How Commercial and Residential Container Developments Differ
Over the years of writing the Gateway Gazette we have contributed many articles toward residential shipping container based developments. In this longer piece we will focus on commercial developments that have been built of shipping containers. What’s the difference in design and architecture between commercial and residential container development?
Cardiff, Wales office development
In May this year Wales Online reported that a new office development made of shipping containers is being considered by planners in Cardiff.
The 48 units are being built and let by Meanwhile Creative, a firm that specialises in letting out smaller units that a business can grow into as it expands.
Wales Online reported, “The company, which operates flexible office space in Cardiff, Bristol and Manchester, also wants to install external walkways and stairs, and shared communal terraces as part of the shipping container development.”
Going over to the Meanwhile Creative website, its FAQs cover the elements of letting a unit from them. Amongst other things the company states in answer to the question, “Can I alter my space?”:
“You certainly can, in fact we actively encourage it, there’s just a quick form to fill out that gets signed off by one of our team. Typical changes include painting, putting up shelves or altering the flooring. Sometimes we’ll put conditions on an alteration such as ‘making good’ at the end of tenancy.”
Essentially business tenants can move into a bare shipping container unit that has insulation, glazing and utilities like hot water, electricity and internet, and make the place their own according to their needs.
For those businesses that achieve strong growth, Meanwhile Creative state there is the option to move to another building:
“Many tenants have grown and moved multiple times within a project or around several of our buildings to more suitable spaces as their businesses have developed.”
This means that the core shipping container architecture concept of flexibility can be used to the max as businesses grow from startup, to medium sized. Could doors be cut between units in a cargotecture stack? Could a large open office layout be considered?
Probably not in the case of Meanwhile Creative that aims to provide small commercial spaces for businesses to grow into until they need their own real estate.
Even so, one of their tenants is reported as having said, “Cardiff Containers are a fantastic way to get creative people working on their own projects who might not be wholly suited to office life. They’re roomy, cool in the summer and being able to set them up exactly as you want makes for a great starting point for any small business.”
Major differences in architecture and interior design
Commercial developments differ in a big way from apartments and other residential ‘cargotecture’. They are built around the work-life of those using them, as opposed to the home-life that people need in their worlds.
One great blog on the subject by Architecture Lab states in a nutshell:
“Commercial buildings are usually larger than residential buildings, which demands a greater responsibility for safety and structural integrity. Commercial buildings also have greater infrastructure needs. They will need elevators to allow for freight and people, bathrooms for visitors and employees, cafeterias and even parking areas, all of which are less common in a residential building, even if the residential building is a large condominium complex.”
This goes even farther when the requirements of the commercial building differ to that of the residential complex – the needs of a hospital with its different zones will be vastly different to that of an apartment complex, even if it is essentially somewhere that people come to stay to get well.
Looking at container architecture again, businesses like to have large open spaces in which statements can be made.
The blog continues, “A greater emphasis on awe-inspiring design elements is necessary in many commercial buildings, as the building itself can stand as a tribute to the company that commissioned it. Lighting also becomes more important, as it can set the mood for a restaurant or serve as an important part of a theatre or auditorium.”
This statement definitely applies to shipping containers as they can actively celebrate the system by which the building was built with the original external paintwork and logos of the shipping lines that originally had the boxes made, or have internal structures where one wanders between and underneath the different zones of the offices, workshops etc.
Consequences of commercial shipping container architecture
On the 5th May, local UK media reported that a new commercial shipping container development would be built at Kingmoor Park in Carlisle, at the far northwest corner of England.
The News and Star reported, “Those behind the scheme say they hope the new development will create a vibrant space for local businesses to grow, and flexible lease terms and additional support should see tenants flourish. Indoor and outdoor communal areas will create spaces for collaboration, with on-site parking and transport links.”
Even where startups are being targeted, collaboration between those startups is considered an important facet of commercial cargotecture design.
Classic examples of fields of business where startups collaborate and compete are in IT (Silicon Valley in California) and the so-called Golden Triangle of biotech that links the two top university centres of Oxford and Cambridge with the UK capital London.
Within these areas, small businesses thrive and build upon one another through collaboration, networking and even staff sharing as those with high demand specialisms cross pollinate the businesses within.
A classic space that applies to multi-business units and multi-unit businesses alike is the eating and rest spaces that are used by those working in those buildings.
Here are spaces where people can be confronted with inspiring, double height rooms and company branding to remind them of their purpose and perhaps help them drive innovation as their minds rest from their focuses of the day.
Here again the rest zone can be above or beneath the work zones with shipping container units demarcating the other zones of the business.
People like to make their mark!
One commonality between residential and commercial architecture is that those constructing them all have an understanding that the building will be there for many years. The owners of the building want their memory to be continued long after their life has ended, and this is one of the major reasons that architecture can be exciting.
The cargotecture home or the cargotecture commercial unit isn’t going to be a boring stack in many cases! While practical with its pre-defined spaces and quick to build, those behind the construction will all want to make a statement with it.
This is why you see so much statement residential architecture using containers as you do the well designed commercial architecture. In April this year Gateway Gazette reported how a firefighter used his time off work to build a beautiful home that also accommodates community events.
It just goes to show you can have an inspiring space whether you are a multibillion dollar company or are on a public servant’s pay scale! That is another beauty of shipping container architecture we hope you will see throughout our work here.