ICC Approves Shipping Containers For Building Structures

The addition to Chapter 31 of the International Building Code (IBC) will spell out what code officials should look for in container construction to confirm structural safety.

With a 97% yes vote, the International Code Council (ICC) membership officially ratified a change to the 2021 International Building Code (IBC) that would allow ISO shipping containers to be used in commercial construction. The addition to Chapter 31 of the IBC — the chapter on special construction — will spell out what code officials should look for in container construction to confirm structural safety. Representatives from the shipping container building industry and code officials will also introduce more clarity into the IBC on the safe use of shipping containers by releasing a corresponding set of guidelines that explain the new shipping container building codes.

modular building
Photo: Falcon Structures

“This vote is a major victory for both code officials and the container-based structures industry,” said Stephen Shang, Falcon Structures CEO and co-chair of the ICC’s Container Industry Task Force.

A 97% yes vote is uncommon in ICC’s final action hearings. Shang and Tom Hardiman, Executive Director of the Modular Building Institute, credit the enormous support to code officials’ near universal desire to implement the guidelines. Not long ago, code officials were required to go through the cumbersome alternative mean and methods provision to approve containers in construction. As more developers look to shipping container construction, code officials and building professionals have been seeking a streamlined process.

The new change in tandem with container acceptance criteria (AC462) and the ICC’s guidelines for container use, will mitigate process of approving shipping container structures. “Once states adopt the 2021 IBC we expect to see an uptick in this type of construction activity,” said Hardiman.

Falcon Structures, a provider of AC462 compliant shipping containers, has already seen growing interest in container buildings thanks to the ongoing collaboration between the ICC and the MBI’s Container Task Force. Shang anticipates the momentum will only continue to grow now that the 2021 IBC will formally sanction the use of containers.

“Incorporation into the building code ushers in a new era for repurposing shipping containers and demonstrates the win-win that happens when code officials and industry leaders work together,” said Shang.

Founded in 2003, Falcon Structures repurposes steel shipping containers into AC462 code-compliant modules for container-based buildings, as well as single container structures for living, working and storage. As part of its work, Falcon has manufactured the largest shipping container structure to date, the 122-container stadium, Fortress Obetz in Obetz, OH.