Storage containers: The future of Bristol’s buildings?

With the increasing amount of pressure on companies to go green, its no mystery why more businesses in Bristol are turning to alternative methods of infrastructure in a bid to recycle and save money.

According to the Royal Portbury Dock in Avonmouth, 150,000 shipping containers pass through their gates every year, which is a relatively small amount compared to the 2.5 million that passes through the likes of Southampton and Felixstowe.

Bristol hire company Titan have said that the new trend is definitely starting to grow
Bristol hire company Titan have said that the demand for container conversion is starting to emerge a lot more.

This high surplus, along with raw material cost, means that each shipping container averages between £2,500 – £5000  for companies to buy and convert into a livable, workable space.

With Bristol being crowned the UK’s first ever European Green Capital in 2015, could more of its businesses utilise the lower costs associated with buying shipping containers, to form modern, smart and eco-friendly buildings?

Bower News takes a look at a number of businesses that have already kick-started the trend.

A structural solution that makes a statement 

Waste management and transport company The Bristol and Avon Group (B&A), who are based in Avonmouth, recently moved into their brand new state of the art office building; constructed entirely out of 30 shipping containers.

The family run business, which has been operating since 1993, took inspiration from a restaurant in Portishead, owned by Hall and Woodhouse.

Together with award winning architect Urban Space Management, B&A found themselves moving into their new headquarters in December 2016; less than ten months after the project started.

Helen Griffin, who is the companies Health and Safety Manager,  explains the uniqueness of the project:

All of the container prefabrication works were done at an old airfield in London which meant that the entire structural assembly of the building took just five days to complete, giving B&A the advantage of speed with this project.

Ideal for small growing businesses

According to a report published by Bristol City Council in 2015, around 70% of the city’s shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, hairdressers etc. are independent.

Which means that more independent companies are looking for unique ways to draw attention.

Steve Parker, who has been a Barber in Bristol for nearly ten years, has owned a hair salon in Stokes Croft since 2012.

His second business is located in Wapping Wharf and is part of a development called Cargo which currently houses nine independent businesses in 18 shipping containers.

Steve told us more about how he got on board:

Summer 2017 is set to see Wapping Wharf expand for the independent market, with the completion of Cargo 2.

This will see a further 49 shipping containers converted to house 14 new businesses; including Bristol’s first dedicated salt beef bar, shopping, vegetarian and vegan restaurants plus fitness classes.

 It will be located adjacent to CARGO 1 and mainly shopping on the ground floor and restaurants above
CARGO 2 will be located adjacent to CARGO 1, with mainly shopping on the ground floor and restaurants above.

Helping to tackle some of the major issues in Bristol 

Homelessness in Bristol rose to a record high in 2015, with more than 90 people sleeping rough on our cities streets – according to statistics published by Homeless Link.

Although this figure dropped by 24% to 74 people in 2016, it still highlights that Bristol continues to struggle with its homeless population.

Help Bristol’s Homeless (HBH) is a social enterprise, run by a large team of volunteers, who aim to help the homeless access secure accommodation and support them in reaching their full potential in life.

Their latest project sees them campaigning to raise £20,000 to convert ten shipping containers into single room shelters that will ensure fewer people are sleeping rough.

The project will also see two other containers converted into a launderette and canteen.
The project will also see two other containers converted into a launderette and canteen. Photo credit: Help Bristol’s Homeless

Jasper Thompson, who is a restaurant owner and founder of HBH, has been developing the idea since January.

The end plan was developed from various other ideas on alternative ways to house homeless people; from portacabins to caravans.

HBH currently only have the one container; which was donated by Titan Containers, who are based in Avonmouth. However, a lot more companies and individuals are beginning to come on board, as Jasper explains:

Since Bower News visited HBH, Jasper and his team of volunteers and community tradesmen have now fully converted and furnished their shipping container into a livable space that can now be occupied.

Paul Smith, who is the Cabinet member for housing at Bristol City Council, was impressed by the project when he visited them:

The container, which has been named ‘Carl’s Haven’, was revealed to a number of Bristol City Councillors on Tuesday 25 April and features a bed, electricity, an en-suite shower,  toilet and a small kitchen.

The land they are currently on is under planning permission for development. If plans were to go ahead, they eventually would have to move.

HBH is hoping to expand the project further, with the help of Bristol City Council, by securing a plot of land to grow the idea.

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A truly green concept

“What makes us unique is that we can make productive, a plot of land, what would be otherwise unproductive”

Its not just shipping containers that have been popping up all over Bristol. Other methods involving containers, such as lorry trailers, have also been making an appearance.

Grow Bristol is a new farming enterprise which aims to develop innovative and sustainable ways of growing food in the city.

Grow Bristol
The social enterprise supplies fresh produce to 9 shops and 15 restaurants in Bristol

Dermot O’Regan, one of two founding members of Grow Bristol said: “What makes us unique is that we can make productive, a plot of land, what would be otherwise unproductive.”

“Our future plans are to have a large area, with a load more containers, where people can come and share their ideas with us and build a business for themselves, in the containers.”

“So we can have a community hub of businesses that can benefit the city.”

Want to visit these places and see them for yourself?

Do you work in a shipping container? Share your story with us.

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