MB Architecture harnessed its extensive experience with shipping container-based projects while designing a new media lab for Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Comprising four recycled containers, the prefabricated building was delivered in two parts and installed in just half a day.

The Bard Media Lab's four containers have been heavily modified and joined together, with large thermal windows installed on the front and rear, and a garage-style raising door on the side that offers a small covered porch area when open.

MB Architecture used closed cell foam insulation to mitigate the poor thermal performance of shipping containers and reports that this does the job well enough to make the space comfortable in cold weather. The firm also added interior framing, wooden flooring, electrical outlets and plumbing, and so on.

The interior floorspace measures 960 sq ft (89 sq m) and features a large 17 ft (5.1 m)-tall first floor with tables and chairs, as well as a bathroom. Stairs lead up to a second floor office area.

"The budget required that we explore options beyond conventional construction," says the firm. "We tapped into some of our previous explorations and projects with shipping containers and offered a completely prefabricated building that needs no more on-site work than the pouring of concrete foundation walls. At the end of the half-day installation, the Lab was occupied and within a few days, fully operational.

The Lab will rotate between various departments at the college; flexibility was therefore a given. By adding a large pivoting garage door that opens to a quad, the main room, a 17 ft tall space, will transform to a stage-set for performances, concerts and theatrical events — engaging the quad and ensuring a productive relationship between the building and campus at large."

The total cost for the Bard Media Lab came in at slightly over US$200,000, which MB Architecture says is a competitive price for that kind of building in that area. Indeed, the firm envisions the project being replicated in other schools and universities in urgent need of an additional space.

View gallery - 11 images