Use of Shipping Containers As Storage Facilities

We have noticed an increase in the use of shipping containers as storage facilities by school districts. While these containers may appear to be quick inexpensive solutions to a district's storage problems, they must comply with all applicable provisions of the Manual of Planning Standards and the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code as a storage building. This requirement applies to all containers. The temporary or permanent use does not change the application of these safety requirements.

Two areas of concern regarding the use of this type facility are the exiting and ventilation requirements. The Building Code of NYS, Section 1003.3.1.8, requires that exit doors "shall be readily openable from the egress side of the door without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort." The large cam locks typically used on these containers do not meet this requirement. Additionally, these containers seal up very airtight. We want every container to have a louver added into one side. The louver size should be enough to aid ventilation according to what you are storing inside. If you have flammable liquids or anything else that may produce a noxious odor inside your container this louver may save a life.

This type of facility generally does not require a building permit but does require a fire safety inspection and a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). To obtain a CO, the district must send a letter to the Office of Facilities Planning, Room 1060, Education Building Annex, Albany, New York, 12234. A project manager will be assigned to assist the district through the process. The photos below show one method of retrofitting the containers to meet NYS Code requirements:

Cam bar removed
from right door
Panic bar installed on
right door
Storage container
with proper exit door