Archive for January, 2012

Starbucks opens a shipping container store

It’s amazing what lengths Starbucks will go to, for attention. It’s not enough that they are the number one coffee retailer in the world, or that you can’t roll a bowling ball down a street without hitting three of them, but now they’ve gone ahead and shown up all the coffee shops in the world that were lame enough to do business in a plain old brick and mortar building.

In the news is the latest and most innovative Starbucks yet. It is located in Tukwila, Washington and is located inside not one, not two or three, but four shipping containers, for the most creative instance of upcycling we’ve seen in a long time. The drive thru store, which opened its doors (hatches?) on Dec 13, 2011, is home to about 450 square feet of usable space. The containers are stacked in such a way as to be pleasing to the eye, rather than just lined up end on end like any old coffee shop could do.

The messages Starbucks is sending with this unique store are important. Firstly, whether intentional or not the irony of them doing business inside the same type of containers that traditionally send and receive their products all around the world is not lost on the consumer. And secondly, they are sending a message about the importance of reuse and making new out of old.

(image from


The containers themselves are of two different sizes, three are forty feet long, and one is twenty, and they work really well to create an eco-industrial type feel to this store. The store with the shipping container home is unique in that it is the only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building in Tukwila. And it is unique to the Starbucks Corporation as it is one of very few that has no seating inside.

Shipping containers as storefronts isn’t a completely new idea as there are other companies that paved the way for Starbucks, but it’s not like you see them all over. Stockbox grocers out of Seattle have set up grocery stores of the pop up variety, meant to allow people access to a grocery store where none are easily accessible.

Considering the typical lifespan of a container is around twenty years, a shipping container home for a business seems like a good idea. It keeps the containers out of the scrap yard, saves on alternate materials needed for new construction and is a unique marketing idea that will draw in new customers.

December round up of shipping container home news

There’s an odd practice afoot in the homemaking industry. People, who are of the green mindset, are taking large, corrugated shipping containers, and turning them into makeshift homes and apartments. When you delve deeper, though, it becomes obvious why, and the ingenuity and sheer genius of these new age architects.

The building materials themselves are something else: designed to stack on top of one another, they become the perfect modular segmentation in an apartment block. You can build single condos across, or towering high rises vertically.

These containers are, by design, water proof, and provide a ready-made building block to create any sort of home you want. They’re very structurally sound: each crate can hold the weight of handful of crates on top of it. They were made to be stacked one atop the other, and can handle gale force winds without so much as a whisper.

Inside, each crate creates a spacious, rectangular room; with new and innovative building techniques, whole suites are created by using multiple crates stacked aside another.Multiple high rise apartment complexes are being produced cheaply and quickly using the containers; even environmentalists are satisfied, since the containers are very green and the construction produces very little, if any, toxic waste.

Commercial buildings are even being produced using these containers as a building block: As we can see courtesy of Marine Insight, there are quite a few amazing restaurants that make use of the containers. You can see their list at More than that, there’s even a brewery that uses this building method: The coffee giant Starbucks is even getting in on the action, allegedly, anyway; SeattlePi has the article over at

Being used for more than just living space, shipping containers are allowing anyone to have fresh, organic grown vegetables anywhere they wish. The rectangular containers make a great personal space for a garden: they’re ecofriendly, keep the weather out, and are easily transportable to move your garden wherever you wish. Check out more over at, courtesy of The idea of portable space customized to fit needs even appeals to the military: meet the base in a box,

You may think such living would come at great sacrifice, that living in such an eco friendly manner must be pure hell. In fact, the opposite is true: living in a shipping container-based home can be as comfortable or as spartan as you want it to be. You’re limited only by the laws of physics and your own imagination.

Stacks of containers easily accommodate plumbing and electric, and the steel walls provide a fine insulation when combined with a spray on polyurethane foam insulation. It’s easy to see why this trend in building has taken Europe by storm, since the disused containers are easy to find and cheap enough that creating a whole neighborhood of crate homes is economically feasible:  forward thinking designers are already creating the homes of the future, built from rectangular steel cubes.

This fad has become something more now, something truly sustainable. When old junk is lying around, people innovate and find new uses for someone else’s refuse; in that way, we’re saving the environment and improving our own lives a day at a time.