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Using Shipping Containers to Build Low-Cost Classrooms

Providing adequate classroom accommodation, especially in rural areas, has been a long-standing challenge in South Africa. Building costs are high and they continue to increase. By contrast, education budgets are woefully inadequate, repeatedly failing to keep pace with inflation. The result is that teachers are often expected to work in cramped premises with class numbers too large to be manageable. Fortunately, there is now a potential solution. Used shipping containers can be converted into anything from a luxury summerhouse or site office to a fully equipped classroom for a fraction of the cost of a conventional bricks-and-mortar build.


Why Are Shipping Containers Ideal for Classrooms?


Two features of these units make them ideal for building purposes. Firstly, their steel bodies are strong enough to withstand repeated handling by dockside cranes and the extreme weather conditions often faced by ocean-going vessels. Secondly, their rectangular shape and standardised dimensions are ideal for use in modular structures. Individually, they provide the framework for a single classroom. However, one could construct an entire school by welding several shipping containers together.


However, these rectangular metal boxes are not only a means to develop a facility from scratch. They can also be the answer when it is necessary to expand the accommodation of an existing bricks-and-mortar site quickly and inexpensively. The long periods of absence from school imposed by Covid-19 social-distancing regulations have left many students needing to repeat their disrupted year. The knock-on effect of this requirement has made it difficult for some schools to accommodate the new intake of year-one pupils. The fastest and most affordable solution in such cases has been to create temporary classrooms from shipping containers. Furthermore, these storage boxes were explicitly designed for road, rail, or sea transportation, so relocating them is easy. Once the short-term problem has been resolved, the converted units can be resold or donated to another deserving establishment.


Natural resources are dwindling, and a rapidly growing carbon footprint is intensifying the threat of global warming. Consequently, the need for more sustainable building practices has never been greater. Recycling and upcycling used building materials offers a simple yet effective solution. Repurposing used shipping containers is a classic application of these principles.

Containers Converted into Classrooms








One of the principal advantages of modular construction using these storage units is versatility. A single unit can become a conventional classroom, an ablution block, or a chemistry laboratory. In contrast, joining four or five could provide a much-needed gym. In practice, only one’s imagination limits the possibilities.


At Absolute Containers, our imagination is unlimited, and we specialise in making our clients’ dreams come true. We invite you to learn more about modular classroom solutions and the many other examples of our world-class shipping container conversions.