Mr Box convert a container to a laboratory for University of York

What do you do when you need a fully-fitted laboratory created from scratch in a relatively quick timescale?

That was the problem facing researchers from the University of York in 2014, when they needed new laboratory space at their atmospheric monitoring observatory in Cape Verde, off the coast of Africa.

Building a permanent structure would be time-consuming and expensive, so the team chose Mr Box to create a lab using two 40ft containers, which would then be joined together on site in Cape Verde by the university team.

Dr Katie Read, Coordinator of the Cape Verde project for the University of York, said: “The actual modifications were, for the most part, quite simple, as both ourselves and Mr Box already have experience in lab container conversions. We needed the containers fitting with doors, some lab benching, air conditioning, gas lines and cylinder racks.

“The complicated parts were how the two containers would be attached together, and ensuring we had a dependable power supply.”

To ensure the university team would be able to create the lab on site, we designed it so that they could easily follow a set of instructions from us to get the joining done in Cape Verde. To ensure success, once the Mr Box team had completed the conversion work, they simulated the joining in our Liverpool workshop alongside the university research team.

Dr Read added: “We were able to visit the workshop throughout the conversion process and see the container at various stages, and it was very helpful to have some training with them on site to set up the containers before we left. This meant we could see it for ourselves and pre-empt any issues, as well as getting some much-needed practice!”

We also had to ensure the containers were connected to a back-up power supply, as the one on site was inconsistent. To guard against this, we supplied and fitted a specialist uninterrupted power supply, meaning if the power went down, everything would switch to that, and then on to a back-up generator on site.

The containers were shipped to Cape Verde in 2014 and we’re delighted to say that the installation went without a hitch.

Dr Read added: “The team at Mr Box were very thorough. Details of what we discussed at the meetings was put into writing and clarified at every point. The amount of information and attention to detail was quite overwhelming at times, but we knew it was necessary to ensure that the Mr Box team had all they needed to make sure everything was perfect.

“It was all worth it, and five years on we are still very happy with the finished product.”