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GBX gable buildings temporarily used for housing in remote camp in Alaska.

Fabric Buildings vs. ISO Containers

There is no shortage of products to choose from when you’re in the market for a camp system that’s suitable for industrial, commercial and governmental applications.

One option is repurposed ISO shipping containers. A better option is a fully engineered camp system from Alaska Structures®.

Unlike repurposed ISO shipping containers, which were never intended for human habitation, Alaska Structures‘ camp systems have safely sheltered people, products, and equipment for more than 40 years.

When you choose an Alaska Structures camp system, you’re choosing brand-new fabric membrane structures that have been specifically created to meet your needs. If you choose an ISO shipping container for your camp system, oftentimes you’re choosing to buy a bunch of used metal boxes that need to be heavily modified, repurposed, and repaired. Or, you’re buying a new or 1-year-old ISO container at an inflated price.

Alaska Structures tensioned fabric buildings have an incredible number of advantages over ISO shipping containers when it comes to use as camp systems.


ISO Shipping ContainerIf you order an ISO shipping container camp system, you’re often buying a used product that’s been in service for an average of 7 to 10 years. While in service, those used metal boxes could have been damaged or used to transport hazardous materials. No wonder old ISO shipping containers have to be repaired and sandblasted, and have their floors removed before they’re ready to be sold as shelters. New or 1-year-old ISO containers generally do not require decontamination, but those containers are more expensive and still need to be repurposed.

Shipping Costs

Easy shipping is something ISO container companies tout as a benefit, but the numbers don’t add up. In the space it takes to ship a single 8-foot-by-20-foot ISO container, you can transport 15 four-person Alaska Structures housing units, each with 240 square feet of interior space.
Portable fabric structures


Incredible portability makes Alaska Structures’ fabric buildings a superior alternative to ISO shipping containers for remote-camp applications. In contrast to ISO shipping containers, which need a crane, crane truck, tilt-bed truck, or forklift for unloading and moving, Alaska Structures’ fabric shelters can be unloaded and moved by hand, slung from a helicopter, or easily loaded into aircraft.

Construction Costs

ISO shipping containers need concrete foundations or pilings for safe, secure anchoring. Alaska Structures’ fabric buildings can be anchored to any level surface with minimal site preparation, which cuts down on construction time and costs. Our fabric buildings also meet or exceed international and local building codes, a benefit you probably will not find in ISO shipping containers.


Fabric buildings mining camp.Alaska Structures’ fabric buildings are designed for easy expansion, allowing them to grow with your needs. They range in width from 8’ to 150’ and up to any length. ISO shipping containers are 8 feet wide, and if you need more space you’ll need to break out the saws and welders. Generally, containers come in 20’ and 40’ lengths. Again, fabrication is required for expansion. Unlike rectangular ISO shipping containers, Alaska Structures’ camp structures are available in a wide range of sizes and models, including gable buildings, quonset buildings, and portable cabins.

Energy Efficiency

ISO shipping containers are not designed for insulation and are made of metal, an incredible conductor of heat and cold. The interior space of ISO containers also shrinks when insulation is added, turning an 8’-wide space to one that’s only 6’ 6” wide with a shorter roof. Fabric buildings from Alaska Structures do not conduct heat and cold, and they are designed to accommodate insulation, making them more energy efficient and less expensive to heat and cool while maintaining interior space.

Engineering and Design Services

At Alaska Structures, we have the fabric building industry’s top engineers and designers, and the proof is in our products. Click to learn more about the technology and engineering that goes into every Alaska Structures portable building. Or click to learn more about our valuable design services. You can also read through our FAQ section for more information.

Contact Us

To speak with a building specialist about the advantages of choosing an Alaska Structures camp system specifically created to meet your commercial, industrial, or governmental application, call +1-907-344-1565, email us, or contact us online.

Alaska Structures
Alaska Structures® is the world's leading provider of engineered fabric building and turnkey camp systems. Our modular buildings are proudly made in the U.S. and designed to meet area-specific wind and snow loads required by local codes or the International Building Code (IBC) for safety. No other fabric-building provider comes close to matching our level of expertise or experience.

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