Why Shipping Containers

A container`s primary function is structural, to protect cargo and withstand road, rail and shipping conditions during transportation.

A fully loaded/stacked container onboard a ship in a turbulent sea is not unlike an earthquake event. Containers endure these conditions regularly.

They have been designed and manufactured to internationally accepted ISO Engineering Standards, are readily transported by vehicles and survive in harsh marine environments and extreme climatic conditions.

Shipping containers have proven themselves time and again to be virtually indestructable, no building system can compare in terms of strength, durability and security.

Given that containers are readily available, affordable and easily transportable it seems logical to take advantage of these benefits; especially in conditions and locations that require more durable, quick to construct, relocatable buildings .

In my experience containers are always utilised to deliver 'kitset timber or steel frame buildings' to aid projects in remote locations. This means there is a dual transportation expense in returning the empty containers once the project is completed . It's logical to make the containers part of the solution - they are far stronger and more durable than any kitset building!

Kitset buildings may initially seem a cost effective solution. This is not the case if you factor in the ongoing building repairs or complete building replacement necessary after sustained cyclone damage .

Our research confirms that in extreme conditions container structures will out perform conventional construction systems.

Container Research & Facts

Essential reading links and facts

Icon's Progress

We have been researching & developing container construction for the last two years, building protoype structures and customising fittings that simplify assembly without compromising the container`s structural integrity.

Our research has identified poor container fitout practices occur in the market. We have noted this, and are confident that our systems are best practice and we lead the market in structural modification techniques, customised fittings, external cladding and internal fitout solutions.

All our construction projects have achieved full *New Zealand Building Code compliance and we have national Multiproof compliance for our residential container buildings (Type 2 & Type 4).

*(New Zealand occurs in a seismic/volcanic region with challenging soil conditions and climatic conditions / high wind/high rainfall /snow conditions)


Icon's Design Solutions

Our design solutions are unique. We have overcome the traditional spatial limitations normally associated with adjacent /stacking containerisation and can offer generous open plan spaces between containers. This Icon design innovation utilises cantilevered floor and roof beams which independently span between containers without the need for additional foundations

(typical open space cantilever ~5 metres / larger spans possible ).

We have used this approach in all our built projects and it is a trademark of Icon Building system designs (copyright is in place for all design and roof solutions).

This permits us to design a full range of building types from residential to commercial, institutional and industrial developments. Our buildings can be temporary or permanent and the structures are demountable so that relocation is always an option .

(refer to the range of possible building options listed under Building Typology )

We have developed solutions that simplify assembly of the foundation connections, floor and roof beams, ISP lightweight floor and roof panels, and aluminium joinery units so that unskilled labour can assist in the construction/deconstruction wherever possible. This is key in remote locations where disasters have occurred. Trained project construction staff can oversee local labour with the building assembly and ensure that construction compliance standards are achieved.

Another unique Icon feature is that all demountable components, beams, ISP floor/roof panels and aluminium joinery elements fit into the containers to allow simple transportation to overseas destination. At the destination these elements are removed and the prefitted containers can provide immediate site accomodation with available toilet/ ablution/cooking facilities for site staff . For example, our residential container units have pre installed toilets/ablutions/kitchens that can be utilised immediately they are connected to available site services (assuming gas/temporary generator power is available on site ).

The objective is to provide a 'one box building solution'where the container provides:

  • Transportation
  • Security
  • Accommodates all the material and equipment necessary to construct a complete building unit
  • Temporary accommodation during the construction period.

(Often there is no accommodation available in remote sites)

Icon Technical Solutions

Wherever possible Icon utilises the existing ISO twistlock container fittings that exceeds Structural Building Code requirements. Elsewhere Icon has developed (and continues to develop) universal connectors which facilitate simple floor joist and roof beam connections between containers.

Currently we have the following Icon fittings which have been engineered to meet the New Zealand Building Code requirements:

  • Universal Foundation Pile Frame
  • Casting Block O Connector
  • Casting Block D Connector
  • Casting Block Locking Plate
  • Top Rail Universal Cleat

Currently being developed:

  • Universal Casting Block Cleatplate
  • Floor Beam Connector (variable)
  • Roof Beam Connector (variable)
  • Universal Truss Assemblies

All our container penetrations are structurally engineered with NZBC E2 compliant window & door installation details.

Note: all door/window penetrations compromise the container strength and require new steel frame strenghening and structural re-engineering in order to comply with ISO container standards.

Icon Building System versus Conventional Building Systems

The Icon building system and component assemblies have unique features, that out perform conventional construction system:
  • Transportability:
    Containers are standard modules that fit onto truck/ train & ships.
    All infill building elements/components disassemble and fit into modules for transportation.
  • Structural Performance of Containers (Primary Structural Frame & Bracing):
    Earthquake resistance - 30,000 bracing units in each module which significantly exceeds New Zealand Building Code requirements.
  • Structural Performance of Infill Floor & Roof:
    ISP infill floor and wall panel structure meets New Zealand Building Code compliance. Provides additional bracing.
  • *ISP floor, wall and roofing panels advantages
    (*Insulated Structural Panel) composite prefinished panel has steel faced linings with optional cores )
  • ISP Lightweight construction 15Kg/m2 easy to lift and transport
  • ISP Insulation. Thermal Resistance.Value R 3.6 @15 degC min Superior Thermal Performance /continuous insulation with minimal thermal bridging.
  • ISP Fire Performance FM 4880 Class 1/ Insurer approved panels
    (we recommend use of higher grade ISP cores that achieve this )
  • Container Durability/Security:
    Containers manufactured from high grade steel Corten A with fully welded steel frame including wall, roof and floor construction
  • Weathertightness/Acoustics Container modules all modules can have dual wall & dual roof as standard construction.
  • Minimal foundations & civil work requirements 4 piles /20 FT container & 6 piles /40FTcontainer
  • Simplicity of Assembly
  • Universal External Cladding support system weather board, CFC vertical/horizontal sheets, ACP aluminium, timber board & batten etc full range possible
  • Multiple Roof aesthetic & finish options Mono pitch, double pitched, hipped & butterfly roof options
  • Multiple module layout combination options
  • Multi story construction (up to 3 storeys)

Sustainable Design recommendation options :
  • Passive Ventilation / Natural Lighting maximised
  • Passive Heating Container Roof & Wall options
  • Inclusive Water Tank Roof top collection/Gravity Feed options
  • Electric/Gas hot water systems
  • Photovoltaic light/Power options
  • Green wall & Roof options
  • Inground Septic /Self composting sewer options

Note that Containers modules will require road access to sites. Typically the vehicles transporting the containers can unload & load up to 2 storey. Lifts above 2 storey would require a separate crane on site.

Building Typology

Construction can be permanent or temporary and our modules can be relocatable.

We have focused our attention on emergency structures but clearly the Icon system can extend to a full range of building types:

Residential :
Housing emergency/ Low income
Housing traditional *Built
Housing contemporary trendy
Housing appartments (2-3 Storey ) *Concept
Holiday homes
Mobile Cabins contemporary
Camping site accomodation
Commercial :
Ablutions/Toilets/Kitchens Emergency
Ablutions/Toilets/Kitchens Commercial *Built
Catering/Bar Kiosks trendy
Banking Kiosks
Sales/Branding Kiosks trendy
Computer/Data/Telco kiosks
Office Buildings (1-3 Storey) *Built
Shopping mall/market Precincts
Refridgeration Facilities
Disaster Relief Offices
Surf Lifesaving Beach kiosks
Artist studios & Gallery
Motor vehicle Showrooms
Industrial :
Military Training Facilities
Fire Training Facilities
Fire Station
Meat/Fish/Poultry processing facility
Transportable Factory
Temporary Stadium Seating
Mine Site Accommodation & Exploration Camp
Farming Display Kiosks
Specialised :
Civil Defence/Emergency Control Centres (remote locations)
Dental Clinics
Weather Stations
Medical Clinics Emergency
Airport (remote island location)
Lift Shaft (stand alone ) Earthquake retrofit
Stairwell (stand alone) Earthquake retrofit
Signage Pylon/Store *Built
Recording Studio
Electric/Photovoltaic/wind generator Stations
Water Pump Stations
Mobile Pavilion
Institutional :
Classrooms Emergency
Classrooms Relocatable
School /College Classrooms & Admin Offices *Concept
School/College Hostel & kitchen/ablutions
Hospital Emergency Facilities
Church/Hall (remote locations ) *Concept
Military Camps ( relocatable )

For any specific building requirements or ideas not listed above we welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you. We are confident that our icon team can develop an innovative building container solutions that meets your expectations.