years, 1.5mm in highly corrosive environments.

“ISBUs are one of the best green solutions for Malaysia,” claimed Mr. Badrul Hisham, who has been actively advising the use of ISBUs in the public housing sector to the local government and abroad. “There are more potential revenue when it comes to multi-unit facilities like resorts and public housing.”

As an up and coming preferred solution for buildings, this phenomenon also opens a whole new window of opportunity for the design world. Mr. Badrul Hisham advises the interior design students to ready pragmatic design ideas because “In the near future, space will become expensive, and that is where designers’ knowledge become valuable”.

Without many modifications, ISBUs are limited in space. Therefore, for interior designers, the real challenge lies within constructing a presentable small space that is also highly functional. Some innovations and ideas discussed were customized interiors exploring the multipurpose usage of furniture, in which they carry out more than one function to conserve space.

“You need to experiment with the multifunction potentials of ISBU and push the boundaries to devise solutions for this market that is mostly untapped,” he advised. Mr Badrul Hisham foresees that the commercial use of ISBUs might takeoff in 5 more years and hopes to open the eyes of the young to embrace them.

This collaboration with Mr. Badrul Hisham from Housetec exemplifies The One Academy’s ‘Masters Train Master’ philosophy which encourages students’ learning through professionals in the industry to provide practical knowledge and insights.

Interior Architecture & Design students during the Sustainable Shipping Container Architecture Talk.

Interior Architecture & Design students enjoying the Sustainable Shipping Container Architecture Talk by Mr. Badrul Hisham Baharum.

Speaker Mr. Badrul hisham Baharum and students during the Sustainable Shipping Container Architecture Talk.

A student enquiring during the Q&A session at the Sustainable Shipping Container Architecture Talk.

A presentation of appreciation to speaker Mr. Badrul Hisham Baharum by Interior Design’s senior lecturer Ms. Lina Elias to end the session.