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Starbucks Builds Store out of Shipping Containers

Starbucks is about to open a Seattle-area store made mostly out of four upcycled shipping containers, the New York Times reports.

The prototype – unusual for Starbucks in that it is take-out only – may be followed by more container-based stores, company spokesman Alan Hilowitz said.

He said Starbucks was attracted to the idea of re-using the containers that transport its tea and coffee from abroad, and also liked the portability of the construction. If a given site is only available for two or three years, the company could put a container-based store there, then break it down and move it somewhere else.

Starbucks is not the first company to appropriate shipping containers for building use. In October 2010 Clif Bar & Company unveiled a new HQ that uses repurposed materials from shipping container wood to blue jeans. The 115,000-square-foot former valve manufacturing plant was also one of the first buildings in the state to follow the 2008 California Building Energy Efficiency Standards, and features a “smart” solar array to supply nearly all of the building’s electricity needs.

Peter DeMaria, principal of DeMaria Design Associates, said the U.S. gains millions of used containers every year because of its trade imbalance with China, and using them in construction takes a fraction of the energy of using virgin steel.

In its Global Responsibility Report this spring, Starbucks said it is on track to meet a goal that beginning in December 2010, all new, company-owned stores will be built to achieve LEED certification. Last year it completed the pilot phase for LEED volume certification, with ten store design and construction projects audited and approved by the U.S. Green Building Council.

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3 thoughts on “Starbucks Builds Store out of Shipping Containers

  1. This is not a very new idea. The use of used ocean shipping containers for various on shore uses has been going on for years. Many temp construction projects use them as offices, storage etc., not only for temporary storage, but also permanent storage at their main place of business. I know a tire distributor that uses them as a warehouse system, stacking the up etc.

    Nothing radically new here, except Starbucks is going to take a few containers, cut some holes in it, and then have a temp location system. The technology is old hat. Even for stand alone food and beverage business.

    And, their release makes it sound like the ocean going containers are only used once. Not the case, they are used for years before being sold into the used market, where they find new lives. They need to be clear about this.

  2. Hmmm that’s pretty cool. Even if it’s not a new idea, it’s still neat to see a major chain taking such steps to be more sustainable. Great news about the LEED certification too. I hear Starbucks is also doing other work on being more sustainable like using cage-free eggs in their baked goods, which is great, and I hope they keep up the momentum.

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