BY RICHARD GILBERT - An Okotoks, Alberta-based company has developed and manufactured a prototype of a multi-use temporary building that is erected by transforming a shipping container into a structure much larger than its original size.
“We started work on this project in April 2013 with three people and built a prototype within four months,” said Malcolm Duncan, founder and president of Excalibur Research and Development.
“We have about 14 inquiries about it already and should make a sale any day now.”
Duncan and his two sons operate a family business, which developed a modular structure called the Transformable Mobile Containment System (TMCS).
The temporary building is rugged and versatile because it is manufactured from a standard intermodal container.
It can be transported by ocean vessel, rail, truck or air in military cargo planes.
But, what makes the TMCS so unique is how it is deployed.
“When the container gets to the site, it has its own hydraulic system, so you don’t need a crane to get it off the truck,” said Duncan.
“While you deploy it and lift it off the truck, it is already heating water. By the time it is on the ground, you have hot and cold running water.”
The TMCS carries its own water supply and its hydraulic self-lifting system gets it on the ground.
Another unique feature is the patented fold out walls that are stowed away during transportation and take up about one-third of the container’s interior space.
These solid walls unfold and expand to between five and 11 times the size of a standard shipping container.
The standard legal size of an intermodal container is 8 feet (2.44 m) wide by 8 feet (2.44 m) high, and either 20 feet (6.1 m) or 40 feet (12.19 m) long.
The hinges provide substantial strength to each corner of the container, as well as fold out and add structural integrity, which is part of the patent.
In addition, the hinges house pre-installed hydraulic jacks to level the TMCS and compensate for a ground variance of 450 mm.
The movable walls can be arranged in a variety of configurations and the wall structure has provisions to include electrical outlets, plumbing, insulation and a surround sound system.
The patented fold down floor system creates a rigid nonslip floor in minutes.
The mast system provides added support to the roof structure, while acting as a channel to induce or extract hot or cold air.
The entire setup process takes about 50 minutes, which means the TMCS can be rapidly deployed as a hospital, medical clinic, maintenance facility, disaster relief shelter, green house, command center, restaurant.
The firms and organizations that use these buildings can ship additional equipment to site within the two-thirds of the container’s interior space that is free.
For example, the green house delivers between 1,200 and 6,400 sq. ft. of growing area, with the capability of holding additional water, generating solar power electricity and shelter.
The TMCS also functions as a water purification plant or a large water storage tank, which is delivered on site with pre-installed water pumps, filtration systems and heaters.
Duncan said the next step in his plan for the TMCS is to establish a mass production assembly line in Shanghai, China.
“We are not ready to go into production yet because shipping containers are not made in North America anymore,” he said.
“We don’t want to import a beautiful new container and cut it to shreds. It is better that we get it pre-cut and sent to Canada, where it will be customized and fit for particular industries.”
The container is scheduled to go into production in March 2014.
“This is a Canadian invention and it is virgin to this country,” said Duncan.
“It is new and fresh. We can sell this anywhere in the world and put made in Canada on it.”
Previously, Excalibur was a South African company known as Excalibur Van Accessories that supplied equipment to General Motors, Daimler Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Opel.
Duncan and his family left South Africa in 2005 and set up a small shop in Okotoks called Excalibur Truck Accessories, which manufactures running boards.
Excalibur Research and Development has the capacity to design, patent, manufacture and market new products.
The company has 40 patents and the product with the greatest commercial potential developed to date is the TMCS.
Excalibur Shelters Ltd is currently exploring business opportunities for licensing their intellectual property.