As a group of professionals well-versed in the acronyms of container talk, we long for simple references that make sense as we enjoy a conversation about our industry with buzzwords such as WWT, CW, IICL, and CSC.

What about all the other references that keep popping up when an eager prospective client reaches out to build a tiny home or have us fabricate a container bar because it seems ‘cool’?  When does a project require engineering? What guidelines should the facility adhere to before and during the process of altering a container? What happened to modifying a container under the guidelines of a structurally sound product, an internal quality control process, and proper cutting, fitting, and welding techniques?

Well, building codes and certification agencies happened. As container-based structures have grown in popularity, so has the attention being paid to them. “Official” building codes emerged and aim to address the use of containers in structures of all kinds.

Container-Based Structures and defining a few of the acronyms: 


The use of engineering in container-based structures is now a reality and has become a requirement in any case which includes a permit for the structure. The use of a CE (Civil Engineer) may be required to develop the design criteria for the project in total. As the project moves to the stage of permitting a PE (Professional Engineer) is likely required to approve the structural aspect of the project.

Much of the criteria for container-based structures we see today have been spawned by the ICC (International Code Council). For the first time, the ICC’s updated code publications (2021) now include a chapter addressing containers in the world of building code criteria.

A sub-committee comprised of NPSA members, and representing the NPSA and its members, was active in assisting the ICC in the development of the criteria.

A subsidiary of the ICC is the IAS [International Accreditation Service]. Many of us know that the NPSA organized a committee to work with the IAS in the development of the new AC 786 [Accreditation Criteria] applicable to fabricators of container-based structures. Certification under this AC is administered by IAS.

We then look to the IBC [International Building Code] for guidance, in code form, for buildings and safety standards. Typically, these standards are a minimum of what is required of a manufacturer for construction and safety. Your State or County may impose a higher standard. Each State may elect to manage the code and building process by way of its standards. In the case of Texas, this is the IHB [the Department of Industrialized Housing and Buildings].

Let us not forget about the environmental factors either. As the use of containers has become a “Green Movement”, purportedly in the form of recycling containers into an afterlife, groups such as LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] also play a role in the process of container-based structures.

Many clients assume that container construction should be cheaper, faster, and easier, without any permitting obstacles, and so on. While there are arguments to be made for a litany of benefits, our obligation as an association is also to educate and uphold a quality product while continuing to push the safety and compliance aspects of this sector of construction. Can the container(s) be simultaneously modified off-site while the actual project location is obtaining permitting and necessary stabilization? Absolutely. Is this a cost savings and time benefit to the scope of work? Absolutely.

The NPSA has done a tremendous job trying to aid the knowledge available to members and has taken a proactive approach with recent guidelines alongside the ICC and IAS legislation. Without a doubt, Mark, Kaylee, Joel, the Board, and numerous member groups will continue this effort to educate members. The goal moving forward involves an open dialogue amongst the Association, collaboration between members, and continued research by the industry at large. Ultimately, it is on us to enable our teams with the best knowledge and practice, while also providing the customer a product to suit their aesthetic, functional, and permitted requirements.